Frustrated with your 8 month old waking every 2 hours crying? Learn how to get him to sleep through the night and stop this sleep regression.
For some reason, you 8 month old has been waking every 2 hours, on the dot. And we’re not talking slight whimpering or moving around. When he wakes up, he’s not happy. He fusses, screams, and cries, despite all your efforts to calm him down.
One thing that does help him settle? Feeding him to sleep. In fact, he seems to rely on you as a pacifier (never mind that he’s up again in 2 hours). And while you’ve heard of other babies his age waking up at night-time, theirs only happens once or twice.
You have a hunch that he’s not truly hungry, or at least can sleep through the night if he only knew how to. But of course, when you’re woken up in the middle of the night, you’re not exactly in the right mindset to think of different strategies to try.
So, what gives? Why is your 8 month old suddenly up at night crying, screaming to nurse and unable to fall asleep?
6 reasons for your 8 month old waking every 2 hours
Rest assured that you’re not the only one this is happening to.
As much as your baby almost always settles down after a feed, you know this isn’t effective in the long-term. He doesn’t have to flip out if he doesn’t get a feed, but rather sleep through the night (or at least settle down when he stirs).
To help him do that, we have to start with potential reasons that cause frequent night waking in the first place:
1. Sleep cycles
It may not be a coincidence that your baby wakes up on the dot. For most of us, sleep cycles determine when we start falling asleep and slightly wake up. This explains why you’d wake up a few times at night, perhaps to switch positions or hug a pillow.
The same is true with infants. They too enter and leave sleep cycles, ranging from light to heavy sleep. This is why sometimes your baby can sleep through the noise of a busy street in a stroller, while other times, he wakes up when the door so much as creaks open.
If he doesn’t know how to soothe himself to sleep, he’ll need your help to do so, in the only way he knows how (say, through feeding or rocking). That’s why you end up waking up at the same times throughout the night helping him settle back down to sleep.
2. Sleep associations
This brings us to sleep associations, or the sleep habits that help your baby asleep. Right now, feeding, rocking, or co-sleeping have been the only way he can settle down. And if this how he has fallen asleep all these months, you can see why trying anything else hasn’t worked.
To help him sleep on his own, replace his current sleep associations with new ones that don’t rely on you. And the only way to make that happen is to give him a chance to sleep on his own without his former sleep associations.
Instead of rocking or feeding him to sleep, put him down awake and let him experience falling asleep on his own. Perhaps that’s changing positions, turning his head, or sucking on his thumb.
Of course, the transition to this new routine won’t feel familiar or comfortable for him, and he’ll cry to share his frustration. But with consistent check-ins, you can give him a chance to learn how to sleep while reassuring him that you’re still here.
And what do you do if he exhausted himself to sleep, only to wake up a few hours later?
He’s still adjusting during those first few days and even weeks, and will wake up like he usually does. Stay consistent with your sleep training method and repeat the process during those middle of the night wake ups. After a few nights, you’ll see signs of progress before he can sleep without a peep.
Free resource: Interested in learning about teaching him to self soothe? Join my newsletter and get a preview chapter of How to Teach Your Baby to Self Soothe. This chapter is all about the mindset needed for successful self-soothing and helping him put himself to sleep:
3. Sleep environment
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You’d be amazed at how having the right sleep environment can make a difference with how well your baby sleeps.
For instance, a white noise machine (or even a fan, heater, or app on your phone) can muffle sudden sounds that startle him awake. Sometimes, babies don’t need silence so much as a constant hum of calming sounds to stay asleep.
Another way to help him get longer stretches of sleep is by hanging darkening curtains. They’ll block light out of the room better than standard curtains or blinds, which can help him sleep more soundly.
And lastly, consider using a baby monitor to keep an eye on him, especially if you’re doing strategic check-ins. Through the monitor, you can see what he’s up to between check-ins or to see if he has finally fallen asleep.
Many babies this age can likely sleep through the night without needing to eat. They simply consume their calories during the day and sleep at night, like you and I do. So, if you’ve ever suspected that your baby isn’t really hungry and is instead using you as a pacifier, you may be right.
That said, there’s also a good chance that he’s genuinely hungry, especially if he has grown used to taking in his calories at night. Weaning him cold turkey wouldn’t be a great idea, as he can actually be hungry for milk at night.
If you suspect that he’s hungry but want to wean him from night feeds, do so gradually. Start by feeding him however often and as much as he usually does on the first night. Then, the following night, reduce his feedings by two minutes of nursing or half an ounce of formula for each session.
The following day, feed him the extra milk he should’ve gotten at night to help him adjust to eating more during the day. Continue to reduce his feedings by two minutes or half an ounce each night, until he’s down to hardly any and can sleep through the night.
Learn more about weaning night feeds here (including waking to feed to break the association of crying and feeding).
5. Developmental milestones
Your 8 month old waking every 2 hours, especially if out of the blue, can be due to developmental milestones he’s going through.
Now, I’m wary about pointing to milestones as a reason for fussy sleep. (I kept claiming my son was teething for a good year before realizing that that was never the cause of it.) But milestones can very much cause restless sleep, especially if you can see how suddenly it took place.
For instance, his frequent wake ups may coincide exactly when he started practicing crawling or pulling himself up. You may have even found him scooting across the crib, or crying because he doesn’t know how to get himself back down (true story!).
Similarly, he might be going through separation anxiety, especially when he fusses for you just as much when you so much as step away during the day. And, of course, he truly can be teething, complete with swollen red gums.
By discovering developmental milestones he might be going through, you can address and prevent them from waking him up every 2 hours.
6. Lack of routine
If following sleep routines had never been part of your plan, you might want to consider starting one now. Don’t let his current “all over the place” sleep schedule convince you that a routine won’t work. In fact, it might be a sign that he needs one, especially if he wakes up so frequently at night.
The best place to start is with the bedtime routine. Decide what you want to do to help him settle in for the night, from giving him a bath reading two books before bed. Do the same activities in the same order.
Then, establish a time that you’ll start doing the bedtime routine, so that you know exactly when to draw that bath every night.
Similarly, follow a routine for daytime sleep as well. He likely takes two naps a day, which means you can set certain times of the day to put him down for a nap.
Alternatively, you can base daytime naps on how long he had been awake (and how long he slept for a nap). For instance, you can put him down for his second nap three hours from when he woke up from the first one.
With your 8 month old waking every 2 hours, no one in the family is getting much sleep. For some, this is new behavior that has you wondering why it’s happening. For others, it could’ve been this way for so long that you’re simply sick and tired of the frequent wake ups.
Thankfully, you now know a few reasons your baby has trouble sleeping and, more importantly, what you can do about it.
Sleep cycles play a huge role in how often your baby wakes up. Replace unsustainable sleep associations with new ones and create the right sleep environment.
If he had been waking to feed, weaning him from nighttime feedings can help him eat during the day and sleep through the night. Developmental milestones can disrupt his sleep, and a lack of routine is obstacle to falling and welcoming sleep.
By understanding a few common reasons, now you can tackle the ones that wake him every 2 hours, even on the dot.
Get more tips:
- 5 Reasons Your Baby Wakes Up Crying Hysterically
- 10 Things to Do If Your Baby Goes on a Bottle Strike
- “At What Age…?” Baby Milestones You Don’t Always Hear About
- How to Get Your Baby to Nap Longer
- Why I Regret Rocking My Baby to Sleep
Don’t forget: Join my newsletter and get a preview chapter of How to Teach Your Baby to Self Soothe: