Troubleshooting a Seven-Month Nap Regression
Hoping you can help troubleshoot my 7 month old’s recent sleep weirdness! I am tired and want things to go back to normal ASAP.
She’s been consistently sleeping through the night for months now. For the past 2 months, her general schedule has been the following:
7:30-8:00: Wake up
10:00-noon: Nap (sometimes this nap is 2 hours, sometimes it’s 45 minutes. Very rarely is it anywhere in between)
She has plenty of bottles (she’s on formula) and solids throughout the day. Nothing’s changed, except her sleep! Currently, here’s what she’s been doing:
6:30: Wake up
9:00: Nap (this nap lasts 30-45 minutes, no matter what I do I can’t get her to go back to sleep)
Noon: Nap (again, 45 minutes at best. Today it was 30 minutes.)
3:00: Nap (still, a short one)
5:00: Nap (not always, but sometimes, generally 20-30 minutes)
I’m kind of losing my mind with all these tiny short catnaps, especially since they’re a pretty new thing. I’m a stay-at-home-mom and she’s my only child, so I can adjust things as needed around her sleep schedule, but it’s getting difficult to plan around 4 naps a day, especially since she’ll fall asleep in the car but wakes up when I take the carseat out to click into her stroller. I’ve kept everything as consistent as I can in regards to her sleep habitat. The temperature, blackout curtains, white noise machine, bottle beforehand, etc. She does have a heavy reliance on her pacifier to fall asleep, but going in when she wakes up to reinsert it doesn’t help during these short naps, or when she wakes up early in the morning (it used to, though!) I’ve also tried waiting it out for a while to see if she’ll fall back asleep on her own (she wakes up happy and babbling, so there’s no CIO happening) but she just winds up even more awake and excitedly babbling/shrieking/giggling at the wall/her mobile/the ceiling and never falls back asleep, even though she’s rubbing her eyes and yawning, so she’s clearly still tired.
We had such a good thing going…how do we get it back?? Is this a sleep regression (the 4-month only lasted about a week for us), is it a growth spurt, is it going to last forever? I know that babies her age generally need 14ish hours of sleep a day, which she’s generally getting, but…how do we go back to a solid night’s sleep and 2 good naps, instead of a shorter night’s sleep and a bunch of catnaps?
Let’s put her on a set, regular three-naps-a-day schedule. And we’ll try to combine those last two messy catnaps into one.
What should a 7-Month Old Baby’s Sleep Schedule Look like?
At seven months old, three naps – morning, early afternoon, and late afternoon – is not unusual at all, and her descent into a bunch of short catnaps during the day suggests that she made the jump to two naps too early. Lots of babies don’t drop that third nap until more like 9-12 months old. Two naps a day WOULD be just fine for a seven month old if those naps were substantial chunks of time, but she’s just…not…doing that anymore. And since you unfortunately can’t get her back to sleep once she wakes post-nap (which is super normal), you’ll need to counter the short naps with more frequent naps.
And yes! The dreaded 8/9-month sleep regression that could be at play here as well – we all tend to think of sleep regressions as something that primarily mess with overnight sleep, but naps can take a big step backwards as well. So again, it makes sense to simply schedule her day for more than two naps, given her age and current state of daytime sleep.
Try this Sleep Schedule Instead
But also yes! Four naps a day is indeed too many and too difficult to schedule any sort of life around. So let’s set up a nap schedule for three: Two longer naps and then ONE short nap, late in the day. (And we’ll hopefully get those longer naps in if we arrange them in a way that will avoid her getting overtired, and thus more likely to wake up too soon.) These naps happen at home, in her crib, and the times should be treated as holy as possible, at least for the next couple weeks while you troubleshoot.
6:30: Wake up
8:30: Nap, exactly two hours after wake up. She’s currently spacing this first nap out 2.5 hours after she wakes up, which means she might be kicking her day off already too tired to nap!
(Which, I know. It’s nuts, but it’s A Thing.)
After that, it’s all about the nap length. Let’s say she only sleeps for 30 minutes at wakes at 9:00, then three hours later…
Hopefully, if she’s going down for that first nap earlier (and thus not overtired), that first nap SHOULD get longer after a few days, hopefully up to at least an hour. So if she sleeps for an hour and wakes up at 9:30, the second nap would be:
Again, this nap should be at least an hour. Try to avoid driving in the car too close to this one to avoid the dreaded carseat non-nap catnap.
AND THEN, two to three hours after she wakes up from nap number two:
3:30 – 4:30: Nap
This last nap will and should be short — just enough to take the edge off for the last couple hours before bed. Since she’s currently taking two separate catnaps at 3:00 and 5:00, I’d pick a time somewhere in between those two and try to consolidate them into one final 30-45 minute nap.
She moved her wake time up, but her bedtime stayed the same. Given her scattershot napping, I think 7:00 p.m. might also be too late for her, and contributing to the clearly-tired-but-won’t-stay-asleep problems you’re seeing. 6:30 a.m. waking = 6:30 p.m. bedtime and ideally already asleep.
A. Move her first nap and bedtime up 30 minutes.
B. Add a dedicated third nap to her day.
C. Avoid the carseat too close to scheduled nap times if you can (or do whatever you can to keep her awake, including annoying the crap out of her with loud noises and open windows).
If she skips the third nap, start her bedtime routine even earlier to make up for it (since it sounds like her nighttime sleep is more predictable/productive).
Stick with three naps for the next couple months, until her first two naps are longer and/or she simply stops reliably taking any sort of third catnap in the late afternoon. At that point, you might be able to return to her earlier schedule of two substantial naps per day. (But stick with the two-hours-after-waking first nap and 12-hours-after-waking bedtime rules of thumb.)
Related Infant Sleep posts from Alpha Mom: