10-month sleep regression causes, signs – and how I survived it

One mum shares her top tips on surviving the 10-month sleep regression.
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  • The 10-month sleep regression means disrupted sleep during a progression in your baby’s development. This can cause shorter naps, or no naps, extreme fussiness at bedtime and frequent waking throughout the night. 

    Around this age there’s a lot going on cognitively – the mental process of thinking and understanding. And all of these changes can affect baby’s sleep – whether that means they struggle to settle, start waking more at night or refusing naps.  Sarah Patel, Sleep Consultant, tells us; “The crux of all this is that as a mum you have to trust themselves and their instincts. They know they’re baby better than anyone else.”

    Parenting choices are made with the tools and knowledge available at the time and in the best interests of parent, baby and family, and that’s okay. Here writer and mum-of-one, Carla shares her experience of dealing with the 10-month sleep regression.

    In this article, we look at:
    What is the 10-month sleep regression in babies?
    The 10-month sleep regression – how I survived it
    How long does the 10-month sleep regression last?
    The 10-month sleep regression – how to deal with it
    Signs your baby is going through the 10-month sleep regression
    What I learned about the 10-month sleep regression

     

    What is the 10-month sleep regression in babies?

    It’s a progression. And during it they just don’t want to sleep anymore because they are too focused on practising their new skills. The 10-month sleep regression means they are learning, growing and developing. We know it’s exhausting, but it’s a good thing, we promise. And it’s temporary, lasting from two to six weeks.

    The 10-month sleep regression is also down to physical changes. Firstly, your baby is becoming increasingly more mobile, maybe pulling themselves up or trying to walk.

    Secondly, they are able to hold things, reach for things etc. So, they’re spending a lot more energy practising this new skill. In addition, studies show that your baby is grasping the concept of object permanence. They understand that if an object (i.e. you) is out of their sight, the object is still there, even if they can’t see it.  Understanding object permanence means separation anxiety, which in turn can mean that they can’t sleep if you’re not there.

    Sarah Ockwell-Smith, a parenting expert, trained psychologist, and author of The Gentle Sleep Book, told us, “New parents assume that their baby’s sleep starts off really bad then gets progressively better. Until at some point it becomes ‘good’ like that of an adult. The trouble is, life doesn’t work like that.” If only.

    Below we share the three primary causes:

    • Physical milestones – such as sitting up
    • Mental development – Notice that certain objects, sensations, animals, and people belong together in categories
    • The 3 to 2 nap transition – dropping that third nap 

    How long does the 10-month sleep regression last? 

    Like the other sleep regression ages (there are a few), it’s between two to six weeks. It’s temporary and if you’re in the grip of one now, know that you will come out the other end.

    How I dealt with 10-month sleep regression

     “This sleep regression is so hard, as she keeps hurting herself trying to stand in her cot. I haven’t had a break all day, I am so tired. I’m literally at my wits end with no clue what to do. so I Google and I learn….”

    1) Know your baby’s ‘awake times’
    Most babies need between 3 – 3.75 hours of awake time in between naps at this age. And this will continue to change as they grow and learn new things, so always check back.

    2) This too shall pass
    Remember and focus on the fact that this isn’t forever, and it’s a good thing. Every sleep regression means your baby is progressing. 

    3) Try not to compare
    If you know that mum-friend who has a ‘good sleeper’ and hearing about it stresses you out, change the subject. Try not to engage in that conversation. It will help, trust me. 

    4) Catnaps aren’t enough
    I discovered that a 10-month old’s nap schedule should allow for 2 – 3 hours of day sleep. Ideally, research shows that each should be 60 – 120 minutes long. Even when Vivi was napping she wasn’t getting anywhere near that! I keep the two naps in, but start to extend them. I don’t go straight in when she wakes. 

    Table illustrating the ideal nap schedule for the 10 month sleep regression

    The main changes I introduced were a white noise machine and a ‘pick up put down’ method. I would go in whenever she cried and comfort her without taking her out the cot. In addition, I read that taking her out the cot confuses her, she needs to know that once she’s in there that’s it. So I’d comfort her by kneeling down and hugging her then laying her down and saying ‘it’s sleep time now, I love you’. 

    At one point I had to do this 12 times before she settled, but when she did she stayed asleep for over an hour! Her new two-nap schedule is now 6 am wake up, 1st nap is 9-10.15 am (1 hour 25) then 3 hours of awake time before the second nap at 1.45 pm until 3 pm (1 hour 25) which gives 3.75 hours of awake time before bed at 6.45 pm. It’s like a maths formula. And I wasn’t great at maths.

    5) Be okay with it all working out… eventually

    Remember this is all new to you and your baby. You’re figuring it out together, Once I started to look at it as me and Vivi versus sleep, instead of me versus Vivi, it helped. 

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    Signs your baby is going through the 10-month sleep regression

    “The tell-tale sign with Vivi was that she was taking so long to sleep and was sounding frustrated with herself that she was still awake. And when she was in her cot she kept trying to pull herself up all the time. I have read so much on baby sleep and many studies back what we as parents have always thought rubbing eyes, stillness, yawning, are all obvious signs of tiredness but signs of a sleep regression?”

    Below we share some need-to-know signs of a 10-month sleep regression;

    • More nighttime waking
    • Difficulty getting to sleep initially or after a nighttime waking
    • Heightened fussiness, crying, or agitation around bedtime
    • Longer daytime naps and less nighttime sleep

    The 10-month sleep regression – how I survived it

    Writer and mum-of-one Carla Challis shares how she, and her little one Vivienne, survived the 10-month sleep regression. 

    Name: Vivenne
    Age: 10 months
    Sleep set up: In her own room, cot, baby sleep aides like blackout blinds
    Naps: 30 minute morning nap, 45 minute afternoon nap
    Bedtime: 6.30 pm

    baby looking at camera

    Credit: Carla Challis

    “Vivi started crawling at 10 months since then naps and bedtime have been horrendous. Before this she was napping happily in her cot twice a day and having around 3 hours total nap time, and going to bed was smooth. 

    At bedtime, Vivi would drink her milk, we’d have a quick cuddle, she’d go down in her cot and I’d say goodnight, leave the room and within 15 minutes she’d be asleep after babbling to herself for a bit. She was sleeping through the night with the occasional early waking but usually awake at 6.30 am.

    Suddenly I couldn’t put her down in her cot without a screaming meltdown. If she went down in her cot without a fuss, it took her seconds to roll over onto her tummy, attempt to crawl, or sit up then cry because she was stuck and wanted to lie down.

    I was pulling my hair out! When I go back in to lay her back down she’s hysterical. She didn’t want me to touch her, but when I left she also screamed. I ended up rocking her – which I’ve never done before – in an attempt to calm her down.

    She would then drift into a light sleep and when I then put her down and she just went to sleep like nothing happened. I had no idea what was happening or what I could do to stop it. I was beside myself, in tears daily and feeling like an utter failure.”
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    The 10-month sleep regression: Sleep schedule before

    Morning

    6-6.30 am – wakes up, nappy change bottle
    7.30 am – breakfast and play
    9.30 am – nap in cot, 30 mins.
    10.15 am – wakes, nappy change.
    10.30 am – 12.30 pm – we try to go out for play

    Afternoon

    12.30 pm – lunch time
    1 pm – half bottle and nap, usually 45 mins
    1.45 pm – wakes, nappy change
    2 pm – 4.30 pm – play and nappy change

    Evening

    5 pm – dinner
    5.40 pm – bath and teeth brushing
    6.30 pm – into her room for a bottle, book and bed
    7 pm – She’s asleep, after much babbling to herself

    Nightime

    11 pm – wakes for nappy change and bottle goes back down
    3 am – cries for half bottle, goes back down until 06.30 am wake up

     

    The 10-month sleep regression: Sleep schedule during 

    Morning

    6-6.30 am – wakes up, nappy change bottle
    7.30 am – breakfast and play
    9.30 am – refuses to nap in cot. I am in and out of her room for about an hour trying to convince her to nap.
    10.45 am – She falls against her cot bars and cries out, we decide to give up on the morning nap.
    11 am – we’ve both calmed down and are out the house for a walk and some air – I’m praying she conks out in the pram. (spoiler: she does for 15 mins) Today has already been too hard. All she’s done is cling to me and whinged.

    Afternoon

    Noon – lunch with plenty of protein to make sure she has a full tummy
    1 pm – attempt the second. Vivi just cries and won’t be left. I am at my wits end.
    2.30 pm – I admit defeat. Another nap didn’t happen, she’s overtired, and I’m angry with life and everything because I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!

    Evening

    5 pm – dinner
    5.40 pm – bath. Teeth brushing didn’t happen, she was in no mood.
    6.30 pm – into her room for a bottle, book and bed. She is beyond overtired and crying at everything. I can feel her exasperation at everything we’re doing as we get ready.
    6.40 pm – put her down to sleep, starts crying before she touches the mattress.
    6.30 pm7.45 pm – Vivi is not settling, I’m trying to comfort her but feel I’m making it worse. She’s attempting to stand while in her sleep sack and is getting so frustrated with her tired self.
    7.45 pm –  I take her out of the cot and rock her to sleep. Something I’ve never done before but i just need her to sleep.
    8 pm – she’s asleep in my arms. I put her in the cot and tiptoe out

    Nighttime

    9.30 pm – Vivi wakes screaming, I feed her a bottle she falls back to sleep in my arms again
    10.45 pm – wakes, remains wide awake for an hour we’re just sat in her room together
    11.30 pm – falls asleep on me, but settles ok in cot, I sneak out
    12.15.am – wakes, I try to settle her

    Morning

    1 am – she sleeps with me in the room ‘shhh-ing’
    4 am – wakes, bottle and refuses to settle for 30 minutes (I’m so tired everything hurts)
    7 am – day starts again

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    What I learned about the 10-month sleep regression

    “To summarise, parenting is the hardest job I have ever done, with no hand over notes and a boss who has no clue what they’re doing and looking at me to sort everything out. When it came to this sleep regression extending the naps to what they should be helped a lot.

    But, where she wasn’t settling for naps really stressed me out. So the main thing to know is that when it comes to sleep regressions, there is no fixing it. Whether it’s baby weaning or potty training, you just have to survive it. And you’re not alone, even the mum-friend with the ‘good sleeper’ is going through something similar. I promise.”