Why does my baby sleep less than 3 hours?

My 8.5 month old daughter can’t sleep & won’t sleep on her own for more than 1.5 hours.

Hi Is This Normal,

My 8.5 month old daughter can’t sleep & won’t sleep on her own for more than 1.5 hours. This includes both nap time and at night. Pediatrician isn’t concerned because she is gaining weight. Is this normal? She whimpers or jolts and wakes up constantly. She had stomach problems and on/off colds ever since she was born. Is it the growing pains, was it the snot, or can I just blame teething? (no tooth yet just a lot of drool) She constantly has to be held or rocked or given more milk. We don’t have enough rooms in the our home so she sleeps in the living room with me or my husband. We also have a toddler in the house (we sleep trained her and she’s fine). Is it normal and okay for my daughter to not sleep longer stretches on her own? At first I just wanted to sleep but now I am getting worried for her…

Less than 3 hours.

Less Than 3 Hours,

Here’s the cold, hard truth: nothing about how babies sleep is normal. I mean, it’s normal in the sense that this is just what babies do! But normal by any other sense of the word? LOL, absolutely not. “Sleep like a baby” is such a misnomer it’s actually funny. If we all slept like babies, the world would be filled with adults walking around like zombies because no one can function on 2 hours of sleep at a time. Well, no one except babies, anyway. Basically we don’t sleep at all for the first couple of years of our baby’s life, so that’s cool. That’s fine. EVERYTHING IS FINE.

It sounds like you are smack-dab in the middle of the dreaded 8-Month Sleep Regression, and I am sending you all of my sympathies from across the internet, mama. Newborns are awesome because they actually sleep A LOT. But then the sleep regressions hit, and they just keep on comin’. There are a few big ones: 4 months, 8-10 months, 12 months, 18 months, and 2 years. Each regression brings with it a new set of joys for us to deal with. Have a 4-5 month old at home? Guess what – your baby doesn’t enter deep sleep right away anymore, so expect frequent wake-ups and restlessness. The average sleep cycle for a 4-5 month old is 45-50 minutes. THAT’S IT. Damn regressions, I shake my fist at thee!

At your little one’s age, she’s going through some MAJOR developments and learning a ton. Some of it we can see, like them learning to scoot or crawl or self-feed. Other stuff happens behind the scenes. She’s absorbing so much language and beginning to categorize all this knowledge and information she’s picking up every single day. The result? Major brain overload. Her brain is firing on all cylinders right now, and that can wreak havoc on her sleep patterns (and yours). You know how it feels when you have a big presentation or important day coming up, and you just can’t shut your brain off long enough to go to sleep? It’s like that, but all the time.

Babies at this age are discovering the world around them. Ever notice how they can stare at their hands for 20 minutes? They’re just now discovering hands are awesome. They’re rolling over and learning how to use their bodies and limbs. Add to the chaos the teething thing and we’re full-blown Sleepless in Seattle (or wherever you are). Babies teeth constantly for the first two years of their lives. If they could be born with a full set of teeth and an operating sleep system, that would be freaking ACES.

We all want a quick fix, and if there was a quick fix for this, I’d be rich and parents would erect a statue in my honor. Unfortunately, like so many other developmental stages in a baby’s life, we just have to tough this one out. If she’s otherwise fine during the day, and (as your pediatrician mentioned) gaining weight and hitting her milestones, you’ve just got to be patient as she works her way through this regression. You might not be able to “fix” her sleep issues right now, but you can support her through all these changes. If nighttime is the problem but she’s napping well, or vice versa, she’s filling in her sleep gaps. Come up with a calming nighttime routine that works for your family, and stick to it consistently. Keep her nap times quiet and free of distraction, as more sleep deprivation will only exacerbate the issue.

But most importantly, remember that this is only a phase, and you’ll get through it soon. Really. I promise! And that’ll be just in time for the 12 month regression to hit! 😉 I think we get to sleep when they’re in college. At least, that’s what I’ve been hanging my hat on all these years.

Waiting for the ZZZZ’s,

Is This Normal


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