7 month sleep regression: what causes it, how to identify it, and tips to survive the second major sleep regression in babies.
What is the 7 Month Sleep Regression?
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The 7 month sleep regression describes the disrupted sleep your infant may experience at around 6 – 7 months, and you may also hear it referred to as the 6 month sleep regression. Confusingly, there are also later (more common) regressions at around 8 – 11 months, and another at around 12 months.
In fact, there’s some dispute as to whether the sleep regression at six or seven months even exists. (More on this later.)
How Can You Identify the 7 Month Old Sleep Regression?
Just as you begin to settle back into a routine following the dreaded 4 months sleep regression, you may notice its six or seven month cousin.
This one occurs around the same time as your baby hitting important developmental milestones, such as becoming more mobile, signing or showing interest in language, and weaning onto solids.
7 Month Sleep Regression Signs
Although sleep regressions affect children differently, noticeable signs that point to a regression include:
- Shorter naps than usual
- Complete refusal to nap
- Difficulty falling asleep at nighttime
- Frequent night wakings
- Increased fussiness
- Changes in appetite
While sleep regressions are technically an indication that your little one is doing all the things they’re meant to be doing and developing well – they can really take their toll on the whole family.
Is the 7 Month Sleep Regression Real?
Some argue that rather than being a true regression, it’s instead linked to your baby’s diet and calorie needs to support their growth.
Whatever you call it, many parents report a disrupted phase in their baby’s sleeping patterns at around this time. Let’s take a look at why it happens…
Why Do Babies Have a Sleep Regression at 7 Months?
Whether we attribute it to mental leaps or additional calorie needs for a growth spurt, all sleep regressions are as a result of babies going through a developmental jump. This one includes:
- Growth spurt / increased appetite,
- Sitting up unaided,
- Shuffling forwards on the tummy,
- Rocking on the shins and forearms – beginning to crawl,
- Mastering the pincer grasp which allows them to grip with the thumb and first finger,
- Picking up food and feeding themselves,
Babies need opportunities to hone their new skills; unfortunately for tired parents, they often choose the quiet of nighttime as the ideal time to do so!
The situation is made worse by the fact that hungry babies equal wakeful babies, so not only are they primed for activity should they wake, they’re also more likely to wake.
Thankfully there are ways to help discourage your infant from picking unsociable hours to practice sitting up or crawling.
Tips For Managing the 7 Month Sleep Regression
1. Understand your baby’s sleep needs.
Sleep requirements differ throughout life, and getting the right amount of sleep is vitally important for our health, especially for the developing brain.
Understanding what a healthy sleep schedule looks like for your child can help you to establish a good routine.
Here’s what a healthy schedule looks like for a 7 month old:
- Awake windows during the day should be around 2 – 3 hours.
- Total nap time during the day should be 2 – 3 hours, split between 2 – 3 naps.
- Bedtime should be between 6.30 – 8pm, and be within the same 20 minute window each day.
- Aim for around 6.30pm for early risers.
- Aim for around 7.30 – 8pm for late risers.
- At 7 months your baby should be getting around 11 – 12 hours sleep at night.
- Total sleep in 24 hours should be around 12-15 hours. It’s fine if your baby sleeps a bit more or less, but if you have any concerns see your health visitor or GP.
- Some babies of this age will continue to feed at least once a night, while others will be able to sleep through.
Growth and weight gain can provide insight, but my personal recommendation is to feed your infant if they’re asking for it. Speak to your health visitor if you have any concerns.
Source: National Sleep Foundation.
2. Create a bedroom environment that promotes sleep.
Keep the bedroom warm, calm, quiet, and dark.
Blackout blinds are a lifesaver for summer months when your baby may be going to bed or waking up during daylight hours.
3. Wake your baby at the same time each morning.
While it may sound sacrilegious to suggest waking your baby, especially after a broken night of sleep, it may actually be beneficial in the long run.
This will help to keep your baby to a healthy routine and prevent your schedule sliding into disarray.
Note: while technically sound advice, I never did this. My youngest had colic and I grabbed every chance I could to snatch some zzz’s, so while it may be wise, it may also be unrealistic. As ever, do what you need to and don’t feel guilty for it!
4. Follow a regular schedule.
Trying to follow a rough programme of awake times, naps, and bedtime helps to keep your baby on a healthy schedule.
If you attempt to put your baby down for a nap or bedtime after too short a window of being awake, they may be too alert because they’re not yet tired.
If you wait too long they may become overtired / overstimulated, making it hard for them to settle.
Ideally your 7 month old will be awake for around 2 – 3 hours, at which point you can watch for signs of sleepiness, such as:
- Eye rubbing
- Zoning out
When you notice these signs, your baby is primed for sleep and it’s the ideal time to put them down for a nap.
5. Maintain a healthy bedtime routine.
If your infant doesn’t already have a consistent routine you to do together to prepare for bedtime then now is the perfect time to introduce one. This is really important as it helps them to both wind down ready to go to sleep, and also provides a cue for them so that they begin to anticipate bedtime.
In the midst of a sleep regression it can be tempting to relax the routine in favour of whatever works on a given day. However it’s vital to maintain that regular and familiar bedtime ritual to help smooth the transition from regression back to healthy schedule.
6. Try to encourage your infant to fall asleep independently, in their cot.
If your baby is receptive, the ideal is to lay them down in their cot while they’re drowsy but aware of their environment, and then allow them to fall asleep.
This prevents the distracting surprise of waking in a different place if you’ve transferred them, so that they’re more likely to stir and simply move into a new sleep cycle rather than fully waking.
However, I say this with a pinch of salt. Most babies will resist because they prefer your comfort, at which point you must decide whether to implement sleep training or relent and enjoy the baby cuddles.
The vast majority of baby sleep advice you’ll find online and from sleep consultants will strongly encourage you to make this an absolute priority. I can honestly say that achieving this goal is likely to help your baby to sleep longer stretches at nighttime, and if that’s your primary goal then it’s worth exploring options.
However, your baby will not be this little for very long, and if you’re coping with the lack of sleep then there is no law that says anything needs to change. Controlled crying or similar methods are not the silver bullet they’re purported to be.
Illnesses and teething can put you back to square one, and that’s without mentioning the controversial nature of the practice, or how tough it is on parents to essentially ignore our instincts to respond to our babies.
There’s no such thing as a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ sleeper when it comes to babies; those who are more needy are doing exactly what they’re designed to do.
My personal recommendation is to do what is right for your family, whether that means cuddling/rocking/nursing to sleep and responding throughout the night, or considering some gentle training if you’re not coping well.
7. Encourage practicing new skills during the day.
If your baby has plenty of opportunities to play and practice gripping toys, sitting up, and moving themselves around in the daytime, then – in theory – they’ll feel less need to do so at night.
8. Offer your baby plenty of food and milk.
Growth spurts are common at around 7 months, and one of the surefire signs is that they’ll be hungrier than usual. As weaning will likely have started this is a good time to offer your baby lots of healthy foods to try.
Some infants of this age will feed lots through the day and be satisfied until the following morning – but lots will wake at night hungry.
If your baby is waking looking for food, feed them – remember, milk or formula remains their main source of calories at this time.
Your baby may also be waking for comfort as much as milk, which is equally valid. And if you’re nursing, regular nighttime feeding also regulates your milk supply, which remains important for as long as you continue to nurse.
There’s no right or wrong time to stop night feeds, and you should be guided by your baby.
That said, offering plenty of calories in the daytime may encourage longer sleeps at night by this age.
7 Month Sleep Regression FAQ
Q: Is there a sleep regression at 7 months?
A: Although sleep regression can occur at various times throughout your baby’s first and second year, many parents report disrupted sleep in their infants at around six to seven months.
This aligns with a phase of developmental leaps and new skills, as well as increased calorie needs for a known growth spurt at around 7 months.
Q: Do all babies have a sleep regression at 7 months old?
A: The 6 or 7 month sleep regression is one of the most common, however all babies are different and it’s entirely possible that yours may escape disrupted sleep patterns at this age.
Q: Why is my 7 month old not sleeping all of a sudden?
A: There are a variety of reasons your baby may not be sleeping, including:
- Developmental milestones
- Increased appetite and calorie needs
- Separation anxiety
This is all completely normal behaviour for a seven month old, and while sleep may be disturbed for up to a few weeks, maintaining a healthy wake/sleep schedule and bedtime routine will help things to resettle.
Q: How long does the 7 month sleep regression last?
A: Unlike the 4 months sleep regression which is permanent, most sleep regressions usually last around two to six weeks.
Of course, that’s long enough for routines to be disrupted and need to be reinforced or even reinstated if they’ve collapsed entirely.
Q: Why is my 7 month old waking up at night crying?
A: Your baby may be waking up hungry or looking for comfort.
Try waiting a moment before intervening in case they settle back down independently, but if your baby is distressed respond and offer them a feed. This is a common phase for a growth spurt and many babies still require nighttime calories at this time.
Q: Does the 7 month old sleep regression affect naps?
A: The 7 month sleep regression may affect naps as well as nighttime sleep.
You may find that your infant wakes early from naps or resists them altogether. However sufficient sleep is really important for cognitive development, so it’s a good idea to try to follow a healthy wake-sleep schedule, like the one outlined above.
Trying to put your baby down before they’re ready to nap or once overtired can be challenging, so watch for signs of tiredness in your baby and act quickly to settle them when they’re most receptive to napping.
How to Cope With Sleep Regression
Remember this is all normal, and it will pass. If you’re struggling during a phase of sleep regression, be sure to reach out for help…
Ask somebody you trust to watch your baby while you take a bath or catch up on sleep.
But please do not waste your money on sleep consultants – listen to your instincts and save your cash for indulgences that will make you feel better instead!
If you’re looking for practical help, I understand – I’ve been there. While I don’t personally endorse controlled crying, there are plenty of gentler options available.
Ultimately the path you follow is a personal choice and and I will never judge a desperate parent.
Check out this post to make an informed decision regarding sleep training.