I get asked for help solving sleep problems far more than any other topic. Sleep is a concern for you and sleep problems creep up frequently throughout baby's first year. The 5-8 month old age range can be particularly troublesome. Here are the top ten most common reasons a 5-8 month old has stopped sleeping well.
1-Your Child is Hungry
The first thing to check when a baby is not sleeping well anymore is the possibility of hunger. Is your child having a growth spurt? Does your baby need to start having solid foods added to the day? Is your milk supply where baby needs it? Do you need to to increase the amount of formula at each feeding? Always consider the hunger possibility first. If baby is hungry and you don't address it, nothing can fix the poor sleep. For more information on growth spurts, see:
2-Your Child is Teething
Once you are sure it isn't teething, the next thing to check is teething. This is especially true in the 5-8 month range. Teething pains can happen long before teeth come in. The most painful part is before the tooth erupts, not after. If it is teething, your child will have swollen gums. If I suspect teething, I do a test. I give my child Ibuprofen before a nap. If the child sleeps well that nap, I have a safe assumption that it was indeed teething pains that were waking the baby.
Your baby will probably also be irritable during awake time. Your baby will seem clingy and discontented. Here are some posts on teething to help your little one:
3-Your Child is Sick
If it is not a hunger issue and there are no signs of teeth, then the next consideration is sickness, especially an ear infection. Babies can have a hard time sleeping with something as simple as a common cold (and who can blame them!), so it might be a cold. Ear infections commonly cause sleep problems as well, and anytime a great sleeper suddenly starts waking in the night, I wonder about ear infections. For help with sickness, see these posts:
4-Your Child Needs to Drop the Third Nap and Go to Two Naps a Day
The average age for babies go to two naps a day right around 8 months old. That being said, there are babies who go to two naps at 6 months and some at 10 months. If your baby isn't sleeping well anymore, isn't hungry, isn't teething, and isn't sick, consider the possibility that your baby might be ready to go to two naps a day. For help with this process, see these posts:
5-Your Child is Curious
Babies change the type of sleep we are in approximately every 45 minutes while they are sleeping. At this change, they basically come out of sleep. A 5-8 month old baby is typically a lot more curious than younger babies, or at least more aware of the happenings in the world around them. This means that you shutting a door somewhere in the house at the 45 minute mark can be enough to rouse baby to be fully awake. A barking dog, a sibling laughing, a loud truck driving by, the sun rising...any sort of noise can make baby curious and push to full alertness rather than transitioning back into sleep. This is when white noise becomes SO very valuable. See these posts for more on that:
6-There Have Been Changes or Disruptions to Daily Life
Did you recently move? Has something changed in your day? Did you recently take a vacation? Did the time change happen recently? Did you drop a nap? Move baby's room? Did you lengthen baby's waketime length recently? Or have you simply been taking advantage of your baby's ability to be awake longer and also be more flexible? Disruptions can definitely lead to poor sleep. This doesn't mean you can't ever have disruptions. What it means is to monitor disruptions and how well your individual baby can handle them.
7-Waketime (Playtime) Length is Not Correct
Is your baby up the correct length of time for your baby's needs? If your baby is up too long, your baby won't sleep well. If your baby isn't up long enough, your baby won't sleep well. If your baby was sleeping well and now isn't, then the chances are that baby needs to be awake longer, not a shorter time. For more on this topic, see:
8-Your Child Needs More Stimulation (or Maybe Less!)
At this age range, stimulation levels often become an issue because stimulation levels need to increase. We spend so much time being careful in those early months to not overstimulate that we sometimes under-stimulate as baby gets older. You might need to add in some more physical activity for your baby. You might need to change up the toy options to more age-appropriate selections. You might need to talk more, sing more, or go on walks. If you have upped stimulation levels, consider that you may have gone too far and need to pull back some. For more on this, see:
9-Your Child is Working on a New Skill
If your baby is learning to roll over, sit up, crawl, or stand up, there is an excellent chance your baby will practice those skills in the bed. This might happen before a nap, leading to baby being overly tired. This might happen mid-nap as baby switches sleep cycles and remembers the fun skill she is working on and pushes herself to full alertness. See:
10-Your Child Needs a Larger Diaper at Night
If we are talking night sleep disruption, then be sure to consider diaper size. I always put my babies in larger diapers at night than she wore during the day. This helped prevent her from waking during the night because she had leaked through. See also:
These are the most common reasons for poor sleep in this age range. If you didn't find the solution here, be sure to read through my many posts helping you with sleep problems. You can find them here. You can also see more 5-8 Month Old Sleep Problem help here.