Q&A: How Much Sleep Does an 8 Month Old Need?

CME WebsitesChild Development, Infants 3 - 12 Months

blockquote_bgMy 8-month-old son Chase seems to need to sleep a lot; sometimes 5 naps a day plus bedtime and even after that he acts tired. And, from what I understand, babies his age don’t need swaddling to sleep but I can’t get him to sleep without it. The other thing is, and I’m not sure if these two problems are related, that most days he is not happy. I have run the list thirty times on these days, have played with him for hours on end, cuddled him, laid down with him, walked him. I have no idea what else I can do. On his bad days, and they are about five days out of the week, he cries for hours. And when he’s not crying, he has this whine that goes on for   hours more. His pediatrician says that there’s nothing wrong with    him. I’m not sure what I can do. Any answers you could suggest would be so helpful.

Babies of Chase’s age typically need between 12-15 hours of sleep in a day including naps and bedtime. Most babies still nap 2-3 times per day at this age. If your son is sleeping through the night for around 10 hours, as well as taking several one hour naps per day, it may seem like he’s sleeping too much, when in reality he is not. However, since you are describing him as irritable and fussy most days, and needing to swaddle him to get him to sleep, it could be a sign that he is sleep deprived.

Babies around 8 months are going through a lot of cognitive and physical changes, with learning to crawl, and cruise and explore and sometimes patterns of sleep are disturbed in the 6-9 month period. Babies also go through separation anxiety at this age which can account for night awakening and difficulty resuming sleep. While some parents swear that swaddling their older babies helps them when they are fussy, there is always a caution with swaddling babies older than 3 months since once a child can roll over the swaddling limits their movements and there can be a risk of SIDS if they roll to their stomach during the night and can’t move freely. Also, babies that are swaddled for long periods may simply become dependent upon swaddling and are then unable to fall asleep without it because it’s become a habit (similar to a pacifier). For example, a baby who is always rocked to sleep never learns the self-soothing techniques needed to fall asleep on his own, so when he awakens during the night and Mom is not there, he cannot get back to sleep without her rocking him all over again and it becomes a vicious cycle.

If you are sure you are keeping a consistent daily routine and bedtime routine for your son, with the same calming nightly routine (warm bath, singing, books, etc.) and bedtime hour, as well as a consistent nap schedule (even if he takes 5), and he is getting a total of 12-15 hours of actual undisturbed sleep, and you are still concerned with his    irritability throughout the day and his need for swaddling, I would definitely seek a second medical opinion to rule out that anything medical or perhaps dietary is causing his fussiness. It may help to keep a journal for a week or two before your next medical appointment so you can demonstrate his exact sleep patterns (how long he slept,    how long he napped, how many fussy periods he had during each day), as physicians may find this helpful and may take your concerns more seriously. You may also wish to have an occupational therapy evaluation from your local early intervention provider to rule out any sensory issues contributing to his need for the swaddling to calm him. Some children really do need that deep pressure on their bodies to calm them down and to feel secure and this is something an occupational therapist who is trained in sensory integration techniques can assess for you. Our website contains a link to Arizona Early Intervention Services here.