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At this age, there can be a tiny hiccup in your baby’s sleep as they go through a nap transition. In fact, your baby will drop the afternoon nap around this time, and this will require a period of adjustment for your little one. Also, most babies will start rolling / crawling / sitting around this age, which means they are burning more calories and possibly get more hungry at night. All this can lead to the so called 6 month sleep regression. And depending on your baby’s development, this can easily become the 5 or 7 month sleep regression 🙂
Just remember and take comfort in knowing that, like the 4 month sleep regression, the 6 month sleep regression is a sign that your baby is properly developing!
The 6 Month Sleep Regression: is there such a thing?
According to The Baby Sleep Site (and other various resources), there is no such thing as a 6-month sleep regression. This is because of the definition of “Sleep Regression”, which is a period of time (~3 to 6 weeks) when a baby or toddler who has been sleeping well suddenly starts waking at night, taking short naps and/or skipping naps for no apparent reason.
What happens at 6 month doesn’t quite fit the description, and it’s more like a small period of adjustment for your baby to their new sleeping habits and developmental achievements. That means that you might just need to bit a little bit more patient, an maybe temporarily re-introduce a feed at night, until your baby adjusts to these new changes.
That said, whether you call it a 6 month sleep regression or not, the result is still the same: painful sleepless nights. And if you don’t identify the cause(s) and handle it correctly, you might be in for a long run.
6 Month Old Sleep Regression: The Causes
Here’s some of the things that your baby may be experiencing and that could cause the 6 month sleep regression:
- Rolling Over / Crawling / Starting to Sit: most babies between the age of 5 and 7 months will start to do any of these things. And babies like to practice, even at night unfortunately! If this is the case, you might find your baby stuck in the crib, crawling around or sitting up nicely all by themselves. If you have been using a swaddle until now, you’ve also probably realized it’s now unsafe to do so. What might also happen is that, with all this energy that they are burning, they will start getting hungrier at night and ask for an extra feed.
- Babbling: this can be super cute during the day, but not so cute when your baby likes to practice in the middle of the night.
- Separation anxiety: this can also start with babies that are about 6 months old, and you will find that a baby that was always OK to sleep in their own room, will start being upset all alone in their crib at night.
- Teething: teeth also start to emerge between 6 and 12 months, and the pain behind it might wake your baby up at night.
My second baby for example, really seemed to be needing that extra feed at night. She started crawling and sitting by herself quite early at 6 months, and I think she was just burning too much energy during the day! Plus, I was breastfeeding her and, with breastfeeding, it usually takes babies a bit longer to drop all feeds at night. My first daughter, on the other hand, didn’t start moving until much later and was bottle fed. So, other than the occasional nights with teeth coming through, she cruised through the 6 month sleep regression. She made up for it later on though!
How to Tackle it Fast
Here are some tips on how to tackle the 6 month sleep regression as soon as you’ve identified the causes of the sleep disruption:
- If your baby likes to be active at night because they are getting quite mobile, take advantage of all this energy during the day and let them explore as much as possible during the day. This will tire them out.
- If you are transitioning your baby out of a swaddle and they don’t seem to like the change, consider getting a transition swaddle. This will give your baby time to adjust to the new sleep routine.
- If your baby is getting stuck on the side of the crib, or getting tangled in sheets, consider a sleeping bag. This is actually the safest option for babies until they are old enough to put their blanket on or take it off by themselves.
- If your baby likes to practice chit chatting at night, try let them babble for as long as they want and see if they go back to sleep by themselves. If they start crying, you may need to look at some sleep training. You can have a look here -> at gentle sleep training methods that involve little to no cry.
- If they love all the social interaction before going to bed and are very excited when you put them down at night, they will struggle to fall asleep. You need to help them wind down by removing them from the exciting environment and create a calm sleep routine. You can try a bath, a massage, a book or a song, for example. The more consistent you are with this routine, the easier it will be for your baby to associate it with sleep.
- If your baby seems to be suffering from separation anxiety and starts crying as soon as you leave the room, try the Chair or Sleep Lady Shuffle Sleep Training Method.
- If they start waking up at night and seem to really need an extra feed, you might just have to be patient and offer that extra feed until they are more established on solids and don’t need it anymore. Remember that, particularly if breastfeeding, your baby might not be ready to drop all feeds at night until they are about 9 months old.
- If they are teething, again, you just need to be a bit patient and offer your baby all the comfort they need. What I found to be quite useful is applying some teething powder on the gums before bedtime. Have a look here for teething signs and symptoms.
One note based on personal experience: if your baby is hungry and starts feeding more (or again) at night, be aware that it could easily become a new sleep association. Particularly if breastfeeding. As in, they can’t fall back to sleep without you feeding them first. If you see that the extra feed(s) drags for to long, you might want to loose that sleep association and look at some gentle sleep training.
Things to consider
One thing that I have learnt is that it is not always easy to identify the cause of your baby waking up at night and it can be a bit of a (not so easy) process of elimination. Be ready to be armed with a lot of patience.
Also, keep in mind that when babies are not too tired yet to go to sleep, they may still end up waking a lot at night. The same happens if they are overtired, because the stress hormone builds up and wakes them in between sleep cycles. Have a look here -> for a sample 6 month old baby schedule to make sure your baby is getting the right amount of sleep during the day.
Make sure you put your baby down to sleep when they are ready to sleep! Keep an eye on the signs that they are tired, and follow a good day routine. Signs that your baby is tired are:
- Pulling of the ears
- Rubbing the eyes
- Fluttering the eyelids or difficulty focusing
- Arching backwards
- Sucking the fingers
Other Tips for a Good Night Sleep
Here’s a few things that I would recommend you looked at to help your baby have a good night sleep:
- A sleeping bag: like I mentioned before, try not to use a sheet and blankets as they are probably rolling, or going to roll pretty soon. They may end up waking up if they are too cold because they kicked their blanket off.
- A dark room: have black-out curtains or blinds that make the room as dark as possible
- A white noise machine: this will create a comfortable environment that calms the baby, helping them to fall asleep faster. Also great to cover up the noise of the toddler running around the house when the baby is sleeping. You know what I mean if you have a toddler and a baby at home! I use the Hushh Portable White Noise Machine, which is awesome. I can also take it with me in the car or in the stroller.
- A good routine throughout the day: this is actually key to a good night sleep and you can download a free 6 month old sleep and feeding schedule <- here.
- Sleep training: if you are exhausted and struggling with baby sleeping, and none of the information above seems to help, I would really recommend looking at sleep training and getting the professional help of a sleep consultant. The older the babies get the harder sleep training becomes, so it’s good to address bad sleeping habits sooner rather than later. I learned this lesson the hard way with my first daughter! I have put together here -> a list of gentle sleep training methods that involve little to no crying if you want to have a look. There are also some programs that offer FREE resources.
And the most important thing: follow your instinct and your baby’s cues! No matter what you read or learn, if it’s not working, it might not be the right thing to do for yourself or the baby at that point in time. The sleep program I followed, for example, only encouraged a 10 minutes sleep in the afternoon at 6 months. Turned out that Michaela, my second daughter, was way too tired at night with just 10 minutes in the afternoon. Once I increased the afternoon sleep to a full sleep cycle of 45 minutes, she started sleeping better at night as well.
Frequently Asked QuestionsHow long does the 6 month sleep regression last?
Sleep regressions in general usually last for 2 to 6 weeks. However, this is as long as you don’t begin to assist them back to sleep. If you do that, then your baby will get used to you putting them back to sleep and this will become a new sleep association for them. Meaning they won’d be able to fall back to sleep by themselves. If this happens, the sleep regression will drag for longer and you will need to look at sleep training.
Be patient, this too shall pass! 🙂 Follow my suggestions above and talk to a sleep consultant, or go through a baby sleep program. Click here -> for a list of gentle sleep training methods and programs that involve little to no crying if you want to have a look.
There are different sleep training methods that are suitable for a 6 month old and that you could try. I have put together a list of 6 of them <-here,
One thing that I learnt about having babies is that the path to improvement is never straight and you’ll go through so many ups and downs, you will stop caring about “when will it get better?” 🙂 It will get better, but then it might get worse again, and so on and so forth, possibly until they are teenagers, who knows. But we’ll all have to face other problems by the time they are 13!
If you want to give Cry It Out (CIO) a go, you could start at 6 month old. However, know that CIO can be very hard on both the babies and the parents. There are other gentle sleep training methods that are effective and involve little to no crying. I have put together a list of 6 of them <-here
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