Everybody knows, whether or not they're a parent themselves, that a new baby won't sleep a lot during the first weeks. But, the biggest new-parent misconception is that once the baby passes the first weeks, sleep gradually but consistently improves. Many expect sleep to just get better and better until the baby is sleeping an 8-hour stretch at 4 months, but this isn't quite true. The reality for many—if not most—babies is a bit of a roller coaster with happy victories alternating with frustrating regressions!
With this in mind, we've gathered together some useful information about the sleep habits of 6 month olds, along with descriptions of some of the common sleep problems many babies experience around the six month mark. Just remember that each baby is unique, so these facts and tips may not line up exactly with your own experiences, and that's completely fine.
All parents want their infants to sleep well, but when it comes to getting to grips with what your baby needs, you need to delve into the details.
In this article:
6-month old baby sleep needs
Though it's important to bear in mind that all babies are different and won't necessarily line up with all the statistics you see, knowing what researchers have found out about the recommended amount of sleep can help you figure out healthy sleep habits for your little one.
For instance, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has found that between 12 and 16 hours of sleep per day is considered within a 'normal' range for a 6 month old, while Stanford Children's Health have stated that around 10 hours of nighttime sleep and 4 hours of daytime sleep are to be expected.
How to establish a sleep schedule for a 6-month old
Knowing your baby's sleep habits and general behaviour is super helpful when it comes to planning out a schedule. By keeping track of when your little one eats, sleeps and plays, you can plan around their natural rhythms and give them (and yourself) the best chance of them following the set schedule.
Ongoing monitoring after you've created an initial schedule is a good idea too, as it allows you to adjust timings as your baby develops and changes.
If there's one thing that (funnily enough) remains consistent as your child grows up, it's the importance of consistency! When you start to introduce a new sleep schedule, you'll want to make sure that the naps are at the same time and preferably in the same place each time.
Some babies naturally transition from topsy-turvy newborn sleep patterns into a regular schedule. But it's not uncommon for her half-year sleep routine to resemble an abstract painting: a thing of beauty to her, but baffling to everyone else. - What to expect
You can plan for their morning routine first so that they don't become overtired and struggle to nap, then work on stretching sleeping hours apart gradually overtime. Eventually you'll find that it all comes together and that your little one is sleeping on a schedule that works for them and your family!
6-month old sleep schedule
Above we've provided a brief example of what your 6 month old's schedule could look like - of course, yours will probably look different to best suit your own baby's needs.
6-month old sleep regressions
Unfortunately, no matter how well planned your schedule is, there's a chance that your plans will fall victim to the dreaded 6 month sleep regression! This usually comes about at the same time as developmental milestones such as growth spurts and starting teething, but can be for a range of reasons.
Getting your baby to sleep consistently through the night isn't always a linear process, so don't feel down if you find that the 6 month sleep regression has halted your progress. It's only a temporary blip, and that schedule will still be useful once you get back on track!
If you want to learn more about surviving a six month sleep regression, check out our blog clearing up myths around this regression and providing some useful tips for getting through it without losing too much sleep!
Tips for getting 6-month old on a sleep schedule
There's lots of ways of helping your 6 month old baby get used to a new sleep schedule - here are a few tips for helping your little one (and yourself) get some much needed sleep!
Keep a sense of consistency
As we talked about earlier, consistency is key when you're wanting to introduce any kind of new routine or schedule to your child. Not only does this give them a sense of security and help strengthen your bond with them as their caregiver, but it also helps to create positive sleep associations that will allow them to fall asleep without being dependent on you. For example, if you always put your baby to bed at 7:30pm each night, they're more likely to feel drowsy and know that it's time to fall asleep from association.
It's important to keep this consistency even through hurdles like vacations and the 6 month sleep regression, as once your little one is back on track, they'll still remember when it's time to play and time to sleep.
Play when baby is awake
This goes hand in hand with staying consistent - if you want your baby to go to sleep when it's naptime and bedtime, keep them active during their awake time! Many babies struggle to get to sleep because they're wanting to practice new skills like babbling and crawling that they don't feel they've had enough of a chance to try out through play. That's why you need to give them an opportunity to be curious and get some of this pent up energy out before they settle down to sleep.
Follow the eat, wake, sleep cycle
The eat wake sleep cycle works exactly how it sounds: you feed your baby as soon as they wake up, make sure they're awake for the whole feeding and for a little while after, then put them down for their next nap. This achieves two things - first, your baby is more likely to take a bigger feed if they're completely awake, and this means that they're also more likely to sleep through their next nap or through the night without getting hungry.
Secondly, this reduces any connection they've made between feeding and falling asleep, which can become a negative sleep association if relied upon to calm your baby down before they sleep.
Nested Bean Zen Sack
If you're following a new schedule and your baby is struggling to fall asleep when they're put to bed, you can try our Zen Sack! Gently weighted to mimic your soothing touch, this sleepwear can help your little one feel safe and secure as they fall asleep, and teach them to self soothe by keeping them calm even when they aren't laying in your arms.
Put baby to bed drowsy
You wouldn't want to go to bed if you're feeling wide awake, and your baby is no different! By keeping an eye on sleep cues like yawning, stretching and shutting their eyes, you can figure out when your baby starts to feel drowsy throughout the day and use that as part of the basis for your sleep schedule. By doing this, you're helping them to fall asleep more quickly once they're in their crib, and also helping them learn to self soothe by giving them a higher chance of going to sleep independently of you.
Give baby time to settle down
You can help a drowsy baby feel even more ready to sleep by practicing a soothing bedtime routine each night. This can include anything that you think will help your baby, from a quick bath to a bedtime story - whatever works for you. Having this extra time to help your baby settle down through a bedtime routine can go a long way in helping them stick to the overall sleep routine you've planned for them.
Start sleep training
At six months old, you'll be able to start sleep training your little one if you haven't already. There are lots of different sleep training methods out there, from Cry It Out to Pick Up Put Down and many in between, so make sure to choose the one that best suits you and your family. Again, once you've settled on a method, make sure that you stay consistent with it to help your baby understand when they need to sleep.
Printable 4-month old Sleep Schedule
Above is a printable version of what you might expect your 6-month old sleep schedule to look like - please remember that each baby is unique and that this means sleep schedules can vary widely for different babies and families.
FAQ: Common questions from new parents
Having a set schedule to follow when it comes to your baby's sleep can help give your whole family a greater sense of consistency and routine, especially during the chaos that new parenthood can bring. We hope that the tips we've outlined in this blog can help you and your 6 month old get on a schedule that helps both you and your baby get the sleep you need!