Six months is a time when a lot of parents are beginning to feel like they’re doing a routine again. Babies around this age prefer to nap in semi-regular intervals, and about 60 percent of six-month-olds sleep through the night. You’ll likely find that your little one is also increasingly fun to be around as she becomes more social, cooing and laughing at anyone who plays with her.
And just when you’re feeling like you’ve got the hang of things, another sleep regression hits. Six-month sleep regression is not as common as regression at other ages, but it has an effect on many families. Milestones like rolling and pushing up on all fours combined with a desire to interact with others can make it difficult for your little one to sleep. Read our guide to learn more about why sleep regression can occur for about six months and what you can do to support your child through it.
What is Sleep Regression?
Sleep regression is when a young child suddenly experiences sleep issues after previously sleeping well. It shows up differently for different children, but can include trouble falling asleep, refusal to nap, shorter-than-usual naps or frequent night wakings. If you notice sleep issues for more than a couple of days, then chances are good that your child is experiencing a sleep regression.
Sleep regression tends to occur because of changes in sleep patterns or physical or developmental milestones. That’s why it’s common for them to happen around specific ages. Changes like learning to crawl, walk or talk are important developments but can also make it difficult for your child to settle down for sleep. Separation anxiety can also come into play, and you may also experience challenges as your child learns to fall asleep independently as he gets older.
It’s completely normal for young children to experience sleep regression, and it’s actually a sign that they’re developing well. Sleep regression is temporary and usually lasts between two and six weeks, though every child is different. These facts don’t take away from the fact that sleep regression is hard on babies and parents alike. Proper sleep is important for the growth of children, and adults require adequate sleep to maintain proper cognitive functioning and mood control. If you’re especially sleep deprived during a period of sleep regression, be sure to reach out for help.
If you’d like more detailed information about sleep regression, read our comprehensive guide to sleep regression.
The 6-month Sleep Regression
Babies are experiencing a lot of changes about six months, and while exciting, these improvements can lead to temporary sleep problems. Many children are on their way to becoming mobile around this age. If he hasn’t already, your child may begin rolling or pushing up on all fours. Some six-month-olds even begin crawling. Your child may want to practise his newfound skills rather than sleep, which may lead to difficulty falling asleep. You may peak in to see how his nap is going only to find him wide awake, up on all fours. He may even cry out for you in the middle of the night if he’s rolled onto his stomach and is having trouble rolling back.
You may also find that it’s simply more difficult to get your baby to fall asleep than it once was. If you previously rocked, nursed or bottle-fed your little one to sleep, you may find that this simply doesn’t work anymore. Maybe your baby falls asleep only to wake up an hour later, or she wakes up the minute you try to lay her down. The reason is that your baby is simply more engaged with her surroundings and doesn’t want to miss out on anything. She wants to play and interact rather than sleep. Separation anxiety can also come into play around this age.
While sleep may have been more random when your child was younger, most six-month-olds have fallen into a routine with a consistent bedtime and two to three naps at regular times. This is a great development, but may also mean that big changes to the schedule can wreak havoc on sleep overall. Your baby may simply be less flexible than before. If your child misses a nap, she may fight bedtime later because she’s overtired. She may also be less able to catch a few Z’s while you’re on-the-go and needs the quiet environment of home in order to nap.
Finally, many children experience growth spurts around six-months. If your baby was previously sleeping through the night and is now waking, it may be because he’s hungry. You may need to institute a night feeding until the growth spurt passes.
Not all six-month-olds experience a regression in sleep, but for those who do, it’s important to note that it’s temporary and can last anywhere between two and six weeks.
How to Help Your Baby through the 6-month Sleep Regression
If you’re in the midst of the six-month sleep regression, or anxiously anticipating it, check out these ways to help your baby (and you) make it through as easily as possible:
- Encourage Independent Sleep:Around this age, you may find that your techniques to get your baby to sleep—like rocking or feeding—just aren’t working anymore, or that your baby needs your help to fall back to sleep if she wakes up during the night. Six months is a time when most babies can learn to fall asleep independently. Try shifting nursing or bottle-feeding to the beginning of your bedtime routine to keep your little one from falling asleep. Engage in other comforting activities, like bathtime or reading books, before placing your baby in her crib drowsy but awake. She may protest, but will in time learn to fall asleep on her own. Many parents also employ sleep training methods around this age. When your child learns to fall asleep on her own, you will find that she has less difficulty at bedtime and is able to go back to sleep during the night without the aid of you.
- Make Time for Play: While your child may have been perfectly happy to spend a lot of time in his stroller or seat when he was younger, that’s starting to change. Six-month-olds are more active than ever before and need time during the day to practice new skills like sitting or pushing up on all fours. Be sure to give your little one plenty of time and space to move and play during the day. Doing so will lower the likelihood that he wants to do so at naptime or during the night. It will also allow him to spend extra energy, ensuring he’s ready to sleep when you put him in his crib.
- Stick to a Plan: The babies tend to settle into more of a routine for around six months, and before the sleep regression hits, you may have had a predictable schedule for sleep, play and eating. Avoid the temptation to chuck this routine out of the window when your child has trouble sleeping. Routines are comforting to babies because they signal what’s coming next. If you haven’t already, establish a bedtime routine that includes lots of comforting wind-down time with activities like a bath, reading books and singing a lullaby. The only change you may want to consider is moving bedtime earlier if your child is resisting naps and becoming overtired.
- Provide Comfort: Sleep regression is difficult for the whole family, and your child, especially, will need extra comfort during this time. Lack of sleep will likely make her cranky and clingier than usual, which in turn can make it even harder for her to fall asleep. Try to clear your schedule as much as possible and spend lots of time together. One-on-one time spent cuddling or reading books together before bedtime can also help with separation anxiety.
- Notice Hunger Cues: Growth spurts can contribute to sleep regression around six months, and you may find your baby waking during the night for a bottle or to nurse. Obviously feed your little one if he’s hungry, but try to pay attention to whether or not he’s actually hungry. Most six-month-olds don’t need to feed multiple times a night, and your baby may be looking for comfort rather than food. The only problem with automatically feeding him every time he wakes up is that he may come to depend on it to fall back to sleep, and you’ll find yourself back to multiple night feedings unnecessarily. Try waiting a few minutes when he wakes up to see if he goes back to sleep on his own or giving him a reassuring pat rather than picking him up.
Six months is a fun time when babies become more active and social than ever before, but sleep regression sometimes accompanies these milestones. Growth spurts and separation anxiety can also be thrown into the mix, making it more difficult for your little one to fall and stay asleep. It’s important to remember that like any sleep regression, the six-month sleep regression is temporary. Try to promote independent sleep while offering extra comfort to your infant. Do what you can to encourage your family to get rest when possible, as sleep is so vital to the well-being of both children and adults, and don’t be afraid to reach out to friends and family when you need help.
Additional Sleepation Resources
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