By Vandita Rajesh
Your baby at 6 months will gradually move to longer stretches of sleep and lesser number of daytime naps compared to the early newborn days. At this time being consistent in the sleep routine and strengthening the sleep associations discussed in the earlier posts Initial Steps in Baby Sleep Routine and Setting the Bedtime Routine are critical to follow to ensure that sleep habits are well developed.
Sleep Requirements for 6-to-8 Month Old Babies
Total sleep needed is about 12-15 hours in a 24 hours period.
Number of naps
Sample Sleep Schedule
9 am to 10 am
12 pm to 1 pm
3 pm to 4 pm
Most babies are capable of sleeping long stretches at night by the time they are 6 months. It is not uncommon for babies to wake up several times in the middle of the night and during naps. It is a good idea to check for any physical discomfort and resolve it or visit your doctor for advice. If there is a growth spurt or if it is sleep regression it will pass eventually. Review the questions below as these will also help you to work through the phases of sleep regression and growth spurts.
Assess each question to identify where you can make those small changes in the routine to improve your baby's sleep.
Is the baby waking up too early?
Waking up too early in the morning could be one reason that baby is restless during naps and at night. If your little one is going to bed at 12 am and waking up by 5am then she is definitely short of sleep. You would have heard the phrase "sleep begets sleep". This means that the more the baby sleeps the better the the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. So avoid too late bedtimes and prevent too early wake-up times.
Is the baby awake for too long between naps?
Staying awake for too long between naps is another reason the baby is tired and unable to sleep well. Remember to not keep the baby awake for more that 2 hours between naps. Otherwise she will be too tired and wake up frequently in between the naps and at night.
Can you anticipate the awakenings?
Anticipating the awakenings between sleep is a great way to bridge the sleep cycles and prevent the baby from waking up. So if your baby falls asleep and tends to wake up 20 minutes into the nap go to her before she is up and the moment she stirs use the soothing method that works best. This could be just the “shhh” sound or keeping a hand on her and lightly patting, or providing the lovey if it has gotten away from the hand. Keep doing at every nap and gradually she will sleep better.
Is the baby getting sufficient physical activity?
Daytime activity such as sufficient time to exercise their arms and legs is important to ensure good sleep. Good opportunities to practice the skills like trying to sit, roll over, crawl, being on their tummy is excellent for their digestive system. This ensures that they have good bowel movement and hence less discomfort during sleep. Take you munchkin out for a walk as the fresh air and a change of scenery will work well especially if she is restless and irritable.
How much solid food does the baby eat?
Breast milk or formula is still very important source of nutrition at this stage. Solid food is to supplement the breast milk or formula and not to replace it. Introduce solid food gradually in small amounts such as 1 teaspoon at a time. Introducing too much can upset the digestive system resulting in gas or constipation and thereby disrupting sleep.
Notes For Mom
If the baby is going through a particularly restless phase, you are definitely tired and exhausted at the same time. It is really a good idea to “sleep when the baby sleeps”. Co-sleeping or bed-sharing with the baby will help you not only to get rest but also to anticipate her awakening and comfort her.
As your baby grows remember that, their patterns and needs will change based on their developmental milestones. For example, if your baby is feeding well and eating some solid food she may not wake up to be fed. She may just need comforting or a belly rub to release the gas. Sometimes, the growth spurts will make her restless and some cuddling is all that is required.
Involve other family members and get help. There is no need to think that it has to be done alone. A baby is born into a family and involving family members (spouse, grandparents, aunts) or even friends is a good way to help your little one understand that family can be trusted and is here to support and help.
Featured Image Credit: Mike Von @thevoncomplex
Sleep recommendations: National Sleep Foundation
The author is a public health professional with expertise in child development, epidemiology, and behavioral science.