Baby Sleep at 4-6 months

Baby Sleep Patterns

By Vandita Rajesh

From 4 to 12 months most babies need about 12 to 15 hours of sleep (including daytime naps).

Few babies may need less sleep but if your little one is sleeping less than 10 hours or more than 18 hours please consult with your doctor.

Sleep Requirements for 4-to-6 Month Old Babies

Nighttime Sleep

Naps

Number of naps

8-12 hours

3-5 hours

3 to 4 naps

Sample Sleep Schedule

Wake up

Nap 1

Nap 2

Nap 3

Bedtime

7 am

9 am to 10 am

12 pm to 1:30 pm

4 pm to 5 pm

7 pm

It is better to avoid late evening naps, especially after 6 pm because then the bedtime gets delayed. A late evening nap is helpful if the bedtime is 9 pm or later. It is important to assess your family needs and patterns to set a consistent bedtime. As discussed in the earlier post on Setting the Bedtime Routine, early bedtimes are useful since it helps babies get a long stretch of sleep.

Sleep Habits

Equip Your Baby

This is a good time to help babies develop good sleep habits and develop their ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. The baby's brain is developing new neural pathways and maturing, hence they are able to separate the daytime from the nighttime. Your little one may use different ways to soothe and calm himself to sleep. Some babies will resort to sucking or making their own "lullaby" sounds while they fall asleep. Give your munchkin the opportunity to try it.

Change Tactics 

You can gradually try to wean him off the habits like bouncing, rocking, and walking and help them to fall asleep on their bed. If you are co-sleeping (bed sharing or room sharing) try to cutout the continuous rocking and bouncing and replace it with “ssshhh” sound/ white noise or light patting. The baby may resist for a couple of days but being consistent is important here.

Lovey

A lovey is a transitional object that will soothe your little one when you are asleep or not around. Usually a small piece of cloth, that resembles the blanket and smells like you is a good option for a lovey. Keep at least 2-3 loveys of the same kind as a a back-up so that you can alternate. Avoid using stuffed toys, as they are too big for young babies to hold. You can pair the lovey with the feeding time and let him hold it while he falls asleep. Sometimes squirting some breast milk or formula milk on it works, as the familiar smell of milk will help him stay asleep.

First Nap

Experiment with the first nap of the day to try out new techniques. Avoid introducing something completely new at bedtime when your own energy levels are low. Starting with the new technique earlier in the day will give you more opportunities during the naps to try out the new technique.

Swaddling 

Some babies at 4 months may still like to be swaddled and you can do it by leaving their arms out. This allows them to suck on their fingers, hold their lovey and be comfortable. Be sure to follow the safe swaddling methods - the legs should be flexed, baby should be able to move the hips, and swaddle must be snug (not tight). By 6 months, he may twist and turn in his sleep, so it is good to dress him in comfortable clothes for the night. If you think the baby is getting very cold at night, you could use a wearable blanket or baby quilt that is easy for him to kick off when he doesn't need it. 

White Noise/Music

Sing your favorite song, chants, or play any music that you love. Soothing and calming sounds are good to help your little one fall asleep and are effective ways to create a good sleep associations. White noises like the fan and air-conditioning can be used throughout the night and if the baby wakes up in between the sleep cycles, these familiar sounds will lull him to sleep.

Dream Feed

Babies at this age often need a feed after their bedtime. You can do this without actually waking them up or dream feeding your baby. Gently pick him up and feed him without turning on the bright lights or talking or making sounds that will completely arouse him. After feeding, burp him and lay him down to sleep (this will prevent him from waking up because of gas or spit up). You could do this before you go to sleep or when you notice that it is getting close to his feeding time at night. Try to feed before he completely wakes up and cries for milk.

Notes on Feeding

When babies transition from one sleep cycle to the next they may stir and wake up. So please remember that all mild awakenings during the sleep are not for a feed.

There may be times when the baby demands cluster feeding (3-4 times in one hour) and seems fussy. This is very common among babies as they are growing up. They may need more cuddling and may need to be held for longer periods of time. These cluster feedings may also result in longer periods of sleep. Try to stick to the sleep routine as much as possible to keep it consistent.

Featured Image Credit: Jorge Dominguez

Sleep recommendations: National Sleep Foundation

The author is a public health professional with expertise in child development, epidemiology, and behavioral science.

 


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