If your baby is 6 months old and sleep has started to become more disrupted, then you’re probably wondering ‘what is going on with my baby’s sleep?’ and asking yourself ‘is there a sleep regression at 6 months old?’.
When it feels like sleep goes backwards and feels worse than before, it is often called a sleep regression. The truth is, our baby’s sleep needs change a lot in the first months and years, and they go through many phases of development, so sleep can go through periods of temporary disruption at any age.
In this guide we’ll cover what might be going on with your 6 month olds sleep, help you understand the 6 month sleep regression and how you can get through it.
A step-by-step guide to better naps and nights…
Around 6 months, baby’s sleep can change a lot and it can feel like a bit of a puzzle working out how to find a routine and approach to sleep that suits your baby! If you’re ready for more predictable naps and a better night’s sleep for your baby, then our Sleep Success: 6-9 months course can help you get there.
What is a sleep regression?
So, what is a sleep regression? Sometimes, a baby’s sleep can change and feel like it has taken a step backwards. They might suddenly be sleeping less, waking more often at night, taking shorter naps, or just seem to fight falling asleep.
These periods of disrupted sleep are often referred to as ‘sleep regressions’ even though they are often triggered by phases of developmental progression or simply that our baby’s sleep needs have naturally changed.
As our babies grow they pass through many different phases of mental and physical development. As they move through different milestones it isn’t unusual for sleep to be temporarily disrupted.
Whilst most babies tend to reach key milestones at roughly the same age as each other, all babies are different and will experience these phases of development when they are ready.
You only need to spend a little time on parenting forums or Google, and it can seem like there is a supposed sleep regression at pretty much every age! This can make it feel like improving your baby’s sleep is an unachievable task, or that there is always a negative turn in sleep just around the corner.
In reality, many babies can have a predictable routine and sleep well for long stretches at night . Sleep will never be 100% perfect, 100% of the time, but we can have some great foundations for sleep that help us keep on track.
We prefer not to talk about sleep regressions happening at set ages, but instead help parents understand what might be impacting their baby’s sleep at different times, and help them create a routine and approach for sleep that suits their baby – with confidence!
Is there a 6 month sleep regression?
Is there a guaranteed 6 month sleep regression that all babies will go through? No – babies and sleep don’t work like that! There isn’t a set timetable that all babies follow.
Do some baby’s have disrupted sleep around 6 months of age? Yes, absolutely. Around this age, babies are going through lots of change and development – many of which could have a temporary effect on their naps and how they sleep at night.
Is it the 6 month sleep regression or something else?
What could be affecting your 6 month old baby’s sleep? Let’s explore what could be happening with your baby around 6 months old that can have an impact on their sleep…
Changing sleep needs: transition from 3 to 2 naps
How they are falling asleep
For some babies, how they fall asleep can start to have a noticeable impact on their sleep, for example, they might have more broken sleep, shorter naps, or difficulty falling asleep.
If your little one is struggling, they might benefit from some support in practicing how to fall asleep and settle themselves back to sleep when they naturally wake up between sleep cycles.
We can always make changes to how our baby’s sleep and support them in practicing falling asleep in a different way, if we find that our current methods start to feel unsustainable.
Every baby is different but as a general rule we find that teething can (but not always) disturb sleep for around 3-7 days as a tooth cuts through. If there are signs of teething, then a pesky tooth might be the reason sleep has gone a temporarily off track.
Some babies start to teeth very early and others may not get their first tooth until after their first birthday. However, the majority will get start to teeth at around 6 months of age.
Milestones and development
There are a lot of new skills developing around 6 months of age that can have an impact on sleep. It’s not unusual for sleep to go a little haywire during periods of change and development.
These are some of the exciting milestones your little one might be experiencing around 6 months old:
- Learning to play, interact and connect with other people and start to recognise familiar faces.
- Making a growing number of sounds – and will enjoy repeating them backwards and forwards with you.
- Rolling over – one or both ways.
- Improving hand-eye coordination – passing objects from one hand to the other and reaching for things that capture their interest.
- Starting to sit on their own without support.
- Possibly getting onto all fours and being able to rock backwards and forwards.
It is easy to see how all these new skills can keep young brains active and busy instead of dropping off to sleep!
Your baby might go through a growth spurt around 6 months old, which may mean they feed for longer or more often. Some babies still have night feeds at this age, and others have dropped these feeds completely. There is no set rule for when night feeds stop, and you can still sleep train and make improvements to sleep whilst still feeding during the night as needed.
Separation anxiety can appear at any age, but parents may first notice it around 6-8 months of age.
It is a normal part of their development. Your baby is becoming more aware of their surroundings and the relationships they have with the people who take care of them – new situations or people can feel unsettling as they adapt.
Separation anxiety can exhibit itself in a few different ways, usually; periods of being clingy, getting upset when you are out of sight, a strong preference for one parent, tears when you leave them at nursery/with family or suddenly resisting sleep.
How long does the 6 month sleep regression last?
Many babies will go through temporary disruptions to sleep, or ‘sleep regressions’ at some point. How long these phases last depends largely on what it is that is impacting their sleep.
They might have a couple of days and nights where sleep goes off track, or it may last for a couple of weeks or more.
Sleep might just go back to normal by itself, and they just need a little more support than usual for a short while.
Or, sleep has gone off track because your baby is ready for a change – it might be time for a tweak to their routine or some changes in how they fall asleep now they are older and their sleep needs are changing.
7 tips to help your 6 month old sleep better...
Whether you’re going through some temporary disruption to your 6 month olds sleep, or your baby has been struggling with naps and night time sleep for a while, we’ve got some tips to help you get more predictable naps, easier bedtimes and more restful nights:
Better sleep is just a click away…
A step-by-step guide for everything you need to know about your baby’s sleep. Expert advice and strategies to help you create the perfect routine for YOUR baby and help them settle to sleep in a way that works for your family.
#1: Establish a predictable, consistent routine.
Having a consistent bedtime routine can work wonders in helping your baby wind down and recognize that it’s time for sleep.
It doesn’t have to be complicated – a series of simple steps leading up to bedtime (and a shorter version for nap time) can be all that is needed.
Having a predictable routine for naps and bedtime around this age can help improve sleep overall – there is no need for strict timings or constant clock-watching, just aim for a consistent flow to your day.
#2: Have a regular wake-up time each day
A great first step towards a more predictable daily routine is to wake your little one up around the same time each day (during the week and weekends too!).
This helps ‘anchor’ your day so you can shape a daily routine for naps, bedtime, and also for meal as your little one starts to include solid food into their daily schedule.
#3: Make sure their naps suit their current needs
How much sleep your baby needs over 24 hours changes as they get older. How that sleep is organised across the day and night also changes. Some baby’s will drop their 3rd nap around 6 months of age, and settle into a routine of two naps each day. Others might still need three naps for a little longer.
The odd nap here and there that goes off track is normal, but if you regularly finding that naps are getting shorter, your baby is starting to fight falling asleep, bedtime is becoming later, early morning wake-ups are creeping in or you’re having more broken sleep at night then it might be time to make changes to your nap schedule.
In our sleep course for 6-9 months we include suggested routines for two and three naps to help you create a great routine for your little one.
#4: Create an optimal sleep environment.
Some babies may happily nap with lots of light and activity around them, while others may need a darker and quieter space – especially as they get older and become more aware of and distracted by their surroundings.
You can experiment with white noise to mask everyday sounds and create a more soothing atmosphere. Consider making the room darker for naps and nighttime sleep. If you’re on the move, using a sling for naps or a cover like SnoozeShade for the stroller can help your little one settle and enjoy longer naps.
#5: Reflect on how your baby is falling asleep.
Around 6 months of age can be an ideal time to make changes to how your baby falls asleep and help them fall asleep independently.
Rocking, feeding, carrying, swaying, and bouncing to sleep are all common ways we assist our little ones in drifting off (and there’s no need to change anything if you don’t want to). However, if these approaches start to become less effective or feel unsustainable, it may be just the right time to explore new ways for your baby to fall asleep.
There are different ways you can approach ‘sleep training’ and making changes to how your baby falls asleep – our 6-9 month sleep course guides you through how to use different techniques that you can choose from to suit your baby and their temperament.
#6: Practice new skills during the day.
Allow your baby the opportunity to explore and practice their newfound skills during the day can help you get through any sleep disruption while they are mastering their new skills!
Give them plenty of time on a playmat on the floor to practice rolling and sitting up. Place toys they can pick up with one hand where they can reach them and place favourite toys near them so they can try to roll to grab them.
Repeat back sounds they make to you and have conversations with the about what you are doing. Point out items that catch their interest and describe what they see.
#7: Don't be afraid to make changes.
When you’re tired and sleep feels challenging, it can feel overwhelming to know where to start to help get sleep back on track – or what changes can help without making things feel harder!
It is always ok to want to try something new, even if it feels a little daunting. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it – we’ve helped families all over the world find their way to better sleep, so you are not alone in wanting support.
Our 6-9 month sleep course covers all everything you need to know about your 6 month olds sleep, giving you a step-by-step guide to truly understand your baby’s sleep and create a plan to help you achieve predictable naps and restful nights in a way that suits your baby. If you’d rather speak with a member of the team, then we have 1:1 packages available too.
Sleep Course: 6-9 Months
Step-by-step guide to better sleep for 6-9 months
Covering everything from the science of sleep to how to create a great daily routine. Shape predictable daytime naps and restful nights.
6 month sleep regression FAQ
Q: Is the 6 month sleep regression real?
A: Sleep can go off track at any age and for different reasons. Around 6 months of age, babies are developing both mentally and physically. As they go through these phases of development, sleep can be temporarily disrupted. Sleep needs also change around this age, so naps and night time sleep can be disrupted if their routine hasn’t changed to keep up with their changing needs.
Q: What are the signs of the 6 month sleep regression?
A: During phases of development, or times when your baby is ready for a change to their routine, you might find that they are suddenly sleeping less, waking more often at night, taking shorter naps, or just seem to fight falling asleep.
Q: How long does the 6 month sleep regression last?
A: Depending on why your baby’s sleep is going off track, it may last between a couple of days and two weeks or more.
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