As your baby grows and develops, their sleep patterns are likely to change, sometimes for the better but unfortunately also sometimes for, the worse. At six months your baby should be able to sleep through the night. Sleeping through the night, at this point, means six to nine hours of sleep. However, a six-month-old baby will need roughly ten to eleven hours at night, so they may still need a middle-of-the-night or late-night feeding.
Waking up for one feeding isn’t a sleep problem; however, some issues can occur from six months on, making sleeping difficult for your little one. To help you understand what’s normal and what constitutes a sleep problem, this article outlines common infant sleep problems that can occur from around six months old and tips to solve them.
Common Sleep Problems
Babies begin teething around six months old, with the bottom two incisors usually being first followed by the top incisors. Signs of teething include crankiness, excessive drooling, increased chewing on objects, red and tender gums, and a slight temperature increase (not a fever).
Ways to Help
- Acetametophin (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) to relieve pain
- Rub your baby’s gums with a cool, wet cloth or a clean finger
- Use cool teething rings for them to chew on
Not Being Able to Fall Asleep Independently
Infants learn how to self-soothe around four to five months; if your baby hasn’t learned how to self-soothe and fall asleep independently, you may need to sleep train your baby. Learning how to fall asleep independently sets up healthy sleeping habits that will benefit both you and your baby. For example, at 6-months, your baby should no longer need to be fed or rocked to sleep.
Ways to Help
- Create a predictable and consistent bedtime routine
- Set their last feeding roughly 30 minutes before bedtime, so they don’t fall asleep while eating
- Provide a pacifier to help them self-soothe
- Place your baby in their crib while sleepy but not asleep
- Don’t rush in the moment you hear your baby fuss. Allow them the opportunity to fall back asleep on their own.
- If your baby is still sleeping in the same room as you, consider moving them to their own room. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends room-sharing (not bed sharing) until six months old.
Waking Up Too Early
On the flip side of late-night problems are early morning issues. Babies waking up around 4 or 5 a.m. and not falling back asleep might need their daytime nap or bedtime schedule adjusted. But, of course, teething and illness could also be at play, so rule those factors out first before adjusting their schedule.
Ways to Help
- A six-month-old needs 12-15 hours of sleep per day; roughly 3-5 of those hours should be daytime naps. So if they are napping too much or too late in the day, it could affect what time they wake up.
- Try adjusting their bedtime. You may need to move their bedtime sooner rather than later; an overtired baby will have trouble sleeping.
- Use blackout curtains to prevent the sun from waking them up early
- Use a white noise machine or a fan to block outside noises. If you live on a busy street or a city, loud noises might wake your baby up early in the morning.
- Slowly move breakfast back by ten to fifteen minutes until it reaches a more reasonable time.
- After 12-months old, you can place board books, a strap-on toy like a mirror, or a keyboard to entertain themselves with when they wake up.
Unnecessary Nighttime Feedings
By six months old, your baby should only need one late-night or middle-of-the-night feeding; it may be possible they don’t need any at all. However, your baby might still be waking up for a feeding because they’re trained to do so.
Ways to Help
- Slowly reduce the time you spend feeding your baby until the middle of the night feeding disappears.
- Consider sleep training
- Wait for longer and longer periods before going in when your baby is fussing in the middle of the night.
Additional Sleep Problems
Some sleep problems can occur at any age. However, these issues are usually short-lived and easily solved.
- Illness or post-illness. If your baby’s sleep schedule was disrupted during an illness, they might stick to those changed habits after they’re all better. If you notice your baby struggles to get back to normal after an illness, take time to get their routine back on schedule.
- Routine DIsruptions. Children thrive on routine, so if their routine is disrupted or changed, it can affect their sleep. While disruptions and changes are unavoidable at times, do your best to keep them at a minimum.
- Being overtired. Over-tired babies and children have a difficult time settling down. Keeping your baby up late in an effort to make them sleep later could actually backfire and make them sleep less. Instead, keep your baby on a consistent routine, and when shifting their bedtime, only move it back 10-15 minutes every couple of nights to help them adjust.
Sleep problems are common occurrences when you have an infant, but in most cases, once the cause of the problem is discovered, there is a logical and straightforward solution. If you are the parent of a baby struggling with sleep issues, stay the course, work on discovering the cause, and use these tips to help your baby settle back into their regular routine.