What should a sleep schedule for a 6-month-old look like?
6-months old is such a cute age. Your baby is becoming increasingly interactive – making eye contact, giggling, babbling and smiling.
Your baby is also starting to play more and may no longer be content with just pulling on their toes or lying under a play-gym. Toys that support their fine and gross motor skills are perfect for this age. Your baby may have a couple of teeth already, if not they are most certainly on their way.
You may have already introduced solids, if not now is the time that paediatricians will recommend introducing your baby to solid food.
Your baby’s personality is developing and so too are their sleep habits.
How Much Sleep Does a 6-Month-Old Need?
At this age, your baby still needs around 12 – 16 hours of sleep in 24 hours. They will usually have 2 – 3 naps, the duration of which are 1 – 2 hours. Your baby can manage longer awake windows of around 2 – 3 hours, and short naps are still perfectly normal. Your baby should have 10 – 11 hours of solid nighttime sleep with some babies still waking for night feeds.
At the 6-month mark, babies are developmentally able to sleep through the night without a feed; however, many babies may still wake for 1 – 2 feeds during the night. If your baby wakes more often, they likely have a sleep prop/association issue. It may be time to consider sleep training.
Your baby may start to resist the last (3rd) nap of the day. Don’t take this as a sure sign that they are ready to drop this nap. Most babies are only ready to drop the 3rd nap around 8 months of age. If you drop the last nap too early, it can result in your baby being completely overtired. This can lead to increased night waking. Instead aim to extend your baby's awake windows between naps.
6-Month-Old Sleep Tips
Sleep Routines tend to be more predictable at this age. If your little one's sleep is still a bit all over the place, you are not alone. If you find your baby is showing signs of being overtired, there are steps you can take to improve their sleep.
- Ensure the bedroom is ideal for sleep – The days that your baby could fall asleep anywhere are probably behind you. Your baby is more alert and aware of their surroundings. Ensure that your baby's room is quiet, dark, and cosy (not too hot or too cold).
- Don’t drop the 3rd nap too soon – As discussed your little one may resist the last nap but do not take this as a sign, they are ready to drop this nap. Adjust awake times, keeping a lookout for tired signs and put your baby to sleep in their cot whenever possible.
- Keep your baby active – Your baby has lots of energy necessary for practising all their newly acquired skills. Keep your baby active by giving them plenty of tummy-time, playing interactive games such as peek-a-book and practise supported sitting and crawling. This way, your baby will be sufficiently tired and likely go down to sleep with little protest.
Related Article: How to Deal with Nap Transitions
Sleep Schedule for 6-Month-Old
When it comes to sleep schedules, they are a guide. No two babies are the same. Awake windows can vary from 2 – 3 hours and although rare, some babies are ready to drop the 3rd nap.
The sample schedule assumes that your baby still takes three naps a day.
Can You Sleep Train a 6-Month-Old?
Sleep training is a personal choice. At the 6-month mark, your baby is old enough to self-soothe and developmentally is physically able to sleep through the night without requiring a feed. It is not necessary to sleep train your baby. However, if your baby struggles to fall asleep, sleep training can help them become better sleepers. There are five different sleep training methods, which range from gentle techniques through to Cry it Out. If you do decide to sleep train your little one, then choose a method that you feel comfortable with. You can also be rest assured that studies have not found any long-term risks to sleep training a baby.
Related Article: Baby Sleep Training Methods
6-Month-Old Sleep Problems
You may find your 6-month-old fighting naps during the day and becoming increasingly restless at night. Most of this is because of the many developments your baby is going through. The most common problems are:
- Teething – Your baby may have started teething around the 5-month mark, and of course, teething continues for many months. If your baby appears to be struggling to sleep, keep an eye out for teething signs – chin rash, increased drooling and tugging at the ears. Teething rings can help to ease some of the pressure. If your baby is still struggling to sleep, consult your paediatrician about alternative forms of relief.
- Early morning waking – Early mornings can be a source of frustration. It is not uncommon for babies to wake up ready to start the day as early as 5 am. Making your baby's room as dark as possible can help although early wakings are often your baby’s natural schedule responding to nature.
- Night waking – This can be common at the 6-month-mark due to all the developments your baby is experiencing. Rolling over is often the cause of these night wakings, especially if your baby still gets stuck from time to time and does not like sleeping on their tummy just yet. If you have decided to sleep train, your little one will be able to self-soothe and require less help.
Although babies can sleep through the night without feeding some babies still wake up to feed. You can help your baby drop these last feeds by ensuring they fill up on calories during the day and finish their last feed at night. If your baby continues to wake more than once or twice, they are likely looking for comfort. Try offering another form of comfort such as cuddling or patting before giving a bottle or the breast straight away. You could also gradually cut these feedings by reducing the amount of time you breastfeed or reducing the number of ounces if you are bottle feeding. Keep interaction during these times to a minimum as you do not want your little one thinking that this is the time for fun.
Is there a 6-Month Sleep Regression?
There is so much information about sleep regressions; it can seem like there is a sleep regression every month.
At the 4-month mark, your baby goes through a real sleep regression as their sleep cycle matures and changes. Unlike newborn sleep which only has two sleep cycles, adult sleep has four cycles. At the 4-month mark, your baby went from 2 to 4 sleep cycles. This increase in sleep cycles meant they started to experience more periods of lighter sleep. This may have resulted in increased night wakings as they adjusted to their new sleep cycle.
Babies can also experience other periods of disruption to their sleep, particularly during their first year, but these are not proper sleep regressions. These disruptions often coincide with developmental milestones which at 6-months old is learning to roll over, learning how to sit up or even starting to creep or crawl. Throw teething into the mix, and you may find your baby's schedule all over the place.
Help your little one settle back into the routine by being consistent with nap and bedtime routines.