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Child Sleep Series #2: Your Baby at 6 months

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, June 13, 2017
Updated: Monday, June 12, 2017

I remember my baby boy being 6 months, and thinking “Oh this is the best age!”.  Little did I know that I would continue to say that each month as he grew, except maybe when he turned 3… but that’s another story :)

At 6 months, your baby is becoming more mobile, and curious about her world.  She’s likely rolling, and maybe even doing some commando crawling across the floor, aiming to grab that remote of course!  She’s likely started some solids, which can be very entertaining for us parents.  Don’t forget to introduce new solids early in the day, so she has the entire day to process the food.  Offering new foods at dinner time could interfere with nighttime sleep should she have trouble digesting it.

What can you expect sleep wise from your baby at this age?

By 6 months, most babies will have transitioned from 4 daily naps, down to 3 naps.  A typical nap schedule for a 6 month old looks something like this:

Nap 1 - 45 minutes or more

Nap 2 - 1 hour or more

Nap 3 - A Cat nap no more than 30-40 minutes.

Your sleep goals are to have 11-12 hours of total overnight sleep and 2-3 hours of napping hours during the day.

The first nap of the day is always the easiest to put them down for, and the last nap of the day is always the hardest.

She’ll keep that 3rd nap until 7-9 months when she’ll drop that nap and transition to 2 naps.  You can read more about that nap transition on this blog post The 3-2 Nap Transition.

If your baby isn’t getting enough sleep, she’ll get into an overtired cycle.  When kids are overtired the consequences are:

-      Taking a long time to fall asleep

-      Trouble staying asleep

-      Frequent night wake ups

-      Early morning wake ups

The most common error parents make with nap transitions is they don’t adjust bedtime to be earlier to accommodate for the lost nap hours, and bedtime is too late.  When your child was 5 months, she may have had a 4th nap around 4:30 pm, and then a 7:30 pm bedtime. 

Now that that 4th nap is gone, she may be waking from her 3rd nap around 4:00 pm, and needs to be back asleep 2.5 hours later, which would be 6:30 pm.  An earlier bedtime is necessary here. 

Don’t be afraid of this early bedtime as it does not mean that your child will wake up earlier in the morning.  The more well rested a child is, the better she will sleep. Think of the earlier bedtime as “bridging”, by shifting some of the lost nap hours into an earlier bedtime.

Are you still struggling with night wakings?

Around 6 months, exclusively breastfed babies may be down to 1-2 night feeds over 11-12 hours.  Formula fed babies may be down to 0-1 night feeds.

If your child is still waking every 3 hours to feed, you might want to ask yourself, is she really hungry?  Or is she reliant on the bottle or the breast to put her back to sleep?  We call this a sleep crutch.  A sleep crutch is something external that your child needs to fall back asleep.

If you are feeling exhausted, let’s talk about what you can work on.

1.    Focus on her awake times.  Awake time is the age appropriate time between naps that she can comfortably stay awake for, before she needs to be back asleep before, to avoid her becoming overtired.  At 6 months, her maximum awake time is 2.5 hours.  If she is awake any longer than that, you’re going to have challenges getting her to sleep, and having her stay asleep.

You can download my age appropriate awake time chart here: Age Appropriate Awake Time Chart.

2.   Think about tackling her sleep crutch.  Your child will wake up at night or mid nap, and fall back asleep in the same manner at which she fell asleep at bedtime.  So if she’s being nursed, bottle fed, using a pacifier, being rocked or held, then she’ll require that same sleep crutch to help her back to sleep when she wakes up.  The only way to change that is to “re-train” her, by doing some sleep training.  You can read more about sleep training techniques on my blog post here:  Sleep Training Techniques.

If you like what I have to say, you are always welcome to join my FREE Helping Babies Sleep Support Group where I moderate discussions, and you can post questions about anything sleep related.  This community is here to validate your experiences, and support you in your questions. It takes a village.

Sarah Mitchell has a Bachelor of Kinesiology from McMaster University and a Doctor of Chiropractic Degree from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College.  She has always been interested in health and the human body.  Having children of her own uncovered a new passion, helping parents get their children to sleep.  Her 1stchild would not sleep, which led her down the path of researching everything she could about baby and toddler sleep, and now she wants to empower you. She coaches parents and blogs at Helping Babies Sleep., twitter: @sleepcoachsarah

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