Your baby is doing well with their sleeping and it looks as if they might even sleep through the night one day soon!
Then sleep regression hits. Your six month old now wants to throw their sleep schedule out of the window and hang out in the living room with you all night.
When sleep regression hits it can be a really challenging time for parents. It can feel as though all the hard work spent sleep training and establishing healthy sleep habits have been undone and you're back to square one. However, sleep regression is a natural rite of passage for babies in their first year, and signifies their entering into a new developmental stage.
Sleep regression is often associated with six-month-olds but can hit at any time during a baby's first year. Sleep regression is actually more common at the 12-month mark, but can occur any time past a baby's six month birthday.
It can be a frustrating time as that much needed catch-up sleep suddenly slides even further into the distance, but rest assured it is a totally natural stage and will be over before you know it. To make this phase a little easier on you, we've put together our top 6 month sleep regression tips to help those sleepless nights pass more quickly. Find out all about what is thought to cause six month sleep regression and how to help 6 month sleep regression resolve itself so you can all get back to sleep with minimal fuss.
For more advice on baby's first year, check out this [six-month-old schedules] and this advice for if your [9-month-old baby is not yet crawling].
What Is A Six Month Sleep Regression?
What are the signs of 6 month sleep regression in babies and what are the causes of 6 month sleep regression?
Although known by many as the '6 month regression', this sudden departure from established sleep patterns can happen any time between 6 and 12 months. We often associate it with the six month mark simply because babies start to undergo so many changes both physically and developmentally at this point. These changes make it more likely for a baby to find it harder to get to sleep and harder yet to stay asleep or fall back to sleep once they've woken during the night.
A sign that your baby might be going through six month sleep regression is that babies who have been on the road to sleeping through the night might suddenly start waking up in the small hours. Babies who already find it difficult to get to sleep might find it even harder.
Why Does It Happen?
There are several reasons a baby might go through a 5 month or 6 month sleep regression. Read on to find out what causes 6 month sleep regression.
Is It 6 Month Sleep Regression Or Teething?
Babies typically start teething at around the 6 month mark and the discomfort can start keeping them awake at night. Babies may need comforting during the night as they struggle with the pain of teeth erupting, and breast or formula milk can help soothe sore gums.
Be sure to brush your baby's gums and newly appearing teeth with a soft baby toothbrush or let them chew on a soft silicon brush they can hold themselves. A cooling teething gel on their gums before bed can help soothe irritation and allow them to sleep for longer.
6 Month Sleep Regression Or Growth Spurt?
One reason your baby might be waking during the night demanding a feed is that they may be undergoing a growth spurt. Babies need fuel to grow, and may wake earlier from naps and more often during the night due to their feeling hungry. Growth spurts are typically shorter than sleep regression phases, so if your baby is going through a growth spurt, it won't last very long.
However, growth spurts can impact sleep quality and result in regression. Sleeping less at night can result in your 6 month old feeling irritable during the day, napping at different times and generally having a more fractured sleep pattern for a while. They may also get used to feeding during the night and get into the habit of waking for a feed again.
Exciting Developmental Progress
From six months babies start to become more aware of their own bodies and capable of more movement such as rolling, sitting and eventually crawling. They start to develop fine motor skills such as grasping objects with their hands and they begin to show more interest in verbal communication. All this developmental progress can interfere with sleeping as the excitement at all they can suddenly do starts keeping them awake!
Providing plenty of opportunity for your infant to make use of their new-found skills should help tire them out in time for bedtime.
Is Separation Anxiety A Problem?
Separation anxiety tends to kick in at around 6 months old, and can prompt an infant who's previously slept well to start refusing to fall to sleep without mum by their side. A baby with separation anxiety might have trouble falling asleep as they might fear mom leaving them once they fall asleep.
This is a normal phase nearly all babies go through, and is a sign of secure attachment to their primary caregiver. As your infant grows more aware of the world around them, they will become more conscious of the crucial role their parents play in keeping them safe and secure in the big wide world. This growing awareness naturally results in their not wanting to part with you.
However, comforting them if they need you in the night will help your baby or toddler get through anxiety- related sleep problems. and eventually help them sleep through the night, safe in the knowledge that you'll come if they need you.
Sleep Regression Doesn't Just Occur At Night!
Baby's sleep might also be affected during the day. Your baby's naps might become erratic as they start to find the movement of the pram stimulating rather than soothing, for example. If you want your baby to keep to their nap routine you might find yourself having to come home to put your baby to bed in a darkened room for their naps. Your baby might even be ready to drop one of their naps. If your baby doesn't seem tired at their usual nap time and doesn't get too cranky after missing it, you can consider that nap dropped!
Food And Sleep
Another cause of nighttime sleep disruption could be down to their now being fed solid food. Going from liquids to solids is a big transition for your baby's little tummy. Eating too much before bed could interfere with your baby's sleeping, as could food intolerances, constipation or wind. As your baby grows they will get used to eating a variety of new foods and you can try different evening meals and see if some foods cause more problems with your baby's sleep than others. Leaving a sufficient gap between eating and sleeping might also be beneficial to your baby's sleep.
Top Tips For Surviving
Our top tips for surviving the 6 month sleep regression with minimal trauma to both parents and baby!
1. Babies need around 12-15 hours of sleep a day. As long as they get enough sleep most days, they'll be fine. Sleep regression is normal, so don't worry about it unless they also seem unsettled during waking hours, in which case speak to your baby's pediatrician to put your mind at ease.
2. If your baby has separation anxiety, make sure you come to comfort them when they wake up crying in the night. It is hard to get up time and time again when you're sleep deprived yourself, but it will make the phase pass much quicker. If this anxiety is not resolved in infancy it can last a lifetime, and small sacrifices now can have big payoffs further down the line when you have a well-adjusted adult to be proud of.
3. Some parents swear by sleep training to get their child to stick to a sleep schedule. Sleep training involves letting your baby fall to sleep by themselves without the need for cuddling, suckling or rocking to sleep. It also helps babies learn to self soothe and get back to sleep on their own without needing their parents to come in and help get them back to sleep. This method involves letting your baby cry for a few minutes before coming in to comfort them. Gradually, knowing someone will eventually come in if needed, many babies are able to get back to sleep soon after waking in the night, with no help from their carers.
4. Keep their bedtime routine calm without too much stimulation. A soothing bath, a relaxing book in bed and lights out can help a baby relax enough to sleep. Keeping baby's bedroom nice and quiet with a comforting night light will create a peaceful atmosphere conducive to sleep. Baby sleep problems can sometimes be attributed to too much stimulation before bed, or too noisy an environment. Try to make sure your bedtime routine stays as stress-free as possible even if your teeth might be on edge at the thought of them being up crying again in under an hour.
5. Check to see if your baby is teething and get some soothing treatments in to help ease their discomfort. Many teething babies want to suckle for comfort during teething and this might be the only way to get them to forget the pain and fall asleep. Don't worry though, teething doesn't go on forever and will be over before you know it.
6. If your baby seems very distressed at night and seems to be in a lot of pain, make sure you seek medical advice to rule out other conditions which could be keeping them up at night.
7. Keep your baby's evening meal light to help your baby sleep more soundly without digestion issues keeping them awake.
8. Make sure your baby has enough stimulation during the day. If they aren't tired by the time you try and put them to bed, it will be very hard to get them to sleep. Babies need higher levels of activity the older they get, and by the time they reach 6 months old they start needing more opportunities to move about safely and explore objects in their environment. The more stimulation your baby gets in the day, the more tired they will be by bedtime.
9. One way to manage 6 month sleep regression is to consider dropping a nap from your baby's daily sleep schedule. Sleep schedules need to be adjusted as time goes by, and what works for a newborn might not work for a 6 month old. Your infant's sleep problems may be down to simply not being tired enough to sleep. Switch up the schedule and see if they sleep better at night as a result.
10. Once you decide on your routine regarding naps and bedtime, try to stick to it. Having a solid routine gives babies the security they need to feel safe at night, knowing what to expect from you and what you expect from them.
11. Although it may seem impossible to avoid the effects of sleep deprivation, relaxed parents are always likely to result in a more relaxed baby, so do what you can to keep tensions and stresses to a minimum during this testing phase. If you find yourself suffering due to lack of sleep, try sleeping with them during their nap time, asking for more help if available, or sleeping earlier yourself to make up for lost time.
12. Don't get discouraged by the sleep regression phase. Everyone comes through it in the end and you will one day make up for the sleep you've lost. Don't worry, it will be over soon (on average 6 month sleep regression lasts between two to six weeks, so the end is in sight) and those sleepless nights will be a distant memory!
If you found this article helpful, then why not take a look at our [sample 10 month old schedule], or our look at the [12 month sleep regression]?
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