Fortunately—and unfortunately—babies are full of surprises. They keep us guessing and continuously on our toes. They make us laugh with their innocence, curious nature, and enduring fascination with the world, letting us view our lives through their fresh lens.
One of their biggest tricks, however, is their sleep patterns. And surprise! Just as you’ve nailed your munchkin’s nap and bedtime routine, their 6-month sleep regression hits. If your infant is seven months old and you think you’ve squeaked by unaffected, be prepared; it could hit anytime around six and eight months.
In this article, we’ll examine the frustrations often faced when adjusting a newborn into a sleep routine and our best and most researched tips to help. We’ll get through this dreaded 11 month sleep regression together.
Is the 6-Month-Old Sleep Regression Real?
Sleep regressions can feel like a useless wrench thrown into your baby’s sleep routine just as you’ve nailed it down. However, there is a purpose to these mysterious setbacks. Sleep regressions happen for a reason and occur when your child is hitting their developmental milestones.
While this is positive overall, dealing with the effects of sleep regression can be extraordinarily exhausting. The more your curious tyke begins to discover some of the joys of life, like crawling, being social, or using their newfound voice, the less they’ll want to miss out on all this fun when they go down for bed.
With all these new stimuli, our little ones can’t help but be excited to experience and interact with the world. As they gain new skills, they’ll want to use their newfound knowledge to explore and communicate. So, while sleep regressions are undoubtedly challenging, they are ultimately a positive marker in the grand scope of your little tot’s health.
Why Your 6-Month-Old Suddenly Won't Sleep
You may have thought you nailed the baby bedtime routine. You mastered the art of putting your night owl to sleep and even taught them to self-soothe. They’re prepared to be put down for a full night’s sleep; they’ve been fed, no longer need mid-night feedings, and had a diaper change right before being put down.
So it’s natural to be puzzled when your infant is suddenly wailing at 2 AM, hours after they’ve gone to bed. If you’re confused as to what’s going wrong, you’re not alone; the six-month sleep regression is natural and to be expected. While this is a phase they will grow out of, it doesn’t make up for lost sleep. Read on for some sleep-destroying culprits.
Your Baby is More Mobile
Developing new skills opens a brand new world for our busy-bodies. Before gaining motor skills, your tiny tot has been entirely reliant on others. Achieving this freedom opens up new possibilities for our little adventurers; even if they don’t fully grasp what those are, the practice of independence alone is reason enough to dive in.
With their newfound abilities, they naturally feel excited, stimulated, and want to explore. They may start rolling around in their crib, thoroughly entertained by merely practicing their new mobility. However, when bedtime comes around, they may be so jazzed on their skills that they don’t want to stop.
The Found Their Voice
Everybody wants to feel heard. Whether it’s voicing your opinion as a teenager, your thoughts on a project at work, or singing happy birthday to a dear friend, having a voice and communicating makes life a lot more fulfilling, even if it’s just as a babbling six-month-old.
Hearing your baby’s voice is a massive moment for parents, and now that they’re babbling, you might be surprised at how much they have to say. For them, finally being able to express themselves is hugely liberating. Having the skills to do this is something we adults frequently take for granted.
Now that your chatty-cathy can make noises, their brain will be on full-steam ahead, constantly babbling to themselves, singing, screaming (oh, joy), and mimicking the sounds they hear in their home.
No matter how much you love your children, a teething child can be a bit extra fussy than usual. When your munchkin has teeth growing in, it can be uncomfortable. Their gums are delicate, and as infants, they have almost no autonomy to get what they need themselves, or methods of communication to express what they want.
The added dependency on caregivers to do everything for them can be frustrating for little ones. Teething causes slight physical pain but should not interfere with night’s sleep too much for most kids. Body temperature can rise slightly (although not at fever range), so you can dress them in soft, lightweight, breathable clothes to assure that they are comfortable.
If you think your baby is teething, you can offer them teething toys to chew on, or even a damp washcloth, as it’s soft and malleable. A particularly inconsolable baby could be a sign of something more serious, so be sure to talk with your doctor to rule any illness out.
Need help? Check out our tips on how to soothe a theething baby at night.
A Sudden Growth Spurt
Growth spurts aren’t something adults often consider because we haven’t experienced them for many years. However, they frequently occur in our tiny tots as they develop into young children. Growth spurts aren’t only physical; they can be exhausting mentally for babies as well.
Often during a growth spurt, a newborn will need more rest to accommodate all the changes happening inside their body. Just like we need nutrients, water, and sleep to function correctly, our tiny angels need this as well, and during a growth spurt, they need even more.
Growth spurts can’t happen properly all on their own. Your growing bean will need supplemental help to fuel these bursts in development. They might nap longer, sleep later, or be a bit fussier as they grow tired more quickly.
They could also sleep less. Have you ever been so tired you couldn’t sleep? This is similar. Make sure to cut your babe some slack, during these critical times, they could be just as worn out as you.
Separation anxiety is exhausting when you feel like you can’t leave your child alone for five minutes without a meltdown. However, the onset of separation anxiety in a youngster is a good indicator of a healthy developing mind.
Naturally, tots bond strongly with their parents; however when they’re newborns, they don’t yet understand that when a parent leaves the room, they still exist. As children grow older, they begin to understand the idea of object permanence.
This is why tiny newborns are content to be handed around by family and friends. Once they’re handed from Mom to Dad, they can no longer conceptualize that Mom still exists—what newborns don’t see, they don’t know.
Object permanence is also why kiddos love playing peek-a-boo, because if they can’t see you, they don’t think you’re there! In their minds, you’re performing a real magic trick.
How to Help Your 6-Month-Old Sleep Through the Night
Getting your little party animal to calm down for bed when they’re feeling excited or restless can be a struggle. Read on for how to help these common issues.
Stick to Your Schedule
It may seem like a good idea to take your social butterfly out and about with friends or family to expose them to the real world, and this can be great for them. However, keeping them awake for long durations of time when what they need is sleep could derail the hard work you’ve put into creating a stable routine.
Sticking to a schedule is often the easiest way to implement a no-fail bedtime routine for your tiny tot. Doing certain activities your baby enjoys before bedtime regularly can help your little one associate things like dinners, baths, or reading with going to bed. If these happen before night time every day, they’ll begin to tie them together mentally and know what to expect.
Practicing healthy bedtime habits during sleep regressions is one of the best ways to adhere to a routine. Despite difficulties around this slumber setback, having the foundation of a predictable schedule can keep your little night owl calmer than they might have been otherwise.
Offer Quiet Reassurance
Everyone needs a bit of verbal reassurance every so often. And when it comes to our little love bugs, they are no different. Learning how to get on in the world when you’re only 15 pounds and less than a year old can be overwhelming. (Sometimes it’s overwhelming even for adults!)
When putting your little one down, it can be helpful to talk to them softly and gently offer quiet reassurance. Wishing your sweet angel sentiments like goodnight, sleep tight, I love you, or simply “shushing” them with ease can create comforting sounds, letting them know they’re safe and secure.
Softly “shushing” your little one can sound similar to the whirring noises they once enjoyed while immersed in the amniotic fluid inside your tummy. That’s why baby sound machine are popular —it’s louder living inside a belly than you might think.
Check for Possible New Dangers
You may want to pass down a sentimental crib to your children or use a hand-me-down to save on costs (we all know how expensive these tiny humans can be). However, as loving parents, putting your tot in a crib that won’t cause them any harm naturally takes precedent.
With a mobile baby comes a whole new realm of possibilities and dangers to keep an eye on. Once your little one can wiggle around, there’s no telling what they’ll get into—or stuck in. While cribs are made especially for babies, they can still present some dangerous possibilities if you’re not wise to their details.
Make sure to investigate the width of crib bars to ensure your munchkin’s head won’t get stuck. Check the latches as well, as they could catch their clothing, causing them to choke or worse. Additionally, test a crib’s movable sides. Some that are not appropriately built can unexpectedly drop, increasing health risks.
View Our Guide: Best Baby Cribs
Get More Exercise
Ensuring your child is adequately stimulated could be one of the best ways to help your youngster sleep through the night. Getting the proper amount of stimulation and exercise is not only essential to tire your rascal out but crucial for their developing brain as well.
We’re almost all guilty of propping our little ones in front of a television to steal a quiet moment. With a newborn in the house, there are inevitably piles of household chores that need attention. Not to mention, parents need to look after themselves as well.
However, the lack of teaching your little one from a young age to be social or entertain themselves with toys, books, or the outdoors, could lead to increased sleep problems and poor behavior. Getting a healthy amount of exercise, whether it’s with other children or on their own, is beneficial to not only their physical health but their mental fitness as well.
Encourage Some Independence
Independence in a baby may seem challenging to encourage, as they depend on their caregivers for almost everything. However, small adjustments can make all the difference later in life.
Giving your child undivided attention multiple times throughout the day will fill up their attention tanks, leaving them feeling secure and loved. As a result, this allows them to feel more comfortable playing on their own. Additionally, make sure their needs are met before setting them out to play independently. Making sure they’re fed and changed with a solid nap under their belt will prepare them to enjoy playing on their own.
Emboldening your child to do things on their own from the start can be hard. As parents, we naturally want to be there every step of the way, and sleeping on their own is no different. However, doing so will boost their courage and confidence to not only trust in parents but trust in themselves as well.
Just when you think you’ve got the parenting thing down, your baby’s sleep patterns start slipping backward. The frustration is inevitable. However, accepting that these curveballs are all a part of the beauty of raising a little one can help ease your pain.
Sticking to a schedule, encouraging independence, doing all the right things can feel overwhelming and downright exhausting some days. But remember, this isn’t forever. These regressions will pass, and soon enough, your sleepless little vampire will be going to bed on their own—you might even be longing for the days of midnight cuddles.
Jill Zwarensteyn is the editor for Sleep Advisor and a certified sleep science coach. She is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.
Based in Los Angeles, she is an experienced writer and journalist who enjoys spending her free time at the beach, hiking, reading, or exploring new places around town.
She’s also an avid traveler who has a personal goal of being able to successfully sleep on an airplane someday.