By the time your baby is six months old, you’re finally getting the hang of things. You’ve likely established a daily routine, and things feel like they’re falling into place. Then, out of nowhere, your infant boycotts their sleep schedule. What gives?
Many infants show signs of sleeping through the night by six months. But sometimes this progress stalls. If your baby is having trouble at night, an infamous phenomenon known as the 6-month sleep regression may be to blame.
What Is the 6-month Sleep Regression?
You’ve likely heard about (or lived through) the 4-month sleep regression. But many parents are caught off guard when it happens again a couple of short months later. Right when your baby is close to finally sleeping through the night, they take what seems like a giant step back.
Sleep regression is when a baby or toddler who sleeps on a (mostly) regular schedule stops doing so. It’s not uncommon for babies to experience sleep regression around six months of age.
It’s vital to understand that sleep regression happens for a reason. Your little one is developing rapidly and undergoing significant development changes at six months. Their world also changes drastically from day to day. They’re experiencing lots of new things, so they may be more interested in being awake than asleep.
Another thing to keep in mind is sleep regressions may occur multiple times or not at all. Your baby might experience another one at eight months and even again at twelve months. Or your baby may never experience sleep regression. This experience changes from baby to baby and the important thing to keep in mind is that sleep regression coincides with developmental leaps and NOT with a specific age.
What Causes the 6-month Sleep Regression?
Although disrupted sleep patterns typically last for a short time, they can be quite challenging for the parents. You might have thought you had your baby’s bedtime routine down pat. You feed them, change them, and get them ready for a full night’s sleep. You may have even taught your little one to self-soothe. So what’s causing this problem?
It’s normal to be confused when your infant is suddenly screaming in the middle of the night. The good news? Though getting hit with this setback is no fun, it’s not your fault. It’s natural for babies to have sleep regression at six months. Reasons for this not-so-fun time vary, and some of the most common ones are listed below.
Scooting or Crawling on Their Bellies
Babies become more mobile around six months. Sometimes, their daytime crawling adventures are not enough to meet their need for exploration, so they keep moving at night.
Teething starts around this age. The discomfort associated with it may be making sleep difficult for your baby.
Separation anxiety commonly manifests at six months. Though it may feel frustrating that you can’t leave your baby for five minutes, separation anxiety is a normal part of child development. You may notice it more at night when your baby refuses to sleep unless you’re there.
Most babies start rolling from side to side by six months. While it’s preferable for them to do all their rolling during the day, babies love to roll in their cribs, too–especially when they should be sleeping.
Your baby may have recently discovered their ability to communicate. Being able to finally express themselves is a relief, and you may be surprised just how much your little one has to say. Unfortunately, this newfound ability may be keeping your little one up at night.
Signs Your Baby Is Experiencing a 6-month Sleep Regression
So how do you know if your baby is experiencing the dreaded six-month sleep regression? Aside from difficulty falling asleep, here are a few telltale signs:
- Longer daytime naps and less sleep at night
- Waking up more at night, which is often accompanied by more difficulty going back to sleep
- More fitful behavior or agitation when baby is awake
How Long Does the 6-month Sleep Regression Last?
The good news is that the 6-month sleep regression is only temporary. Like other sleep regressions, you can expect it to last anywhere between two and six weeks. If you’re a tired parent, even two weeks can feel like a lifetime, but a little patience goes a long way. Your baby will soon get used to their new skills and realize that daytime is a better time to use them.
Another thing to keep in mind is that five or six months is an excellent time to begin sleep training. Because babies can fill their tummies enough to sleep through the night, hunger is less of an issue. The main obstacle is getting your child to self-soothe, and sleep regression can actually be an ideal time to try out some new methods.
Tips to Survive the 6-month Sleep Regression
The first tip to surviving the 6-month sleep regression is to check for health issues first. Sometimes being sick can keep your little one from falling asleep, and fever is a common culprit. Take their temperature to rule out this possibility.
If everything looks fine, here are some other things you can do to stay sane:
- Continue your sleep schedule and bedtime routine. Some parents keep the baby awake all day hoping they’ll sleep all night, but this strategy doesn’t always work.
- Do the same activities before bed. This practice can help your child associate things like bath time and reading with sleep.
- Turn on a white noise machine to soothe your infant.
- Tire baby out during the day. Not getting out all their energy during the day can make for more restless nights.
- Make sure your baby falls asleep in their crib. Avoid letting them fall asleep in places like the car, a swing, or in your arms.
The 6-month sleep regression can be frustrating, but this too shall pass. Understanding why it happens and knowing that the situation is temporary can help you navigate these difficult times. Before you know it, your little one will be in their toddler bed, and you’ll probably miss the era of nighttime snuggles.