By the time your baby has been around for half of a year, you may feel as though you have most parts of their daily routine down pat. Of course, babies are always a little unpredictable, but generally speaking, you have a decent grasp over how to get them through the day and night with minimal crying. But then, all of a sudden, your precious six-month-old baby stops sleeping through the night and napping on their regular schedule. This may be extremely frustrating (trust us, we get it), but it’s also normal, and is likely your baby’s six-month sleep regression. Here’s what to know about the six-month sleep regression in babies, and information for exhausted parents to help them make it through this period.
Baby going through sleep troubles? Check out our entire sleep regression package for baby’s first year starting with the three-month regression, four-month regression, seven-month regression, eight-month regression, nine-month regression, and 12 month sleep regression.
What is sleep regression?
Generally speaking, sleep regression involves periods of time (usually between two and six weeks), when a baby or toddler who had previously been sleeping on a (semi) regular schedule goes rogue. This could involve waking up frequently during the night (and having difficulty getting them back to sleep), as well as taking much shorter naps than usual, or flat-out refusing to nap. In other words, it’s extremely frustrating for exhausted parents who thought that they’d finally get back on some type of normal sleep schedule themselves.
Starting in the 1940s, the idea of babies experiencing sleep regression has been studied by those working in developmental psychology. But after 70+ years, although scientists know that sleep regression does happen, they still don’t know why or precisely when it happens, the New York Times reports. And despite the lack of hard data pointing to a precise sleep regression timeline, there is no shortage of books and websites that present specific “stages” of sleep regression as established milestones experienced by most (if not all) infants.
On the one hand, this can be really helpful for parents who are experiencing these stages with their own child — reassuring them that their child’s sleep regression is not unusual. But on the other hand, it can also give parents something else to worry about, in terms of whether their child is developing “normally” or not. Ultimately, parents should understand that sleep regression and development looks different in every baby, so if yours isn’t following the timeline precisely (or at all), it’s usually not cause for concern. And as always, ask your pediatrician if you have any questions about this.
What happens during a baby’s 6-month sleep regression?
If it seems like you’ve just gone through this exact situation with your baby, there’s a good chance you did with their four-month sleep regression. But that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear: many babies go through another period of sleep regression between the ages of six and eight months old. It also doesn’t mean that you didn’t do a good job with sleep training or establishing a bedtime routine: what works for your baby at one age may not cut it even two months later. Babies are tricky like that.
The signs of a six-month sleep regression are similar to the ones your baby experienced during their previous regression period:
- Waking up more frequently at night and taking longer to get back to sleep.
- Having more problems falling asleep in the first place.
- Napping more during the day and sleeping less at night.
- Crying more when they wake up in the middle of the night.
And although scientists aren’t entirely sure what causes sleep regression periods, there are some developmental factors that could lead to your baby’s six-month sleep regression (or at least make it worse), including:
- They’re more mobile during the day and want to continue their exploration at night.
- They may be teething.
- They’re experiencing a sudden growth spurt.
- It could be separation anxiety.
What to do during a baby’s 6-month sleep regression?
Though it can be easy to get frustrated when your baby stops sleeping on their normal schedule, it’s important to remember that this is temporary and that there are things you can do to help. And when your baby starts showing some of the signs we mentioned above, it’s also a good idea to check their temperature and see if there are any other indications that they might be sick — something that can also impact their sleep schedule. If they do have a fever or appear to be unwell, call your pediatrician for instructions on what to do next.
- Stick to a bedtime routine and sleep schedule, including for naps. It may be tempting to keep them awake all day in the hopes that they’ll sleep through the night, but that’s not always the case.
- Use a white noise machine as another way to soothe your baby into falling asleep (or back to sleep).
- Now that they’re more mobile, make sure your baby is getting enough exercise/movement during the day.
- Make sure your baby falls asleep in their bed as often as possible (instead of in a swing, or while being held, or in the car).
Being patient with your baby — and with yourself — is key during periods of transition, like the six-month sleep regression. Eventually, it will pass, and your household can get back to their normal sleep schedules (at least until the next sleep regression starts).
What can help a 6-month-old baby to sleep through the night?
A big part of making sure your baby sleeps through the night is burning up all their excess energy. The six-month mark is usually when babies begin to crawl, which means in terms of baby exercise, your baby has way more options. These exercises below will help you tucker out your tiny tot.
- Put your baby on your chest and lie down. Your nugget will raise their head to look at you, which builds their neck muscles. But if you prefer to let your baby have tummy time on the floor, place toys nearby to keep them engaged.
- If there’s one thing babies love to do, it’s bounce. Have your baby stand on your lap while you hold their hands. If they don’t start bouncing right away, move their arms up and down. This exercise works out their chubby legs.