I know from experience how difficult a sleep regression can be. As a dad myself, I’m dealing with sleepless nights, and it’s hard going. Sometimes, babies can settle into a beautiful routine, only to suddenly change overnight. Chances are if this happens, they’re going through a sleep regression.
Sleep regressions can come with a whole host of side effects, including fussiness and clinginess. Naptimes can become tricky, and they might start to freak out if you walk away from them for a second. On top of this, you’ll be dealing with weaning, teething, and trying to keep your noisy baby busy (and safe). It’s tough!
Not all babies will go through the 6-month sleep regression, but if your baby is showing signs, in this article, we’ll have the 6 month sleep regression explained and everything you need to know about how to get through it.
What Is The 6-Month Sleep Regression?
The first 6 months of a baby’s life seem to fly by (I know from recent experience). It’s a whirlwind if you think about it. Your baby has changed from a tiny, helpless newborn into a babbling, smiling, much more aware little person. They may even be sitting up with a little help at this stage, and they’ll be enjoying food for the first time.
It’s overwhelming for parents to consider how much they’ve grown, and it’s just as overwhelming for babies. According to The Wonder Weeks, babies at this age are about to go through a huge spurt in their cognitive development. They’ll soon be able to perceive distance, which is both intriguing and scary for them. They’ll have a better understanding of their place in the world, which is huge for them, even if it’s obvious to us.
This, along with learning to sit up and taste food for the first time, is a lot of change for a small baby, and as much as they enjoy their increased independence, it can worry them too. This can trigger all sorts of problems, including fussiness, clinginess, and disturbed sleep at night.
How To Tell If Your Baby Is Going Through The 6-Month Sleep Regression
There are a few telltale signs that your baby is going through this stage:
- Disturbed sleep at night: An obvious first sign of a sleep regression is the lack of sleep! Babies who previously slept through the night may start waking around about now, even if they didn’t seem to be fazed by the 4-month sleep regression. This can be caused by your baby wanting to be closer to you at night, as well as ‘nightmares’ that can start to occur around this time.
- Difficult naptimes: They may also find it hard to settle in the daytime, even if they previously had a great 6-month-old routine.
- Shyness: Shyness may start to develop now, as babies become more aware of themselves and their interactions with other people. Your baby might start to hide behind you and be warier with new people than they used to be.
- Clinginess: Your baby may always want to be with you, no matter what. Sweet, but also completely exhausting. As your baby starts to become aware that you can move faster than them, they will notice when you leave the room (and they might have something to say about it).
- General unhappiness: Your baby might be ‘grumpy’ at this stage. They may resist getting dressed or having their diaper changed, and they may be restless generally.
How To Cope When Your Baby Is Going Through The 6-Month Sleep Regression
The 6-month sleep regression is a tough one. It’s hard on everyone in the family, as life tends to be pretty busy after leaving the newborn ‘bubble’. Here are a few tips:
Catch Up On Sleep When You Can
This sounds obvious, but sometimes your body needs rest. The last thing you want is to get sick, and your body will have fewer resources to fight off infections if you’re running on empty. This is a big problem if your little one goes to daycare, as they’ll be mixing with tons of other kids with coughs and colds!
Catch up on sleep where possible, and don’t be afraid to prioritize sleep. Keep your weekends low-key, and take turns to nap if you need to. Sleep is really important for you as well as your baby.
Give More Cuddles At Bedtime
Many parents aim for their baby to settle themselves to sleep at night, so giving extra comfort may seem counterintuitive. However, your baby is more aware of their distance from you than ever at this stage, and giving them extra long cuddles and love at bedtime can make a big difference.
You can continue with your routine, but don’t be afraid to spend a few more moments with them each night to reassure them.
Stick To The Routine As Much As Possible
However, your normal winding-down routine should keep going as much as possible. A good bedtime routine is vital, as it communicates to your baby that it’s time to settle down. Bedtime routines can include:
- Dim lighting and speaking in quiet voices
- A warm bubble bath
- Singing lullabies
- Reading bedtime stories
- White noise (you can read our recommendations on this in our guide to the Best Baby Sleep Products)
- Using a sleep sack with light layers underneath (check out our guide on what babies should wear under sleep sacks for more guidance on this)
Ask For Help
If your baby is happy to spend time with a friend, auntie or uncle, or grandparent, now is the time to appreciate that! Ask them to come over and watch the baby for a couple of hours so you can catch up on sleep if you need to. It’s good for your baby to spend time with trusted family members, and it’s nice for them to build bonds with other people outside your immediate circle. Plus, it gives your body a much-needed chance to recharge.
I’d also recommend outsourcing chores wherever possible. I know this isn’t an option for many families: being able to afford a cleaner/having your laundry done for you is a luxury. However, if you can, I’d suggest finding help with chores wherever you can. If you can’t afford to pay for it, perhaps you could set up some kind of chore-swap system with a trusted friend or family member.
Sometimes, the physical (and boring) bits of adult life are tough to deal with when you’re sleep-deprived. Allowing someone else to take care of this may help you to focus on your baby.
This may not work for your baby. Babies are very keen to explore the world at this age, so they may not consider being carried around in a sling as a viable option. However, some babies love being carried around in a wrap or baby carrier. It allows them to be close to you and allows you a little more freedom of movement.
Keep An Eye On Your Mental Health
Lastly, don’t forget to keep an eye on the mental health, and the mental health of your partner. Talk to each other from time to time about your mental health, and don’t be afraid to seek help if you need it.
A Note On Sleep Training
You can continue your regular sleep training routine at this stage, but I wouldn’t recommend starting a new sleep routine now. Your baby will be struggling to cope with separation, so it’s the wrong time to switch things up. If you can, just try to hold on until this sleep regression has passed, and then you can start a new sleep training routine.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before you go, here are some frequently asked questions about this sleep regression:
Question: Do all babies have a 6-month sleep regression?
Answer: No, not all babies experience the same sleep regressions. Some babies seem to adapt to developmental ‘leaps’ without changing their sleep routine too much. Others need a little more support. It’s kind of down to their personalities. Just because your baby is going through this sleep regression doesn’t mean they’ll go through later sleep regressions, so try not to worry too much.
Question: Can I prevent the 6-month sleep regression?
Answer: If you’re reading this in advance and you’re wondering if you can somehow prevent it, I’m sorry to say that you can’t. Even the most settled babies can go through a sleep regression, so you can’t stop them from happening.
Question: Should 6-month-old babies sleep through the night?
Answer: They can do it, but they might not. Technically, babies can go for 6-8 hours without milk at this age, so there’s no ‘reason’ for them to be waking. However, some babies need more comfort or find it harder to settle themselves to sleep if they wake in the night, so it’s not a given that all babies should sleep through the night at this stage.
6-month sleep regression: the key takeaways
Here are a few things you should know about this sleep regression:
- It’s normal. Developmentally, a 6-month sleep regression is completely normal.
- Babies need a lot of love at this stage. Plenty of hugs may be required!
- Fussiness and grumpiness are to be expected. If you think something may be wrong, you should take your baby to a doctor straight away. However, some babies can be grumpy at this point.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask loved ones for support if you need it, and be sure to keep an eye on your mental health.
- It will pass. I know it feels like forever (believe me), but these days will pass, and one day you’ll sleep through the night again!
I hope this has helped you to deal with (or prepare for) the 6-month sleep regression. It’s a hard time for sure, but your baby is making big leaps, and watching them grow is incredible!