Baby Sleep: Around 6 months
If you are reading this, I am sure you've been browsing about the 6 months sleep progression, regression and all that. The focus of this post is to discuss child development at this stage and how it impacts sleep. HINT: We can't separate both and development is constantly happening.
There are major developmental changes happening around 6 months, more often than not, impacting sleep.
Around this time, the National Sleep Association recommends that infants get between 12 and 15 total hours of sleep per day (1) - when most of us are told they should be sleeping 12 hours at night plus naps… What happens a lot at this stage is that babies who sleep longer at night may take shorter or fewer naps during the day, and those who already consolidated naps may end up sleeping less than WE expect at night. Both are biologically normal and expected. This is a period of adjustment for your child’s body clock.
There are also significant cognitive and physical development going on, most commonly referred to as a number of milestones babies are expected to reach. In my perspective, just like the “expected sleep milestones for 6 months” that are most often unrealistic and unique to each baby, physical milestone would also be seen this way.
I see way too many parents worried and anxious about babies not reaching milestones at an exact mark, transferring this worry and fear to babies who are simply developing at their own pace (2). We can't separate child development from sleep development.
It is also at around 6 months that babies become even more aware of their surroundings, more responsive to their environment and how much they are also part of the relationships around them. Rolling, sitting, crawling, laughing, babbling, introduction to solids, teething, stranger and separation anxiety (wow! That's a lot for a little human who has been around for just 6 months…) All these things impact activity levels during the day, which as consequence it impacts night sleep.
Here’s what you may notice around 6 months of age:
Baby may become more unsettled, agitated, since becoming even more aware of all the stimulus around them. Processing all the information the world has to offer is not easy!
When naps are longer during the day (hurray!), you may notice less overnight sleep (sorry to break the news…)
But the opposite may also be true! Less daytime sleep for some babies and longer sleep stretches at night. Oh, and you can’t really force this to happen. It is not a predictable scenario you can manipulate to happen in a way that’s more convenient to you (sorry!)
More difficulty falling asleep for all the reasons I mentioned above
More wakings and a hard time to settle back to sleep.
I know, that’s tough! It won’t last forever, but while it lasts, here’s what can help:
if you notice your baby is agitated, tired, but not being able to take a nap go for a walk. Some fresh air is usually the best way to regulate the nervous system (for both of you). Naps in the carrier are also naps.
exposure to natural light. Go for it!
keep in mind that this is normal, and it is not your fault. You are not causing this, and your baby is not going through this on purpose.
ask for an extra pair of hands when you can. We all need help.
You read more about milestones by stage here
If you have concerns about milestones, allergies, breathing issues, feedings or any other additional questions, ask your health care practitioner (and advocate for your child.)