Image: Andrew Malone
Congratulations! The first six months of sleepless nights are behind you (maybe), and you survived.
Now that you've hit the 6-month mark, you might have a few questions about sleep, like for starters, how much your little one needs.
Babies that are 6 months old need about 14 hours of sleep a day, which roughly breaks down into 11 hours at night and 3 hours during the day, in 2 naps (1.5 hours each) or in 3.
But keep this in mind: some babies will sleep more, some less, some will sleep better—every baby is different. This is just a general guideline.
It’s also important to remember that sleep can be affected by lots of different factors, from teething pain and travel to separation anxiety or illness.
If you haven't already, now is a great time to start establishing healthy sleep habits.
For starters, if you have been co-sleeping until now or if he's outgrowing the bassinet, you might want to start putting him to sleep in his crib.
I co-slept with my daughter until she was about 5 months, and then I transferred her to the crib. At the time there was a part of me that was kind of sad, as I loved having her so close to me at night, and she looked so tiny in her giant crib. That being said, once she started sleeping on her own, in her own room, everyone’s sleep improved and I knew it was the right decision for us.
Another good idea is to try to have him nap in his crib as often as you can, as opposed to the carseat, swing or the stroller. Sometimes you just can't because you've got places to be, but whenever possible, have him sleep in his crib.
You also want to make sure you try to put your baby down as soon as he starts showing signs of being tired, like when he starts to yawn or lose interest in playing with his toys. You will come to recognize his signs with time.
In my case, as soon as my daughter starts rubbing her eyes I know it's going to go downhill pretty quickly, so I usually scoop her up and start the whole going-to-bed process.
Often times, if you catch them as soon as they show signs of being tired, you can avoid drama later on. It might seem like a good idea to put baby down when he's extra tired, thinking that he will fall asleep easily, but that's just not how it works. The more overtired a baby is, the harder it is for him to fall—and stay—asleep.
Should my baby be sleeping through the night?
Many babies start sleeping through the night at 6 months, and can go 8 hours or more without beckoning you to their bedside. But that’s not the case for all babies. Some still wake up to feed (among other reasons), although now is a good time to work on night weaning.
This is also a great time to help your baby get the hang of settling and soothing himself, and putting himself back to sleep when he wakes up, if he hasn't already mastered this skill.
He will wake up during the night—we all wake up during the night. The only difference is that, as adults, we put ourselves back to sleep without a second thought. Your baby needs to practice to be able to do it.
There are many different approaches to helping your baby learn this very important skill, and there is no right or wrong way, but there sure are lots of opinions!
I drove myself crazy trying to decide how we would help our daughter learn to self-soothe. There's only one thing to remember here: you should choose the approach that you feel most comfortable with, whether that’s sleep training, a no-tears approach or somewhere in the middle.
Alternatively, you can do nothing. According to Kelly Mom, "Children grow out of night waking, even when we do nothing to discourage it. This period of time will be a very tiny part of your child's years with you."
However you know what's best for your baby, and always remember that every baby is different.