What is the 6-Month Sleep Regression?

What is the 6-Month Sleep Regression?

Going through a sleep regression can be tough for both you and your little one. Not only do you get disrupted sleep, but your mood, energy levels, and physical health could all take a hit. Plus, if you're finding horror stories online or getting unsolicited advice from anyone and everyone – that can make it even harder to cope. But don't panic! We have the answers to the common 6-month sleep regression questions with tips to help you both get a good night's sleep.

So, what exactly does sleep regression mean? 

It might sound like something straight out of a horror film but it's really very common! It happens when your 6-month-old starts having trouble with naps and bedtime. It could be because of sudden changes in their routine or reaching a new milestone of development - teething is another common trigger. By this stage in their first year, many babies will have established a regular schedule on when it's time for bed.

You may find yourself suddenly dealing with frequent waking and settling down issues just when you thought you were finally getting some more rest since the new baby period! That’s when you know it's likely caused by a sleep regression. 

Your baby's sleep habits may shift suddenly for a variety of reasons, including reaching a new developmental milestone, adjusting to a new schedule, teething, or an illness. Here's what causes it and how to get your baby back to sleep again when it happens.

Causes of the 6-month sleep regression

Could your baby be going through a sleep regression? It's quite common for their sleep pattern to be thrown off during this short-lived, yet trying stage. Here are some of the most typical causes of sleep regressions in infants. 

  • A sudden change in progress - Your child will have experienced many developmental milestones by the time he or she is six months old. Because of all the changes happening to their bodies and emotions, they may have difficulty falling asleep. While babies are learning to sit up and get ready to crawl, they may have problems falling or staying asleep.
  • Sleep and wakefulness cycles are changing - Newborns experience both REM and non-REM stages of sleep. As an adult, you  have a four-stage sleep cycle, and your baby will follow suit. This is why most infants begin sleeping through the night, but as they adjust to their new schedule, they may wake up and have problems settling back to sleep during the transitional periods.
  • Malaise or sickness - Teething is a major developmental milestone that normally begins at approximately 6 months. The discomfort from their new teeth may prevent them from getting a good night's rest. And a  cold, for example, could mess up a baby's normal sleep schedule as well. If your baby isn't feeling well, they may have trouble getting to sleep or possibly wake up frequently throughout the night.
  • Changes in normal routines - Disruption of your baby's regular nap schedule can happen if you travel and even if you decide to skip a few naps. Children's sleep patterns may regress as a result, making it more challenging to get them back on track.
  • Hunger - Your child is most likely eating enough during the day to ensure that he or she will sleep easily at night, but there are many opportunities for distraction that could lead them to miss meals. They could be too busy experimenting with their increased freedom of movement and heightened awareness of their surroundings to take the time to sit down for a meal. You should still give your infant lots of breast milk or formula, even if they are eating solid food.

How long will the 6-month sleep regression last?

Sleep regressions can vary in length, from a few days to a few weeks. It depends on the child and the cause of the regression. The good news is that it's only a phase, and you can help speed up the process by sticking to a consistent schedule. 

In most cases, regressions will resolve on their own without medical help. However, if your baby is showing signs like excessive crying, poor eating habits or slow weight gain, speak to their pediatrician as soon as possible. Sleep regression can also affect babies at 4 months, 8 months, 12 months and 18 months of age.

Tips to help you (and your baby) during this time

Navigating through sleep regressions, which tend to happen around month 6, can be challenging. Not only are you exhausted, but you must also care for a newborn who isn't getting the proper amount of rest. To make the process smoother, check out these tried and true tips. These could help your baby (and you, of course!) better adjust and get through the sleep regression.

  • Get into a regular schedule - Establishing a routine for your infant's bedtime and nap times is essential if you want them to learn to sleep through the night and take naps throughout the day. By being persistent and consistent, as well as by instituting a routine for your child, you may help him or her get over the sleep regression.
  • Check out a sleep training program - If your baby wakes up in the middle of the night, you can teach them how to soothe themselves and get back to sleep without your help. Sleep training can be beneficial if they wake up multiple times or if it's hard to put them down initially; this can start as early as 4 months, with 6 months being ideal. Some methods include cry it out, fading, gentle and the Ferber approach. Additionally, you could also try to stop giving your baby bottles at night; by 6 months they should be getting enough nutrients during the day for them to last through the night. If they get used to waking up late though, that routine might continue; try breaking it after about two weeks and weaning them off night feedings. 
  • The room should be sleep-conducive - 6-month-old babies begin to exhibit signs of consciousness and interest about their surroundings. At night and even during naps, make sure their room is completely dark and quiet. Blackout drapes and a white-noise generator can help you achieve a restful ambiance.

Final Thoughts

You may not need to contact your baby's doctor during the 6-month sleep regression, but you can certainly bring it up at their next check-up. Remember, there are some crying spells that happen without any particular reason and last up to an hour. Therefore, make sure you take a break from baby care and let someone else look after them for a while if you need it. If in doubt, don't hesitate to give your practitioner a call for some reassurance.

Still, it isn't easy to deal with the 6-month sleep regression, but the good news is that your little one is simply learning to move around and acquire new abilities - resulting in their restlessness and excitement. Once they become used to all these tricks they will become more relaxed - and so will you!

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