1-6 months: What to expect & What to do
Author: Heidi Holvoet, PhD
Your baby's sleep development is racing.
There is no other moment in life when sleep evolves this
drastically. That is both good and bad: the big milestones mean
but the constant changes also bring along the typical baby sleep
problems of this age.
Let's have a look at the typical issues you may experience at this age
and how to handle them. We also explain why
it all happens: understanding that helps you do the right things at the
That's your guarantee for the best possible sleep in any
through the night ... or not?
Between 1 and 6 months old your baby may gradually start
for longer stretches at night. But it's important to have realistic
Contrary to what many (try to make us) believe, before
the age of 4-6 months, sleeping through
the night on average is an uninterrupted sleep stretch of about 4-5
hours, not much more.
If your baby is sleeping through gloriously for 8 hours or more - and
is old enough to be without re-hydration for that long - that is of
your blessings and enjoy … But do also read on, because it doesn't
last. Definitely check out the “4 months sleep dip” part, because you
can prevent the retrogression.
For most babies though, 1, 2 or 3 night feedings are still quite
normal and simply necessary, definitely between 1 and 4 months old.
That is both for healthy digestion (by allowing regular not-too-large
portions) and for hydration.
Towards 4 months old, baby's digestive system has matured a lot. This
means she'll be able to cope with slightly larger portions. And so she
can be without
food for longer … and sleep longer stretches.
With further maturing towards 6 months old, a decrease to 0 feedings in
a stretch of 8 hours is common. But for many babies 1 or 2 still
remain, also beyond the 6 months baby milestone.
Hunger or the need for food are not the only reasons to wake up during
the night. The short sleep cycles still rule meaning baby half-wakes up
at least once every hour (and needs self soothing . Any physical
discomfort like early teething,
a blocked nose, stuck nerves or an illness easily causes extra
What to do
- The first thing to help your baby sleep through as much as she
physically can is a healthy sleep environment, with all the very basics
in place. There's no magic in that, but it's the absolute minimum:
without the basics in place, it's just not realistic to expect good
Read the sleeping
through the night pages and ensure that you have those basics set
up. At the very least install a
regular schedule (timed or flexible
pattern are both fine at this age), a not-too late bedtime and a good
- Regular naps, or at least nap opportunities and for many babies
during the day, have an important influence on the night.
safety guidelines remain just as important as when baby was
newborn. To keep baby safe and secure indeed, but just as
much to help her sleep well. A child in a safe environment truly
feels safe, and that makes her sleep most restfully. This is an often
underestimated factor, but it is powerful.
- Settling all alone after a night waking is difficult for many if not most
under 6 months old. Holding, rocking or nursing to sleep is not
necessarily a bad thing,
as long as you keep self
soothing practice in mind.
- Finally, keep an eye on the night feeds. Don't worry about them
as your baby shows a need. There is plenty of time in the second half
year to wean from them if needed.
But still, especially once 4 months old and if you feel your baby can
handle it: experiment with not feeding more
than absolutely necessary.
Try to leave at least 3 hours between two
feeds. Try to soothe and settle your baby with words (always the
same ...), holding or rocking in stead of feeding. Share this task with
your partner for better results, this will also help towards self
soothing later on.
A lot of course also depends on your baby's personality, her overall health and
family situation. Don't hesitate to Ask me a
specific Question if you'd like to discuss sleeping through in your