Solving typical sleep problems at 6-12 months

Author Name: Heidi Holvoet, PhD

Finally settling to sleep alone and sleeping through the night: that's the 6-12 months promise ... Your baby is ready for it. But she needs your guidance to accomplish those all important sleep skills and to overcome the typical baby sleep disturbers like teething, separation anxiety and mild illnesses.

Let's find out what's realistic to expect in your baby's second half year ... and how to make the most of it.

For sleep, 6-12 months old is an age with a unique opportunity: it's a window for your baby to learn to sleep independently and for long nights. At the same time, now is also when a couple of annoying sleep disturbers pop up (teething, separation anxiety, ...) so let's tackle those!

Self soothing to sleep

Baby girl settling to sleep next to mother

Your baby may easily self soothe already, or still struggle to settle for sleep alone, both are still very normal in the second half year.

Self soothing means to be able to nicely settle to sleep without help. True self soothing does not involve crying it out.

It's an independence that makes bedtimes easy (and pleasant!) but it's also key to sleeping through the night: baby needs to be able to sleep through the natural brief awake moments without your help.

Whether your baby has never managed to settle alone, or has but doesn't do it consistently – now between 6 and 12 months is THE time to learn.

Her body and mind are now readily mature to be able to self soothe. At the same time she is still young enough to not be stuck or spoiled by previous habits.

Just like learning to sit up, crawl or walk, gently self settling is a skill to be learned. When practiced at the right moment and under the right circumstances it becomes a long-term skill, learned relatively easily.

Being able to self soothe without difficulties now, is something that will benefit sleeping all through childhood and even as an adult.

What to do

Your baby can learn to self-soothe without crying, with a progressive approach that offers consistent and doable practice, helping your baby's body and mind gradually adapt and get it.

  • Practice self soothing regularly. At every nap or night bedtime is ideal. But if it's still very difficult for your baby and she – or you – becomes frustrated, it is OK to take a short break for a while. Or focus on night time or naps only. Then build it up again in the course of a week or two.
  • How to practice? Going gradually means you don't cold-turkey place baby down awake and expect her to settle if she's been used to nursing or holding to sleep till now.

    The 3-step process and techniques I discuss in the webinar Self-Soothing To Sleep Without Crying are all gentle – no crying it out, in fact no crying at all – and progressive. There are specific techniques for weaning from holding or rocking, nursing to sleep, sleeping in odd places, co-sleeping or otherwise needing you nearby.
  • Avoid over-tiredness: contrary to common belief a very tired baby will not sleep well at all. She needs to be content and rested in order to be able to find sleep and settle for a restful night. Naps and peaceful evenings are absolute keys to accomplish this: more on that on the next 2 pages.