Solving typical sleep problems at 6-12 months
Author: 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
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
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
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
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
The only lasting way to learn self soothing is slowly but surely. A gentle
approach in which you take small steps at the time helps your baby's
body and mind gradually adapt and get
- 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 pop baby
down awake and expect her to settle if she's been used to nursing or
holding to sleep till now.
The techniques in my 3-step program, No-Tears Self
Soothing 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.