Baby Sleep Expectations – 6 months plus

Contrary to common belief, many babies over six months of age require feeds overnight.

The key difference now is that you’ll most likely begin to see some sort of a pattern.

According to Registered Nurse, Midwife and Maternal and Child Health Nurse, Helen Stevens, we’ve put together the following guide for baby sleep expectations aged over six months.

Around 6-7 months

  • Many babies still need overnight feeds
  • Think about introducing a dream feed if your baby wakes to feed overnight
  • Babies can often be awake between sleeps for around 2 hours before they show tired signs
  • Avoid the temptation to sleep train your baby because literature shows babies have normal waking patterns they grow out of
  • IF your baby is resisting sleep big time, look for gentle and kind approaches to sleep that don’t make your baby suffer for not being able to sleep.

The pattern is now much clearer, your baby will most likely be able to sleep for one or two sleep cycles, around 2 hours (give or take) in the morning, wake, feed and play for about 2 hours and back to sleep again. 

This is a typical pattern or a six month old and the afternoon nap is often short, just enough to get them through to sleep time. Night times are most often 1 to 2 feeds only. Babies generally sleep for around 1 ½ to 2 hours during the day, every 2 hours or so and are into bed around 7pm.  Mobile babies move around when they sleep, but there is no reason to neatly place them back into the centre of the cot each time they stir, just leave them and comfort them so they can calm for sleep.

Around 8-10 months

  • It is still very natural for a baby to wake to feed once overnight
  • If baby is waking often and snack feeding, chat to someone about GENTLE ways to help
  • Crawling sometimes means extra wakings for a while, but they settle
  • Separation anxiety means baby might get clingy at sleep time – be calm and create the feeling of ‘I’m around of you need me’
  • Coughs, colds, and teeth eruptions can all derail sleep for a few nights, stay loving and kind

Separation anxiety the occurs around 7-8 months means your baby knows when you are out of sight, you are somewhere else and they often want you back.

Keep in mind they are not meaning to be clingy but they need additional reassurance at these times, then off they can go and explore some more.  Don’t be alarmed by the sudden clinginess at sleep time, just pop them in their cot and stay a while if needed. When babies are more mobile they move around the cot during sleep, they may bump the rails, it’s okay because that’s how they learn… and they learn to go gently quite quickly.

Around 10-12 months

  • Some babies still need a dream feed at night
  • Some are sleeping through and about one third of babies are not
  • Encourage your standing baby to lie down in the cot by sitting low beside the cot, to avoid the ‘I lie you down, you jump up, repeat’ game
  • Quiet time before sleeps is essential now for alert active babies
  • Most babies are still having 2 sleeps and often a short late afternoon nap

Mobility in the cot may mean you are trying to settle your baby by repositioning them to a lying position.  If your baby wakes often overnight and you have been feeding them back to sleep it is probably they are picky with foods and are also grumpy and tired. It is time to help them sleep more at night and gain their nutrition during the day. Offer considerate and gentle settling interventions in a kind way. ASK for help if you are struggling.

Around 12 to 18 months;

  • Around 11 to 14 hours is an ideal daily sleep requirement
  • Toddlers drop a sleep time this 18 months but the individual variation is vast
  • Predictable bedtime patterns are essential now to help wind down a busy brain and body
  • Avoid preservative and artificial flavourings before sleep times
  • Don’t rush bed time preparation
  • Get toddlers into bed early especially when they start dropping a day sleep
  • Be kind but don’t negotiate bedtime for hours

Toddlers love control and they love to know they are doing well. Prepare them for sleep saying 5 minutes till pack up and help them pack away toys. Book time and massage times are lovely ways to calm toddlers, anyone for that matter, at sleep time.

Go to an area of low stimulation, dull the lighting and offer them a special cuddle time. Some toddlers quieten by just playing a quiet game such as puzzles or nursery rhymes.

Toddler’s can be very insistent if they don’t want to go to sleep, to make the transition easier, avoid overtired, do not intellectualise everything, offer them one or two books only and the choice of a cuddly toy. Respect that they don’t want to go to bed, but guide them in a kind and loving way. You can still be committed to actions and stay kind.

You may find the resources at helpful to understand the needs and responses to babies.

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