Baby’s sleep at 6 months old is as important for their health and development as it has been since they were born. This is because it gives them the energy to get through these days that are full of growing and developing and trying new things. It’s also important because how they learn to sleep now could affect their sleep patterns as they grow up.
They need somewhere between 12 to 14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period, and most of those hours (10 to 12 of them) should be happening at night, as Baby is at the age when their circadian rhythms are establishing themselves. The rest of those hours come in the form of two to three naps spread throughout the day.
If that ideal isn’t happening for you and Baby naturally, there are a few ways to start to nudge their sleep patterns in that direction. First, Baby should start to figure out how to put themself to sleep, and if they are falling asleep while being held, say, they may not be able to fall back asleep on their own. One common way of keeping babies from relying on their parents to be able to fall asleep is for parents to make sure to put their babies down to bed when they’re sleepy but still awake, so that they’re more used to falling asleep without the comfort of their parents’ arms.
Another way to encourage sleeping through the night is to keep the room quiet and dark during night time feedings or diaper changes. If Baby wakes up in the middle of the night but isn’t hungry and doesn’t need a diaper change, soothing them back to sleep in their crib quietly in the dark will reinforce the idea of the difference between night and day. At the same time, letting them nap somewhere that they can see the sun, instead of in the dark will help to reinforce their circadian rhythms, and can help with night-time sleep.
If Baby is getting too much sleep during the day, shifting their afternoon nap gradually earlier in the day may help. Cutting down on naps may feel like a good way to encourage a full night’s sleep, but may actually have the opposite effect–an over-tired Baby could actually have more trouble falling asleep.
This is an active time for Baby, and separation anxiety, teething, or even just a little cold can be enough to throw their sleep schedule off-kilter, but they are working their way through to a regular sleep schedule. The time you put in establishing that will only help you in the future.