Your Baby's Sleep 3-6 months
Create a relaxing bedtime routine that your baby will find soothing and reassuring
At a Glance
Your baby is starting to adapt to a sleep/wake cycle of sleeping more during the night.
- More alert and aware of what is going on around him during daytime
- May start 'sleeping through the night', which early on may mean a 5-hour stretch
- Sleeps on average 14-15 hours in total
- May have 2-3 daytime naps
- Some start sleeping longer (6-7 hours) during the night, perhaps after a 'dream feed'
- A routine starts to develop if you are consistent with daily sleep timings and 'rituals'
Your Baby's Story
During this stage your baby is becoming increasingly alert and aware of what is going on around him. He will be awake for longer during the day, in turn encouraging a longer stretch of sleep during the night. This will be further promoted through a positive, calming atmosphere and routine at night. Also, when your baby wakes at night, it's a good idea to keep interaction to quiet, soothing talk and dim lighting for feeds or nappy changes. This signals a difference between daytime and night time.
Towards 6 months, if your baby wakes in the night and it’s not for a feed, you may want to start waiting a few minutes before you go to him. He may whimper and perhaps cry a little, which means he’s coming out of a sleep cycle and trying to get back to sleep. If he goes back to sleep within a few minutes, this will help him learn to self-soothe over time. However, as you know your baby best, you will know if you need to go to him or if he is sounding like he is soothing himself back to sleep. Do what feels right and comfortable, and at the pace that is right for both you and your baby.
Children at this stage sleep on average 14-15 hours in total per day. With more wakeful hours during the day along with a growing stomach that holds more food, your baby’ssleep/wake cycle is starting to adapt to yours. She is likely to settle into more of a routine, sleeping perhaps two or three periods during the day, at more predictable times, and a longer stretch during the night. Routine is important to children, and your baby is likely to be helped by similar signs and timings every day. This doesn’t mean you have to be rigid, but you may want to aim to be fairly consistent.
If you want to encourage your baby to 'sleep through', doing a 'dream feed' is another option that works well for some children. As with most things the success of this will depend on your routine and what your baby is like. If your baby wakes up properly and has trouble falling back to sleep, or if you can't get him to start eating in his drowsy or sleepy state, then 'dream feeds' may not work for him. However, if it feels relatively easy and your baby goes back to sleep soon after, this could be a good solution until your baby is starting to sleep through the night without this. If you are breast feeding, there is research outlining the benefits of feeding late at night, as the milk contains naturally occurring nucleotides, inducing sleepiness.
What You Can Do to Support and Encourage Your Baby’s Sleep
You may already have started a routine, but if you haven't now could be a good time to establish one that will work for you and for your baby. Great ingredients include doing things that feel familiar and relaxing for your baby. With consistency, the calm environment will signal to your baby that it's bedtime and she will associate the soothing activities with sleeping.
You will find that your baby is wriggling and moving around more now, and may kick off blankets etc. Make sure she stays warm and is comfortable.You can find great nightwear that will be kind to your baby’s skin as well as ensuring a well regulated temperature.
Towards 6 months, if you wish, you can start finding ways to help your baby soothe himself to sleep. You can put your baby down while he is still drowsy and ready for sleep, rather than actually asleep. Different babies find different ways of self-soothing, and you may in the beginning keep going back to reassure your baby that you’re there and he is safe. Of course, if your baby is screaming rather than just ‘complaining’ a little, you will want to go to him rather than letting him cry it out. Again, you know your baby best, and you will know when he’s distressed and therefore not in the right mode to self soothe. Over time, you will find what works and when, but whatever you do every night is likely to become the routine or habit, so it’s a good idea to find the best way forward for all of you.