As you might have already noticed, infants sleep on their own schedules. You can’t—as much as you might want to—make them sleep any more or less than their own internal clocks decide. When they wake up, it’s usually because of something happening internally: they’re feeling too hot or cold, they need to go Number 2, or they need a feeding. You just need to make your child feel comfortable for the process.
However, around the 6-month mark, you might notice a dramatic shift in how they’re sleeping. They’re sleeping for longer at night—usually around 6 hours. And during the day they have 2 naps, usually lasting around 3 or more hours. After this important milestone, babies have much less dramatic changes in sleep. You might not notice right away, but after this point, their sleep schedules will start to gradually change, requiring less daytime naps and longer nighttime sleep.
Around 9-months, your child will start to become aware of strangers, noise, how often you come and go, and how far away you are. They’ll start becoming more susceptible to interruptions in their sleep and also might start to feel separation distress when you’re far away. This might make it more difficult to asleep or stay asleep.
To help with resistance to bedtime, establishing a routine can make the transition to full nights of sleep easier. Doing something like reading a book or using a rocking chair at night and not during the day can help your baby realize the difference between a nap and sleep. Babies, just like us, respond to light. Keeping the room dimly-lit at night can also signal to them that it’s time for bed.
Babies might also resist bedtime if there’s a change in routine or if they feel something needs adjustment. This might mean shifting feeding schedules so they’re not hungry at bedtime or giving them a transitional object like a blanket or stuffed animal.
As your child approaches 12 months, they’ll start to sleep longer at night. If they wake up in the morning, they’re also less likely to call for you, preferring to maybe babble to themselves as they practice making sounds in their mouths.
1. If you are interested in more information about your baby’s sleep habits at different developmental stages, Stanford Children’s Health provides a helpful chart and tips to help your baby fall asleep and stay asleep.
2. You may be wondering more about whether you should share your bed with your infant. Check out this interesting article about co-sleeping.
3. Some people might find it helpful to create a log of how much your baby is sleeping. Here’s a blog with more information.
Mayes, L. C. & Cohen, D. J. (2002). The Yale Child Study Center Guide to Understanding Your Child: Healthy Development from Birth to Adolescence. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company.