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Sleep - 3 to 6 months

sleep; settle; settling; baby; babies; cry; routine; rituals; waking ;

At this age some babies have two or three longish sleeps during the day, while others just have short naps. A few may sleep 12 hours without interruption. Some manage 8 hours, while many others wake fairly regularly for feeds. Most have learnt to sleep more at night than they do during the day.

By six months of age about 50% of babies are sleeping through the night – that is sleeping about 5 hours or more - and 50% are not yet sleeping through the night.

Some of the content of this topic comes from the Parent Easy Guide 34 Sleep (children 0 - 6 years) developed by Parenting SA.

Contents

Responding to your baby's cues of when she needs to sleep, or play, or feed, or be cuddled, is important in helping develop secure attachment (see the topic Attachment).

Sleeping in the same room with parents is safest for babies. Some babies have died while sharing a bed with their parents.

Getting ready for sleep

Now your baby is awake more and has some longer play times during the day. This will help your baby to learn that day is for playing and night is for sleeping. Play time may be a walk, reading a book together, a bath or massage, tummy time on the floor (always supervised) or talking with you.

  • Watch your baby for signs that they are tired or do not want to play any more and try to respond to them. (See Tired signs - sleep cues)
  • Continue the bedtime pattern you may have started from birth but be flexible and change your bedtime pattern to meet the changing needs of your baby.
  • At night keep feed times boring, do not have play time and settle your baby straight back to sleep.

Having a relaxing bed time routine helps babies and young children to relax into sleep. It is never too early to start a routine you can adapt to your child’s changing needs. See Babies - day and night patterns in the early months

Settling ideas

It is important to use the same settling pattern each time you put your baby to sleep, day or night, as this helps them to learn about sleep more quickly. Many of the suggestions made for settling babies 0–3 months can be tried, as well as:

  • reading a book with a soothing voice
  • talking calmly to baby – tell them what is happening
  • darkening the room to make a difference between wake time and sleep time
  • making a tape of household sounds and playing it in your baby’s room.
  • Some will still feel more secure if they are wrapped in a thin cotton sheet or sleeping bag, others may not like it. (see Wrapping babies).

Night waking

Many babies still wake at night for feeds. Some sleep through although they may wake again for a few nights when their appetite increases. They usually settle into their usual pattern again when their feeds increase during the day.

To help reduce night feeds at this age, try giving your baby a sleepy feed before you go to bed and before your baby wakes for their next feed. Disturb your baby as little as possible. Lift them without fully waking them and breastfeed. If bottle feeding, you could give a feed without picking baby up from the cot. But you still must hold the bottle and watch the feed to keep them safe.

The next time your baby wakes at night, try to resettle without a feed using some of the settling ideas already mentioned. If resettling does not work in about 15 minutes or so offer another feed so that you can get some sleep, and try again the next night. Over time your baby will gradually get the idea.

Look after yourself

Caring for babies and young children is tiring and demands a great deal of tolerance, understanding and patience. Most parents say that their need for sleep in the early years is one of their greatest needs. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help from family and friends.

If you feel that you might hurt your child make sure they are in a safe place and leave until you have calmed down. Contact someone immediately if you feel unable to manage.

Ask for help from family and friends. Get some rest during the day. Take a short break from parenting now and then. Try to get some regular exercise.

You will get lots of advice. Some people may suggest that you let your baby 'cry it out' or that you use controlled crying/comforting. This is not good for babies. Babies need you to respond when they need you. This helps them to feel safe and secure.

Need more help?

You could discuss your baby's sleep with your child health nurse, your doctor

  • If you live in South Australia
    Parent Helpline 1300 364 100. 
    Talk with a Child Health Nurse - call 1300 733 606 for an appointment.
  • The Women's and Children's Health Network has a book 'Settling Your Baby' offering practical hints for settling problems or sleep difficulties.
  • Parenting SA
    A partnership between the Department for Education and Child Development and the Women’s and Children’s Health Network South Australia.
    Telephone (08) 8303 1660 
    For more Parent Easy Guides.
    https://www.decd.sa.gov.au/parenting-and-child-care/parenting/parenting-sa 

More to read

Raising Children Network Raising Children website is produced with the help of an extensive network including the Australian Government. 
http://raisingchildren.net.au/ 

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).

This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.

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