Healthy Sleep Training Tips for Months 6-12
Continuing our Sleep Training Series, we explain the highlights Dr. Weissbluth's Sleep Training tips for months 6-12 from Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.
Hey parents, welcome to our Sleep Training cycle of blog posts. Today, we’re going to cover Healthy Sleep Training Tips for Months 6-12. If you’re not quite at that age with your baby, go back to our No-Crying Sleep Training Tips for Months 1-6 . Are you a little further ahead? Stay tuned for tips for older children by subscribing to our newsletter. We’ll send you all the latest posts on our blog so you stay updated and informed.
There are a variety of developmental changes that happen during your baby’s months 6-12 that are going to be intimately related to their sleep, health, and happiness, and yours too of course! In fact, according to Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Weissbluth, there are several studies tying healthy baby sleep to healthier, better-behaved children as well as happier moms, by reducing and preventing depression in mothers. That sounds like a pretty good deal! For this post, we’re taking all the great tips from Dr. Weissbluth’s book that we can and catching up on some other good ones to share soon as well.
Sleep Training Tips for Months 6-12
Since sleep development changes don’t happen right at 6 months, let’s double back a little to month 5 where development changes start and healthy sleep training habits hold until approximately month 8. So, while we did include sleep training tips for months 6-12, it also includes a little bit of month 5 too.
Naps Galore & A Variable Bedtime
This is the time when you get to start playing around with the naps your child takes. Look for those drowsiness signs showing you that they to sleep and translate them into the hours they should be sleeping and the ones they should be awake for. Pro-tip: always avoid the overtired stage and crying will be minimum.
The Late Morning Nap
12:00 - 2 p.m.
The Variable Late-afternoon Nap
3:00- 5:00 p.m.
Early Afternoon Nap Develops
12:00 to 2:00 p.m.
The Variable Late-afternoon Nap
3:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Bedtime: Open to change depending on your naps
A secure bedtime may seem like the best thing for your baby, who's not such a baby anymore, are they? However, here's what Dr. Weissbluth has to say when it comes to bedtime flexibility:
“Some parents make the mistake of always putting their baby down to sleep at exactly 7:00 p.m. For a few months, this may work well, but when naps are irregular or the child stops taking the third nap, parents should learn to be more flexible in the timing of soothing to sleep at night. Especially in the direction of an earlier bedtime.”
If your baby needs to be fed, feed them.
“[Arousals are not] loneliness, fear of the dark, or fear of abandonment.”
“[...] partial awakenings, called arousals, occur every one to two hours when your child is asleep. Sometimes your child will call out or cry during these arousals. [...] going in to him at the time of these partial awakenings will eventually lead to a night-waking or night-feeding habit. This is because picking up, holding, and feeding your baby will eventually cause him to force himself to a more alert state during these arousals for the pleasure of your company. He will learn to expect to be fed and played with at every arousal.
“Choose the one or two times when you’ll go to feed your baby and change diapers, and don’t go at any other time.”
Dr. Weissbluth suggests that you turn off the traditional baby monitor that keeps you up with any little sound your baby makes. A smart baby monitor that notifies you of your baby’s crying, rolling over or other actual dangers assures that you know when something is wrong, and that you’re able to rest through arousals.
Most mothers will partially synchronize feedings to sleep patterns so that the child is fed around the time he gets up in the morning [when] he gets up in the morning, around the time or before or after the two naps, around bedtime, and once or twice at night.
Month 9 in a Nutshell: Noncompliance, a.k.a. Self-agency
Welcome to month 9 moms and dads!
Your baby is going to go through another developmental surprise here. Don’t be shocked when your child starts developing their independence and self-agency by showing clearly what they want and definitely don’t want (insert pout here). Your child now expresses their desires very clearly and are not as easy to distract. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child calls this “persistence, drive, determination, and self-agency” According to Dr. Weissbluth, you’ll start to see lots of resistance especially when dressing, sitting down to eat, going out in public (gasp) and, what we’re all here for, bedtime. While before we saw a social flowering, your child will now start pulling it back, becoming shy and hesitant in public and very mom or dad-dependent.
Bye, bye third nap!
Part of your most important sleep training tips for months 6-12 is the way you handle naps. If the late-afternoon nap persists past this point, it could cause the bedtime to be pushed too late. So, drop the late nap and if you were doing bottle feeding at night, do your best to drop that as well.
We’re still in nap management here and the main goal is to avoid nap deprivation at all costs. How? According to Dr. Weissbluth, sometimes around this age, the afternoon nap starts to disappear because your baby is more active and their morning nap is long. If that’s the case, the book suggests that you move the bedtime much earlier or wake your child up an hour or an hour and a half into the morning nap to make sure you have an afternoon nap as well.
What is Nap Deprivation?
If you’re not keeping an eye, or maybe a log on your child’s sleeping patterns, it may be difficult to keep their sleeping schedule healthy and regular. Unfortunately, this is the age when regulating naps is vital because it’s “the main culprit in ruining healthy sleep patterns. So, while it’s tempting to go out with your now super social and charming child and do more activities, you have to have control as a parent. Most babies this age still need two naps. Your baby will also want to skip their nap and do something much more fun and exciting, so it’s up to you to put your foot down for the sake of his sleep and happiness:
“If you allow him to skip his nap, then he will become fatigued. The natural adaptive response to fatigue is to fight it with stimulating hormones, which allow him to maintain more wakefulness. However, this heightened state of alertness or arousal creates an inability to easily fall asleep or stay asleep for subsequent naps and night sleep. Not only does a vicious circle of sleep problems begin, but your child may also develop emotional ups and downs or a reduced attention span as a by-product” - Dr. Weissbluth
With these sleep training tips for months 6-12 (and a little bit of 5) you’ll finish year one of your baby’s sleep with, as Dr. Weissbluth would put it himself, Healthy Sleep Habits, and a Happy Child.