On the first Wednesday of every month I run a free Sleep Q&A session on my Facebook Page for ‘The Gentle Sleep Book’. I often find that the questions that are asked are repeated quite frequently and there tend to be around five or six main topics that come up time and again.
In order to provide a more lasting resource I have decided to post a summary of the questions – and my answers – and hope to update this blog after each Q&A session. This post summarises the questions asked (and answered) concerning 0-6 month old babies.
A quick note: I frequently get asked in excess of 50 questions during each session, meaning that I have somewhere between 1 and 2 minutes to answer each one, hence the length of some of my replies and sign posting to articles.
0-6 month Baby Sleep Advice:
Q: I have a question concerning my 7 week old and a friend’s 3 week old. Mine was one week early and hers was two weeks late. Does that make any difference as to their sleep patterns? Neither has got a sleep routine and seem to sleep rather erratically for short periods of time, is this normal?
A: Babies are all so individual, they tend to do what they tend to do! Irrespective of age. I tend to err on the side of “it’s how long they’ve been earthside that seems to matter the most” – unless we’re talking very premature.
Q: My nearly 6 month old still wakes up 2 or 3 ( or sometimes 6) times at night. We change nappy, feed him, most of the time he goes back to sleep, but sometimes he wants to play and stays awake for an hour or longer. Then he’s up at 6:30 am for a day. No dummy, he is very happy and curious child otherwise. Sleeps in his cot now, but he used to sleep with us with exactly the same waking pattern.We are exhausted.
A: This is totally normal for a 6mth old – the 6:30am waking is so very normal. We as adults are abnormal to sleep so late after sunrise, that’s the problem and why it’s so hard to ‘fix’ (gently anyway). Get some good blackout blinds if you haven’t already, or encourage him to to cuddle you sleepily for half an hour or so in the morning. If you’re not breastfeeding can you tag team the wake ups? so you get a chunk of 3-4hr each per night. The playing in the middle of the night is possibly due to this: http://slumberwise.com/…/your-ancestors-didnt-sleep…/ – aside from this work to give him some things that comfort him in your absence: cuddly toy/blanket, smell, music etc…
Q: I have a 6 month old who rarely naps during the day. Should I now be introducing a routine / structure to encourage him to start?
A: Some 6mth olds don’t like to nap much, if he’s OK with it and happy and healthy otherwise that is probably just his normal – Napping in a good sling/carrier could help: https://www.isisonline.org.uk/sleep…/sleep_aids/slings/ – so long as you’re not missing his early tired signs and he’s not getting seriously overtired/wired I really wouldn’t worry.
Q: Our 6mth old boy has always had fractured sleep from around 4am. This stopped for around a month but has started again. He is formula fed and thriving. Bedtime is around 6.30pm, he has bath, massage, bottle and bed. He has one night feed typically between 2 – 3am but will then wake after 4am. He now wakes and is unable to be resettled anytime from 4.30 onwards. When we pick him up out of the cot he immediately falls soundly to sleep only to reawaken when put back down. I feel it’s because he cannot settle himself & this is a delicate period of sleep? Am I right?!
A: For some reason he obviously just needs you more at that time. Wait at least 15minutes after he’s asleep to put him back down. He can’t settle himself, he’s too young – he needs you for that. Try introducing a comfort object to snuggle him up with when you do eventually put him back down – or if you can make his cot into a cosleeper consider snuggling right up next to him after 4am (as you’re formula feeding I wouldn’t advocate bringing him into your bed).
Q: What is a good bedtime routine for a 6 month old, barring a bath? I currently don’t have much, dd Co sleeps so we lie together feeding, I read a story and sing.
A: A massage – or at least baby on lap rubbing lotion in for 5 minutes with a special scent, deliberately going to another room (and not leaving once in there), changing clothes to special night time ones, changing lighting – singing a special bedtime song, reading a special bedtime book, quieter voice, a calmer atmosphere and feeding.
Q: My 4 month old son has been Exclusively breastfeeding and waking at the max every 2 hours (sometime 1 hour or less!) for a fed, every night. Last week I decided to introduce a bottle of formula before bed and he will now not wake for 3 hours… I then BF the rest of the night approx every 2 hours. Is he genuinely hungry or just wanting to be breastfed for comfort? He has never fallen asleep on his own, he always feeds to sleep I’m worried that when I stop breastfed which I plan on doing at 6 months he won’t know how to fall asleep.
A: Probably both. He’s tiny at only 4mths and it’s really rare that babies do genuinely fall asleep (happily) alone at this age. There are some ideas here that might help. http://www.pinkymckay.com/beating-bad-habits-gentlywith…/ Would you consider stopping breastfeeding only in the daytime initially?
Q: What is the kindest way of teaching my 6 month old to self settle? Up until recently he was happy to be breastfed to sleep (and I was happy to do it!) but he now refuses and we have begun rocking him to sleep. If placed in his cot when sleepy he just cries. I refuse to do controlled crying.
A: I don’t think it’s possible to teach a 6mth old to self settle I’m afraid. Controlled crying doesn’t teach self settling, it teaches a baby that their needs are not met so there’s no point in crying. Self settling is a developmental skill that only occurs with time when the brain is sufficiently mature enough. At best at this age you can either use old fashioned sleep training (like controlled crying/cio/pick up put down/rapid return etc..) and condition him to no longer cry for you or you introduce some external objects in the hopes that they will comfort him enough that sometimes he’s able to go to sleep without you. You might find it easier to put him in his cot 15 minutes after he’s fallen asleep. Have a read of this:http://www.pinkymckay.com/beating-bad-habits-gentlywith…/
Q: My 5 mth old (22wk) son is exclusively breastfed. Up until approx 3.5mth old he was sleeping well through the night, waking up x2 for feeds. However, he now wakes up sometimes hourly, or every two or three hours (if I’m lucky) for a quick feed (10/15mins). It’s as if he needs the breast to help him through the next sleep cycle. This goes on from 6.30pm-5.30am. I’ve tried feeding him more during the day as he doesn’t feed for as long as he used to do but this hasn’t changed anything. I’ve tried soothing him with singing, stroking etc but this only works occasionally. He has an hour or two nap in the morning and an hour in the afternoon generally (sometimes less). He’s usually tired by 4pm. I co-share with him. Please could you offer some insight into what’s possibly going on for him? He is teething, is this the cause? Many thanks in advance.
A: This is what’s going on; https://sarahockwell-smith.com/…/help-my-4-5-month-old…/ (most likely anyway). It will pass!
Q: In the midst of 4 month sleep regression! Stick to bedtime routine, she goes down easily enough but during the night (sometimes hourly) I am feeding her everytime to get her back to sleep… is this the wrong thing to do?
A: I don’t think so. In my opinion anything that works during the 4mth regression is good in my book! I know several experts say you’re setting yourself up for bad habits, but they come from the position of viewing normal baby sleep as problematic. This is a lovely article to hopefully put your mind at rest. http://www.pinkymckay.com/beating-bad-habits-gentlywith…/
Q: My baby girl is 6 months old. We were hit by the 4 month sleep regression so I read your article about this regression every week. It has really helped me during these long weeks. My daughter safely bed shares and nurses every 45 minutes at night. Thankfully I have a strong support network but I don’t get any real alone time with my husband. We also can’t leave the house for to long because she doesn’t want to sleep in the car seat. Is she still in regression? It has been more than 8 weeks. Can I teach to her to transition sleep cycles without waking herself up?
A: This is really normal for 6mths, at this age there is also a bit of a blip with sleep which is often aggravated by teething and the introduction of solids (I didn’t put that in my 4-5mth article as that would just be too depressing to read!), so really – at this age I’d be doing nothing but gritting my teeth and bearing with it for another month or two. If no improvement then look at things like good bedtime routine, what happens in the lead up to sleep, the sleeping environment and conditioning other sleep triggers like comfort objects, music and smell. Just because you’ve mentioned the car seat too, if you haven’t already I would take her to a chiropractor or cranial osteopath who specialises in treating babies (if they don’t specialise don’t go to them) and get her checked out, just in case she’s uncomfortable.
Q: When sleep training what’s most important to focus on night time or naps Do short naps affect nighttime sleep if they are consistently only 30 minutes?
A: To a certain extent I think it depends on the family – what’s more important to you? sleeping at night or better naps in the day? My preference would always be to start with the nights, often once these are sorted then naps become easier too, but it will take time. Thirty minute naps may be entirely normal for that child and not a ‘problem’ at all – for the child anyway. The biggest reason they would affect nightime sleep is if the baby is grossly overtired and full of cortisol and unable to wind down to go to sleep at night. The key here is to watch the baby closely and make sure you meet their early sleep cues in the daytime, rather than trying to stick to a timed schedule or similar.
Q: Hi there. My sidecar sleeping 6 month old wakes every two hours through the night. He goes quietly back to sleep when I nurse him nut after months of this I’m frazzled. Any suggestions for getting him to string more than 2 hours together?
A: This is really normal for 6mths, at this age there is also a bit of a blip with sleep which is often aggravated by teething and the introduction of solids, so really – at this age I’d be doing nothing but gritting my teeth and bearing with it for another month or two. If no improvement then look at things like good bedtime routine, what happens in the lead up to sleep, the sleeping environment and conditioning other sleep triggers like comfort objects, music and smell.
Q: My 11 week old has never slept for more than 3 hrs at a time at night. He has been reluctant to take a bottle but we’re persevering with this. Do you have any other tips?
A: I’m not sure if you’re going to like this, so I’ll apologise in advance, but he sounds like an amazing sleeper! if he’s sleeping for chunks of 3hrs at a time that’s pretty impressive for an 11 wk old. He’s still in the realms of the 4th trimesterhttps://sarahockwell-smith.com/…/the-fourth-trimester…/ – his body clock is still so immature he barely knows the difference between night and day and to that end as parents the only real option available right now is waiting. In time his body will come to realise that he should sleep more at night and less in the day and his sleep will naturally lengthen. If you are breastfeeding and want to give expressed milk/formula for whatever reason you may have more success with a cup, such as a doidy, but – if you are giving either to try to make him sleep longer it is unlikely to have a positive effect. If you give expressed milk at night you’ll be missing out on all of the sleep inducing chemicals contained in the milk you make at night. If you’re giving formula, research has shown that actually it really doesn’t make much of a difference and at your son’s age breastfeeding/formula feeding parents really don’t get more sleep than the other. Not all baby waking is due to hunger.
Q: Any tips for the 4 month sleep regression? Baby used to sleep through from 9/10-6 a.m now he can be up 3 times or more a night and takes a while sometimes to settle.
A: Check out my article here: https://sarahockwell-smith.com/…/help-my-4-5-month-old…/ for lots of information and tips.
Q: I have a 5 month old daughter. We started 4 month sleep regression early and still in it i guess. she used to sleep 4 to 5 hours in her crib in our bedroom now she only wants to sleep in bed with me and she checks to see if I stay. She fights sleep. We have routine, early bed time, i watch her wake time. Try to nap every 1 1/2-2hours. She hates being drowsy. She nurses to sleep and I stay with her while we have been in regression. My questions are 1.what else can i do to help her not cry because she is fighting sleep? 2. If I spend almost an hour getting her to sleep and she wakes up tired after 20 minutes should i keep trying to get her to sleep or do something else and try sleep later?
A: Watch for very early tired signs, rather than the clock or sticking to a routine. Being baby led is the key to surviving this! I would cuddle/feed her when she wakes – see https://sarahockwell-smith.com/…/help-my-4-5-month-old…/ for more.
Q: How can I encourage my 5mth old to take longer daytime naps? He wakes after 20-30mins, literally bleary eyed and still tired but I can’t resettle him, even by feeding. It’s the same wherever he is (home in cot, on bed with me, in car, in pram). I’m concerned that between these 2-4 cat naps a day and only c.8hrs (broken) at night he’s not getting what he needs for his development. I plan to read your book when I have the time/energy but any suggestions in the meantime?
A: Do you have a good sling/carrier – that could be a life saver for encouraging longer naps https://www.isisonline.org.uk/sleep…/sleep_aids/slings/
Q: I have a 4.5 month old son who will only nap for 45 minutes at a time (from what I’ve researched, 1 sleep cycle). I’m tried sneaking in (no eye contact, no talking), putting the soother back in, or rocking him to attempt to extend the nap, but no luck. As a result, he can only stay up for 1-1.25 hours between naps – hard to ever leave the house! Do I just have to wait for him to grow out of this? At night, his longest stretch is only 3 hours, but does prove he can transition between sleep cycles. He is exclusively breastfed.
A: Pretty much yes, it’s a case of waiting for him to outgrow it – or invest in a really good sling or carrier! This age is really tricky anyway and it may just be that that’s just how your son naps (until he gets a little older) https://sarahockwell-smith.com/…/help-my-4-5-month-old…/
Q: I have a 4 month, exclusively breastfed baby, who is having a horrible time napping. He goes to bed around 8:30pm and wakes around 1 am for his first feed. He then cluster feeds on and off until 8 am. While I would like his night sleep to be more solid, I think it is probably developmentally appropriate for his age. My frustration comes with his naps. Once he wakes up, he naps exactly every 2 hours. However, that nap is only about 30 minutes to 45 minutes long. So he is taking about 4-5 naps a day. How can I encourage those naps to be longer?
A: It sounds like that’s just how he naps. He’s taking one sleep cycle per nap which is fine and TBH there’s not much you can do if that’s how he is. Have you tried popping him in a sling for naps? That might encourage another sleep cycle.
Q: How can I help my 4 month old go back to sleep in the middle of the night? He goes to sleep easily at 9-10 pm after eating a good amount, and will sleep 4-5 hours, which is great. He wakes up to eat then, and falls asleep in my arms. Whether I put him in his crib (in our room) or lay down with him, he will only stay quietly asleep for about 45 mins, then will want to nurse (more like comfort, not so much eating, although I have low supply so maybe he’s a bit hungry still, although he’s not super hungry when he finally wakes up in the morning?) and fidget (kick, move his arms, startle, throw his head around) with only brief moments of sleep for the rest of the night, until about 8 am, so he’s in bed with me, with eyes closed, but neither of us is getting much actual sleep from 4am-8am even though we’re resting in bed. On nights where he doesn’t sleep as long for the first part, he takes longer naps during the day, so I know he’s only getting good sleep for the first half of the night.
A: This is so normal for a four month old – have a read of this :https://sarahockwell-smith.com/…/help-my-4-5-month-old…/
Q: I have a 5 month old daughter and she will only sleep when on/next to me and daytime naps see me stuck to the sofa and at night I cannot put her down until I get in to bed. I have begun introducing scent and sound to our bedtime routine but would like to know if there is anything I can do to help her sleep without my constant presence.
A: At her age I’d say, no – not a lot! https://sarahockwell-smith.com/…/help-my-4-5-month-old…/ just waiting for her to grow a little. For daytime naps I’d recommend getting a really good sling or carrier so that you can still do things/have two hands free!
Q: My 15 wk old has never slept well, she really only naps on the sling which is very tiring for me (after being up so much at night) and at night it takes 90 mins of feeding and rocking to get her to sleep. At best she wakes 3 times at night but that’s rare, mostly it’s 4-5 times, each time I feed her (breastfeed) back to sleep. We co sleep as getting her down is impossible (she wakes immediately or I have to hold her for 30 mins to ensure she’s in a deep sleep.) I don’t want to have to co sleep as she’s a wriggler, all in all I’m constantly over tired – as is she! Please help!
A: Your daughter’s sleep is spot on average/normal for her age. Cosleeping may be the only thing that helps you retain your sanity right now as she’s only just out of the newborn stage and still very young. I appreciate you don’t want to do it, but it may be you need to get through a couple more weeks yet. Go to bed as early as you can, get any help you can from friends/family/voluntary organisations and do as little as you can around the house – your job right now is mothering your daughter, nothing else.
Q: My 6.5 month old daughter is exclusively breastfed. Up until 4.5 months she was sleeping great, only waking 1 (occasionally 2) times a night to eat. For the past 2 months she has been waking every 3 hours to eat. I don’t nurse to sleep and she’s pretty good about falling asleep on her own (both from drowsy and awake) at naps and the beginning of the night. She is eating the same amount during the day and is truly eating at night (not just nursing back to sleep). A pacifier or a pat/quick rock would often settle her back to sleep if she woke up before her regularly scheduled night feed, but now she just screams. I’m not sure if this is a “bad habit” she has formed, or if she really needs to be eating. Should I be trying to change anything (I’m exhausted!) If so, where should I start?! Help, please!
A: It sounds like she’s hungry, it will pass as her tummy gets bigger and she begins to eat more solids, for now it’s all about looking after yourself – bed extra early, asking for help, doing as little as you can around the house and escaping for the odd long candlelit bath with trashy mags, massages and the like.
Q: My little girl is 6 months & exclusively breastfed. She used to go down well, then wake later on in the night but recently has been waking 2-4 times after being put to bed, every 40 min or so until gone midnight, then wakes any time from 1.30- 6am. I don’t mind her waking during the night & feed her back to sleep, but am wondering if there’s a reason for her not settling so well? Also she doesn’t go to sleep until about 9.30- 10, sometimes even 11. How can I get her to go to bed earlier, at 7 ish? Or should I just accept that’s not going to happen?
A: It sounds like she is waking after almost every sleep cycle (45mins or so at her age). She is doing this because she needs you to reassure her so she can begin a new cycle. This is not uncommon and doesn’t indicate anything is wrong, in fact it’s a good sign that she has a strong attachment to you! Re. going to bed earlier it may be that you are missing her earlier sleep signals, or it may be that you have a natural night owl. My daughter is rarely ready for bed before 9:30/10 – never has been even as a baby, she takes after me, I’d rather stay up til midnight/1am and get up at 10am, that’s just the way we are. Do you have a good bedtime routine? If not get one in place – e.g; bath, 10min massage, read a story, change into PJs, sing a bedtime song, feed, play special bedtime music etc… which should help.
Q: Are there any guidelines on the amount of sleep a child should be getting each day, and does it matter how that amount is split between night-time and naps? We’re baby led but I worry that LO doesn’t get enough sleep compared with most of the other babies we know (not that this is necessarily an indicator of anything!).
A: This is the closest there is: http://www.mcri.edu.au/…/australian-childrens-sleep…/ anything else is not evidence based – BUT it’s important to remember these are just averages – some babies need far less, some need far more.
Q: I’ve got a 5 month old baby who is going through a “sleep regression”. She got into a routine when she was 3 months old but everything changed when she turned 4 months. She is very unsettled, clingy and wants to be fed more often even at night (she is exclusively breastfed). We bed share and she knows I’m there for her but most of the time nothing i do will help to calm her down/stop crying. I’m not sure if i should try everything to calm her down (hold her, rock her, skin to skin, bf…) or just talk to her letting her lye down (even if this means letting her cry by my side).
– yesterday i was so in despair and sleep deprived that i took the pushchair to my room … she fell asleep easily and for 4 hours in a row! Very tempting…What advice would you give me please?
A: How I hate the 4/5mth sleep regression (seehttps://sarahockwell-smith.com/…/help-my-4-5-month-old…/). Really what you need to worry about right now is yourself – not your daughter. You are quite clearly there for her when she cries and that’s what really matters, not whether you can actually STOP her crying. Imagine you were really sad/desperate and sobbing and somebody came to put an arm around you and told you they were there for you. It is unlikely to stop you from crying if you’re ‘that’ upset, but doesn’t it feel better knowing someone cares about you and is there for you? That’s the situation you have right now. Please don’t worry about stopping her crying so long as you are there for her (this is so not the same as CC/CIO where the child is left to cry alone). What you need to do is to be kind to yourself and find a way for your to cope as it will be/is tough on you, this is really all about you – not your daughter. At this stage I did NOTHING apart from ‘mother’ my babies (no housework, no cleaning, no work – NOTHING), I rarely got dressed/brushed my hair……..I just did what I needed to survive the period until my babies got happy again.
Q: I’m really hoping you can help me, my almost 6 month old has recently been sick and is now waking 3 times a night (previously once) and won’t settle unless she is fed. She is bf and only latches for a minute or two then falls asleep so I don’t think she is hungry. I’m also worried this will create bad habits?? Will she just settle back into her old routine or is there something I should be doing?
A: If she’s recently been sick I would give her what she needs – you. Don’t worry about bad habits for the future (most babies will naturally outgrow the need to suckle all night, if she doesn’t post 12 months you can gently start to nudge her in the right direction). She’s also in a tricky developmental phase right now (seehttps://sarahockwell-smith.com/…/help-my-4-5-month-old…/) So all in all I’d just keep doing what you’re doing, responding to her and importantly trying to nurture yourself as much as possible so you’re not exhausted.
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