Baby sleep basics: 3 to 6 months!

"It's so amazing how time flies when you're having fun with your baby and realizing how their sleeping patterns change with their growth. Below is a guest article by BabyCenter on the sleep basics for 3 to 6 months! I hope you enjoy."

Typical sleep at this age

At 3 months, most babies sleep a total of 12 to 15 hours a day, including nighttime sleep and naps.

Sleep training opportunity

Typically, by age 3 months or so, babies have started to develop more of a regular sleep/wake pattern and have dropped most of their night feedings.

This doesn't mean you should suddenly impose a rigid sleep program on your 3- or 4-month-old. In fact, your baby may already have developed sleep patterns that fit in well with your family life. But if you'd like to help your baby sleep longer at a stretch and keep more regular hours, now might be a good time to try some type of sleep training.

Keep in mind that every baby is on a unique developmental schedule. Observe how your child reacts to sleep training, and if she doesn't seem ready, slow down and try again in a few weeks.

Sleeping through the night

At some point between 3 and 6 months, most babies are capable of sleeping through the night. We're not talking about eight hours, though. "Through the night" at this age generally means a stretch of five or six hours (though some children will sleep much longer).

This may not sound like much if you're hoping for eight or nine hours of sleep yourself. But it's an important milestone for you as well as your baby, allowing you to get through a few sleep cycles and feel more rested in the morning.

If your baby isn't yet sleeping five or six hours straight, you're not alone. Many babies still wake up more than once at night for feedings in the 3- to 6-month stage. But by 6 months, if not before, your baby's likely to be ready for night weaning, if that's what you choose.

Waking up again

If your baby already sleeps for long periods at night, enjoy it. But babies who've slept through the night for weeks or months may start to wake up again — so don't be surprised if you're suddenly getting up every couple of hours again.

It can be frustrating and puzzling if your baby does this, but she has her reasons. She may be increasingly socially aware and wake up crying for your company. Or she may be working so hard to master new skills, like rolling over or sitting up, that she practices in her sleep and wakes herself up.

How you can establish healthy sleep habits

Here are some tips for helping your baby sleep well at this age:

Establish a set bedtime and regular nap times — and stick to them.

When your baby was a newborn, you knew it was bedtime when you started noticing signs of sleepiness (eye-rubbing, ear-pulling, and so on). Now that she's a little older, you should establish a regular bedtime, as well as consistent nap times, to regulate her sleep patterns.

Some babies naturally nod off by 6 every night. Others still seem wide awake at 8 or later. And of course your household routine will influence her sleep schedule, too.

Choose a reasonable bedtime that suits your family's schedule and stick to it as much as possible. If your baby seems to want to stay up past bedtime, consider this: Energetic behavior late at night can be a sign that a child is tired.

You can start to plan naps for a specific time every day, too, such as at 9 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m. Or you can just put your baby down about two hours after she last woke up. As long as she's getting enough opportunities to sleep, either approach is fine.

If your baby's having a hard time getting to sleep or staying asleep, whether during naps or at night, try putting her down sooner. Being too tired can make it hard to settle down and get restful sleep.

Begin to develop a bedtime routine.

If you haven't already done so, now's a good time to start a bedtime routine. Your ritual can include any or all of the following: giving your baby a bath, getting her changed for bed, reading a bedtime story or two, singing a lullaby, and giving her a kiss goodnight.

Whatever routine works for your family is fine, as long as you do it in the same order and at the same time every night. Babies thrive on consistency.

Wake your child in the morning to set her daily clock.

It's fine to wake your baby up in the morning if she's sleeping past her usual waking time, to help set her daily clock. Your baby needs to follow a regular sleep/wake pattern and recharge with naps during the day. Waking her up at the same time every morning will help keep her on a predictable sleep schedule.

Encourage your child to fall asleep independently.

All of us, babies and adults alike, wake up several times every night for brief periods (anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes). As adults, we put ourselves back to sleep each time — and we don't even remember doing it.

The ability to get back to sleep is key when it comes to snoozing through the night. Some babies seem to do this naturally. But if your baby doesn't, it's a skill she'll have to master. One way to get her started is to put her down when she's drowsy but awake.

If your baby needs more help and you think she's ready, you can try a more involved method of sleep training. Your options include various no-cry and cry-it-out techniques. What will work best for you depends on your parenting style, your personal beliefs, and your child's particular needs.

~ Courtesy of BabyCenter


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