Skip to Content

Sleep Training 6 Month Old | Your Step-by-Step Guide

If there’s one thing I deeply missed as a new parent, it was sleep! After a few months of following our baby’s natural sleep cycle (and slowly deteriorating into #zombielife), we knew it was time for sleep training!

Unfortunately, when I started reading a few books about sleep training 6 month old babies, I found rigid, one-size-fits-all plans and conflicting advice, none of which worked well for our particular situation. So we were forced to take the route of trial and error until we found our sweet spot.

Lucky for you, now you don’t have to take the trial and error route! You can save yourself time, energy, and sanity by learning from our experience!

Here’s what we wish we had known going into sleep training, what we learned along the way, and how you can sleep train your 6 month old much more quickly and easily than we did.

Understanding Sleep Training

Before starting sleep training, it’s essential to grasp its purpose and to learn the recommended timing for beginning the process. These insights ensure your approach aligns with developmental readiness and helps set clear objectives for both you and your baby.

The Goal of Sleep Training

The most important thing to understand about sleep training is its ultimate purpose: to help your 6-month-old learn to fall asleep independently and to resettle themselves back to sleep when they wake during the night. Achieving this can result in longer stretches of uninterrupted sleep, for both your baby and your entire family.

Appropriate Age for Sleep Training

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that by 4-6 months of age, most infants are ready for sleep training, as they’re developmentally capable of sleeping for longer periods. However, in order for your sleep training to be successful, it’s crucial to choose a sleep training technique that is tailored to your baby’s individual needs and your family’s preferences.

Establishing Good Sleep Habits

To ensure your 6-month-old baby gets the rest they need, establishing good sleep habits is crucial. This includes creating a consistent bedtime routine and understanding their wake windows and sleep cycles.

Creating a Bedtime Routine

A consistent bedtime routine sets the stage for good sleep habits. Begin your routine at the same time each night to align with your baby’s circadian rhythm, signaling to their body it’s time to wind down.

Your routine might involve:

  • A warm bath to relax
  • A final feeding to satisfy hunger through the night
  • Gentle, soothing activities like reading a quiet book or soft singing
  • Dimming the lights to encourage the body’s natural production of melatonin

Maintaining these steps nightly establishes a comforting ritual that helps your baby anticipate sleep time.

Learning About Wake Windows and Sleep Cycles

Understanding your baby’s sleep cycle and wake windows—the times when your baby is naturally inclined to sleep—is essential for sleep training. At 6 months, wake windows typically last between 2 and 3 hours.

Here’s a simplified breakdown:

  • First Wake Window: 2-2.5 hours after morning wake-up
  • Second Wake Window: 2-2.5 hours after the first nap
  • Third Wake Window: 2-3 hours after the second nap, leading to bedtime

Adhering to these time frames helps you to recognize when your baby is ready for sleep, making the process of settling down for naps and bedtime much smoother.

Common Sleep Training Methods

When sleep training your 6-month-old, selecting a method that aligns with your parenting style and your baby’s temperament is essential. Here are three common strategies that range from gentle to more structured approaches.

Chair Method

The chair method involves sitting in a chair next to your baby’s crib as they fall asleep. Each night, you move the chair farther away until you’re out of the room.

This method can be considered less abrupt than others and may be easier on both you and your baby.

Fading Method

With the fading method, you gradually decrease your involvement at your baby’s sleep times. This could involve shorter nursing or rocking periods over time, thus “fading out” your presence and allowing your child to fall asleep without these associations.

Graduated Extinction

In graduated extinction, also known as the Ferber method, you allow your baby to cry for predetermined amounts of time before offering comfort. Start with short intervals (Think: 2 minutes) and gradually increase them, teaching your baby to self-soothe and fall asleep independently.

Addressing Challenges During Sleep Training

In sleep training your 6-month-old, you’ll face several challenges, particularly when it comes to night wakings, handling feedings, and managing separation anxiety. This section offers strategies to confidently navigate these common issues.

Dealing with Night Wakings

During the first night of sleep training and beyond, night wakings can be one of the biggest challenges. Y

our baby is likely to wake up in the middle of the night. When this happens, wait a few minutes before intervening to give your baby the chance to self-soothe and fall back asleep.

When I resisted rushing into my daughter’s nursery and simply observed her for a few minutes on the baby monitor, I was surprised to find she wasn’t unhappy at all, and often fell back asleep just a few minutes later.

Handling Night Feedings

At 6 months old, night feedings may still be necessary, especially if they’re part of your child’s routine.

However, to enhance nighttime sleep, gradually reduce the amount of milk or formula during each night feeding. This will encourage your baby to consume more during the day and less at night.

Overcoming Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety can peak around 6 months of age, making sleep training more challenging as your baby learns to navigate the anxiety of being apart from you.

To assuage this fear, establish a calming bedtime routine that includes plenty of cuddles and reassurance. During the day, practice short periods of separation to help build your baby’s confidence.

What to Expect the First Night

On the first night of sleep training, it’s essential to prepare yourself for some new challenges as your baby adapts to the changes. You should anticipate periods of baby cries and adjustments to sleep patterns.

It’s normal! You’ve got this!

Managing Baby’s Cries

When you start sleep training, expect that your baby may cry, signaling their discomfort with the new routine.

As your baby is learning to self-soothe:

  • Listen closely: Distinguish between different types of cries to understand if a baby cry requires immediate attention or is part of the self-soothing process.
  • Wait for a few minutes: Give your baby time to settle down before stepping in, to encourage developing their ability to fall asleep independently.

It’s crucial to have a consistent response plan to your baby’s cries, so as not to confuse them with mixed signals.

Adapting to Short Naps and Longer Wake Periods

Initially, your baby might experience short naps during the night, as they adjust to the new sleep training methods.

You may notice:

  • Shorter sleep intervals: The baby may wake up more frequently during the night, requiring patience as they learn to connect sleep cycles.
  • Longer periods of wakefulness: Be prepared for potentially longer periods of time when your baby is awake. Ensure their sleeping environment encourages them to go back to sleep.

It’s important to maintain a calm and comfortable sleep setting to help your 6-month-old adapt to these changes.

Tailoring Sleep Training to Your Baby

Every baby is an individual with their own preferences and patterns. By recognizing this, you can tailor sleep training strategies that align with your baby’s unique needs and developmental stage, ensuring a more effective and gentle process.

Identifying Your Baby’s Unique Needs

To determine the best approach for sleep training your 6-month-old, you’ll need to observe and understand your baby’s specific needs.

At six months, many babies experience a sleep regression, which can be characterized by more frequent awakenings or difficulty falling asleep.

This is a normal part of development and not an indicator of a sleep problem that needs fixing. However, it does mean that your sleep training approach may need to be adjusted.

Consider the following:

  • Sleep Patterns: Track your baby’s sleep for at least a week, noting the times when they naturally fall asleep and wake up.
  • Sleep Training Technique Testing: Note which sleep training technique, such as rocking or white noise, best helps your baby calm down for sleep.

By understanding these elements, you can better shape your sleep training plan to your baby’s rhythms and preferences.

Adjusting Methods to Suit Developmental Stages

At 6 months old, your baby is at a unique developmental stage. You’ll need to adjust sleep training methods accordingly, acknowledging that what works for newborns or older babies may not be suitable for a 6-month-old baby.

  • Routine Establishment: Work on establishing a consistent sleep routine. This could include a bath, reading a story, or cuddles before bed.
  • Gradual Changes: Make changes gradually to allow your baby to adjust. This might include slowly phasing out night feeds instead of stopping them abruptly.

Seeking Professional Guidance

In the journey of sleep training your 6-month-old, it’s crucial to consider credible medical advice. Expert insights can offer tailored strategies and peace of mind for new parents navigating this process.

Consulting with a Pediatrician

Your pediatrician is a valuable resource for personalized guidance on sleep training. They have a comprehensive understanding of your child’s health history and developmental milestones. 

Discussing your sleep training plan with a pediatrician ensures that it aligns with your baby’s specific needs. They can also provide support materials or references to a sleep specialist if needed.

Ask about:

  • Appropriate sleep training methods for your baby.
  • Signs that indicate your baby is ready for sleep training.

When to Seek Medical Advice

If you encounter challenges during sleep training, it may be time to seek medical advice. Look for signs that suggest your baby’s sleep issues might have an underlying medical condition, such as:

  • Frequent night awakenings
  • Difficulty breathing during sleep
  • Inability to be soothed or settled

Signs of illness, such as fever or persistent crying, warrant an immediate consultation with your pediatrician. Your instinct and observations as a parent, combined with professional advice, form the foundation for a successful sleep training experience.

  • Be attentive to: Changes in sleep patterns or behaviors.
  • Act promptly: Contact your pediatrician if your baby’s sleep issues persist or worsen.
Sleep Training 6 Month Old | Your Step-by-Step Guide

Let’s be honest…it’s no fun sleep training 6 month old babies. But once they’re sleep trained, you, your baby, and your entire family can finally get the sleep you all so desparately need!

You’ve got this!

New Parent Pack | Free Download

P.S. Do you have a new baby or know someone who does? Download our free new parent pack for seven handy printable resources! From feeding trackers to stupid easy recipes, we’ve got ya covered! Get yours HERE.

Disclosure: While all opinions are our own, we are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and other affiliate advertising programs, designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites, at no additional cost to you.