Healthy living

Sleep 3 – 6 months

Baby sleep

Babies vary a lot in the amount of sleep they need. Between the age of 3 and 6 months, some babies have 2 or 3 longish sleeps during the day, while others just have short naps. A few sleep 12 hours at night without interruption, some manage 8 hours while many others wake fairly regularly for feeds. Most have learned to sleep more at night than they do during the day.

If you are happy with your baby’s sleep pattern, there is no need to change it. There are many ways to be ‘normal’.

Responding to your baby’s cues of when she needs to sleep, play, feed, or be cuddled, is important in helping develop secure attachment.

Sleeping baby in a safe cot next to the parents' bed for the first 6 to 12 months reduces the risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy, including SIDS, as long as the room is smoke free.

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

Daytime and night time patterns

By this age your baby will be starting to learn about the difference between day and night.

  • You can help your baby get into a daytime pattern. After he has had a feed, play with him for a while, so that he does not go to sleep straight after a feed. Babies who go to sleep straight after a feed may get into the pattern of needing a feed at night to go back to sleep.
  • Watch your baby for signs that he is tired, or for signs that he wants to play, so that the pattern best meets his needs.
  • There are lots of things that you can do during play time at this age, such as cuddles, a walk, time on the floor or in a baby seat with toys, going shopping, or visiting.
  • These play times will help your baby to learn that daytime is the time to be awake.
  • During the day, your baby will usually have 2 or 3 sleeps. It is a good idea not to let him sleep for too long (perhaps no more than 2 hours) especially late in the day, as he may not sleep as long during the night. You may want to wake him gently when you see him stirring.
  • At night time, do not have play times – keep feed times ‘boring’ and settle him straight back to sleep.

Ideas for settling and soothing

  • Place your baby on her back in the bassinet or cot.
  • Pat your baby, or jiggle the cot in a regular rhythm. You may need to pat or rock quickly at first, then slow down as your baby calms down. Stop before your baby goes to sleep.
  • Sing to your baby, or put on the radio. Other regular noises such as the washing machine or dryer can help.
  • You could darken the room for night sleeps. Day sleep could be in a brighter, noisier place – but if this does not work try the darker, quieter place.
  • Some babies settle better if wrapped fairly firmly in a thin cotton sheet with the arms wrapped in too, while others do not like this, and settle better if they can use their hands to soothe themselves. The wrap should not be too tight and must allow chest wall, hip and leg movement.
  • If your baby has reached the rolling over milestone, wrapping is not recommended as it may lead to suffocation.
  • Your baby will learn about going to sleep more quickly if you try to use the same settling ideas each time, day or night.

Night time

It is still normal for babies to have feeds during the night.

  • You could try a ‘late feed’ or ‘sleepy feed’ at about 10pm, before you go to bed, and this may help your baby to sleep longer. Disturb her as little as possible. Lift her without fully waking her and feed.
  • Some babies start waking again at night when their appetite increases. This extra feed increases the breast milk supply. They usually settle again when they are having more food.
  • Babies have some ‘growing’ times when they are more fussy.

Look after yourself

  • Broken sleep makes everyone exhausted and irritable.
  • 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.

More information

Local community, school or child health nurse

  • See inside your baby's purple All About Me book.
  • Look in the phone directory under child health centres.
  • Visit your nearest child health centre.

Local family doctor

Ngala Helpline

  • 8.00am – 8.00pm 7 days a week
  • Phone: 9368 9368
  • Outside metro area – Free call 1800 111 546 (free from land line only)
  • Visit the Ngala website (external site)

Raising Children Network

Kidsafe WA

  • 8.30am – 5.00pm (Monday to Friday)
  • Phone: 9340 8509
  • Outside metro area – Free call 1800 802 244 (free from land line only)
  • Visit the Kidsafe WA website (external site)

Red Nose

  • 9.00am – 5.00pm (Monday to Friday)
  • Phone: 9474 3544
  • Outside metro area – Free call 1800 199 466 (free from land line only)
  • Visit the Red Nose (external site)

© Women’s and Children’s Health Network, reproduced with permission. The South Australian Government does not accept responsibility for the accuracy of this reproduction.


Acknowledgements
Child and Adolescent Community Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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