Your baby will grow and change a lot this month, and so will their sleep. Thanks to all of the exciting new changes your baby will undergo this month, their sleep might change too—but in a totally good way. Your baby will be settling into more regular sleep patterns and is capable of both sleeping longer stretches at a time and self-soothing for those times they do wake up at night with you. It's a whole new (six-month-old!) world, parents!
How much sleep does a six-month-old baby need?
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, babies under one year should get 12-16 hours of sleep per 24 hours. The Journal of Nature and Science of Sleep also adds that most commonly, sleep for a six-month-old baby averages more in the 13-14 hour per day range. However, all babies are different and some six-month-olds may still need those extra few hours of sleep!Rachel Mitchell, a certified pediatric and maternal sleep consultant and founder of My Sweet Sleeper, also confirms that babies at six months will start decreasing the amount of sleep they need.
"There's a lot going on with your baby at six months of age," Mitchell says. "This is typically the stage that your little one will officially drop to three naps, and their day sleep naturally starts to consolidate."
Related: Baby Feeding Guides & Schedules
She also adds that some babies may still need more sleep at this stage, and that's okay—what's important is to follow your baby's own sleep cues and support their individual development, instead of sticking to a rigid schedule. "In this stage your baby is ideally still getting between 3/3.5 to 4 hours of day sleep, or slightly more if your baby is what we call a 'high sleep needs baby," she explains. (Serious question: can a mom be considered 'high sleep needs' because if so, that's me.)
But speaking of schedules, knowing the ideal sleep schedule for your six-month-old baby can be extremely helpful. It can guide you to knowing how long your baby should be awake between naps, when to time naps and what an ideal bedtime will look like. Because babies can all be so different and are changing so much at this age, having a sleep schedule to customize can be a game-changer, so here's one that Mitchell suggests parents can look at.
Six-month-old baby sleep schedule
The most important change that Mitchell says parents should be aware of is that a six-month-old baby has the capability to sleep longer stretches, which is a hugely exciting milestone. She also notes that babies can likely start to self-soothe on their own, so you can start to experiment with letting them explore some methods (safely, of course!) that they are able to practice self-soothing.
Wake windows for a six month old
At six months old, Mitchell notes that your approach to wake windows for your baby should shift a little bit.
"At this stage, you should still be following awake windows vs. a by-the-clock schedule and your baby may be ready to extend awake windows slightly to 2 to 3 hours," she explains.
Following your baby's own awake windows means that you will also time their naps during the day accordingly. Just like last month, you'll want to decrease the length of your baby's nap times during the day. For instance, you should aim to time your baby's first two naps to be between 1.5 to 2 hours and their last nap between 45 minutes to 1 hour.
"The last nap of the day at this point should really just be a bridge to bedtime, which is ideally between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.," Mitchell adds.
Related: 6-month-old baby milestones
Sleep tips for babies
The biggest sleep tip for babies at six months old? Introducing solid foods may just help your little one sleep better.
Mitchell points out that a big growth spurt often occurs around this time, which could lead to sleep disruptions if their nutritional needs are not being met. Solids during the day can help bridge that gap as your baby grows and she also adds that a temporary nighttime wake-up call for a feeding is normal too.
"This is the age that I recommend gradually starting to introduce solids, and you may notice that your baby is hungrier than usual in this stage, which can be due to a growth spurt that often occurs around this time," she explains. "If you have already dropped the night feed, but you notice your child is suddenly waking up and needing a feed, know that it's OK to bring it back temporarily."
A version of this story was published September 15, 2021. It has been updated.