Though we can probably guess you’ve had some hard days in your baby’s first four months, we’ve also been around our own children long enough to know that you also feel like it’s flying by way too fast. There’s nothing that quite compares to the exhaustion and joy you’ve experienced while raising your now 4-month old. No doubt you’ve seen a lot of changes in them recently, and you’re just trying to keep up! Today we want to specifically talk about your baby’s sleep between the ages of 4 and 6 months.
We’ll discuss what you can expect from your 4 – 6-Month-Old in terms of sleep, including what they need, transitions you’ll help them through and a suggested schedule you can tweak to work for you and your baby’s unique situation.
What’s Happening During the 4 – 6 Month-Old Timeframe
Before we get into all the nitty gritty sleep talk, we have a quick rundown of what to expect during this 4 – 6-month timeframe in terms of your baby’s development. Your baby is definitely not a newborn any longer…and it shows!
Between the ages of 4 and 6 months you will notice your baby:
- Getting stronger! They are developing their motor skills further to include lots of purposeful movements of the arms and legs, raising their head when on their stomach, working towards independent head control, and even rolling over!
- Has improved vision
- Has better hand-eye coordination where they are able to grasp objects (oh and also put them into their mouths)
- Babbles a lot
- Smiles and giggles a lot!
Your baby is busy! This means even though your little one is growing and becoming more alert, they still need a lot of sleep. And while we’re on the subject of milestones, there’s a big sleep change on the horizon that may just throw you for a loop.
How Your Baby’s Sleep Begins to Change Around 4 Months Old
In our article, “Newborn Sleep Patterns and Schedules for the First Year,” we refer to the 4 – 6 month timeframe as the “transitional phase.” This is because up until about the age of 4 months, your baby only alternated between 2 sleep cycles. Something pretty cool happens at about the 4-month mark – your baby moves into having 4-5 cycles of sleep which is what they’ll have for the rest of their life. Though this sounds great (and it is!), it’s also a major transition that your baby goes through and it can be jarring to them. Which means less sleep for everyone while they adjust.
This time period is referred to as the “4-Month Sleep Regression.” Because it definitely feels like your baby’s sleep is regressing or getting worse! But this is a very normal and healthy part of your baby’s development. They just need you to teach them how to fall back asleep by themselves.
Chloe Fries of La Lune Consulting reminds us to view this time as a progression instead of a regression:
"Your baby no longer experiences ‘baby sleep’. Rather, they are now experiencing adult sleep just like you do. Meaning that once this leap hits, your little one is ready to learn how to fall asleep all on their own!”
And this, moms and dads, is what the 4 – 6-month age is all about in terms of your baby’s sleep. Getting your baby to become an independent sleeper.
Creating a solid routine that includes relaxation techniques such as using a Dreamland Baby weighted wearable blanket, sleep training, and getting your baby to follow a schedule that works for both of you is what’s going to help your little one get there.
Sleep Needs to Consider When Creating Your 4 – 6 Month Old’s Sleep Schedule
Coming up we have a sample schedule that can work for many babies. But chances are that the schedule that works best for your family won’t look identical to ours. Things like work and toting older siblings around means you’ll have to change things around a bit (or be ok with a car nap once in a while!)
In knowing that every baby and every family’s situation is different, these are the sleep and nutrition needs you’ll want to keep in mind when creating a schedule that works best for your little one:
- Between the ages of 4 and 6 months, a baby needs between 13 – 16 hours of sleep per day
- Your baby will likely do best with 3 naps per day, each being between 1 – 2 hours long for a total of around 4-5 hours of daytime nap sleep
- At this age, your baby is consolidating more sleep into the nighttime hours – aim for about 10 – 12 hours
- Many babies this age will do well with 5 feeds during the daytime hours. However, you may need to cluster feed your baby more than once before bedtime and a baby who is sleeping through the night will likely need an extra feed or two during the day.
It’s important that you ALWAYS feed your baby when they are showing hunger signs even if it doesn’t follow the “schedule.”
- Many babies this age still need to be fed during the night. There are also babies who can sleep full stretches of 8 – 11 hours. Needing to feed your baby 1 - 2 times per night normal, and breastfed babies especially may need to wake to feed. Simply feed them and lay them right back down for sleep.
Pediatric Sleep Coach Chloe Fries shares the following:
"Unless a pediatrician says they need to feed more for weight/growth reasons, anything more than the above is usually waking for help back to sleep vs. actual hunger."
- Babies this age are stretching their wake windows, but they still tire fairly quickly. Don’t keep them awake longer than 2 -2.5 hours before their next sleep, or they will likely get overtired and have trouble falling asleep.
Keeping your baby’s needs at the forefront means you’ll be able to create a schedule that keeps them healthy and happy.
Sample 4 – 6 Month-Old Sleep Schedule
Let’s get started on what a typical 4 – 6-Month-Old Schedule might look like. Remember that with this schedule, a 4-month-old will likely need sleep on the higher end of the range, while a 6-month-old will likely need a bit less.
While this schedule can work for many babies this age, every baby is unique! You don’t need to be hung up on perfection, but having a guideline is always a great starting off point to begin getting more routine into you and your baby’s day. Aim for flexibility, not rigidity and you will have success.
A Typical Schedule for a 4 – 6-Month-Old:
6:30 a.m. – Your baby wakes for the day/First Feed
8:30 a.m. – Nap #1 (1.5 – 2 hours)
10 a.m. – Feed then play
12:30 p.m. – Nap #2 (1.5 – 2 hours)
2:00 p.m. – Feed then play
4:30 p.m. – Nap #3/Catnap (45 min. – 1.5 hours)
5:30 p.m. – Feed then play
7:30 p.m. – Feeding and Bedtime
10:00 p.m. – Dream Feed if needed
During the night – plan to feed your 4 – 6-month-old 1 -3 times per night.
Don’t get too caught up on exact times – if your baby is sleeping for a solid hour each with 3 naps per day, waking only to feed at night and they are content and happy while awake, then that’s great!
However, if what your baby is doing is far off from the schedule we suggested and your baby often wakes up cranky and frequently wakes up during the night, then working on stretching those nap times would be a good goal. You also may need to push bedtime up a little bit so that your baby isn’t going to bed overtired.
Tips for Helping Your 4 – 6-Month-Old Baby Get on a Sleep Schedule
Babies won't just automatically fall into a schedule, so they'll need some help from you! Here are a few of our best tips to help your baby get on a schedule and fall asleep independently.
1.) Follow a Sleep/Eat/Wake Cycle. What this means is that you are feeding your baby when they wake up as opposed to feeding them right before they fall asleep. Though we agree that feeding your baby to sleep can be very enjoyable and peaceful, it also teaches your baby to rely on you as a sleep prop. In order to get your baby to sleep independently, you want to start getting away from this. The one exception is that you’ll feed your baby one more time right before bedtime, but you should still be putting them down drowsy but awake.
2.) At this age, your baby is ready to sleep train. Not only do you want to utilize a schedule with your baby, but you also want to start training them to fall asleep on their own. This is the perfect time to eliminate sleep props such as feeding or rocking your baby to sleep. Because of the change in your baby’s sleep patterns around 4 months, it’s really the perfect time. It is easy to sleep train? No, but you will both benefit a great deal once you get through it. If you want to get your baby on the path to taking longer naps and sleeping through the night, this step is important.
Chloe Fries writes:
"Independent sleep is a taught skill! Meaning that your little one will need to learn it at some point or another. If you've hit the 4-month sleep regression, you now know your baby is ready to learn that skill. They want and need consolidated sleep overnight, as well as solid, consistent naps during the day, they likely just don't know how to get it. They will wake at the end of one sleep cycle, looking for whatever helped them to sleep in the first place. It's time to teach them how to fall asleep and stay asleep all on their own to eliminate unnecessary night wakings and ensure they are getting the day sleep they need."
Recommended Reading: A Helpful Guide for Sleep Training Your Baby. Here we give you everything you need to get started sleep training including expert advice from baby sleep expert Rachel Mitchell of My Sweet Sleeper.
3.) Follow a sleep routine for all naps and bedtime. Going through the same routine every time your baby sleeps helps them to calm themselves and relax. These sleep cues help your baby wind down and prepare to fall asleep independently. This only needs to be around 5 -10 minutes at naptime, but may be closer to 45 minutes at bedtime when a bath and feeding are included (more on that here). Other things you’ll want to include are putting your baby in their Dreamland Baby weighted sack, creating a dark and quiet environment, cuddling, and turning on white noise.
Looking Ahead for your 4 - 6-Month-Old’s Sleep
A lot changes in your baby’s first year. You can already see how different your little one’s sleep looks in the 4 – 6 month range compared to the first several months. As your baby nears the 6-month mark, many more changes will take place as your baby starts eating solid foods, drops a nap, and moves into longer stretches of night sleep. We recommend you check out Sleep Patterns and Schedules for Your Baby’s First Year to see what to expect next!
We were lucky to have Chloe Fries, a pediatric sleep coach, contribute to this post. If you need help with your little one's sleep, we recommend you look into her services at La Lune Consulting.