Your Baby’s First Year | Part 4: 6-12 Months
Babies grow and change at an astounding pace, and every month brings new and exciting developments.
The first year of your baby’s life is a year of incredible growth and development. The average baby triples their birth weight by age 1 and grows up to an incredible 25 centimetres in that first year. And that’s not all — between birth and 12 months, your baby will learn to roll over, sit up, crawl, and perhaps even walk.
Your baby’s sleep patterns will change pretty significantly in the first year too, and so we put together a 5-part blog series about how our baby’s sleep needs and patterns change in the first 12 months of life.
Part 4: 6-12 Months
“Sometimes the littlest things take up the most room in your heart.” – Winnie the Pooh
Your baby is halfway to a year already and starting to notice that there’s a fascinating world out there just waiting to be explored. That also means the days of being able to put your baby down in the middle of the floor and stay there are numbered.
These days your baby’s sleep pattern will look a whole lot different than it did just a few short months ago.
By 6 months of age, your baby should be sleeping for longer stretches at night and shorter periods during the day. Your baby should be getting 10 to 11 hours of sleep at night and 3 to 4 naps during the day.
While some babies this age will start to sleep through the night, others won’t, and that’s perfectly okay. Many 6 month olds still need 1 – 2 night time feedings.
By around 10 to 12 months, most babies are sleeping through the night and feeding only during the day (although some babies will continue to need one night feeding up to 12 months), and are having two naps during the day.
At this point, your baby should have a predictable sleep schedule in place. Having a sleep schedule that is structured and predictable helps to ensure that your baby is getting enough sleep and helps to form healthy sleep habits. Babies thrive on a predictable routine as it helps them to know what to expect in their day to day living, which creates security in their life.
Make sure to include a consistent bedtime routine – this means putting them to sleep at a consistent time each night. There’s evidence to suggest that creating a habit at an early age of going to bed at the same time each night may benefit our children when they’re a little older. School-aged children who go to bed at the same time each night may be better behaved and may perform better in school.
The dreaded sleep regression (again)
Remember the 4-month sleep regression? Yes, how could you forget! Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but your baby will go through two more sleep regressions: at 6 months and than another one around 8 or 9 months.
The good news is, like the last one, sleep regressions are temporary and will pass. There’s really not a whole lot you can do to avoid it because sleep regressions are mostly due to all the physical development your baby is experiencing around this time — learning to crawl, pulling themselves up to stand, and even taking their first steps! While this kind of development is so exciting to watch, it can definitely interfere with sleep. You’re just going to need to brave it out – it does end, I promise!
Some common sleep problems for babies 6-12 months and tips for how to solve them:
Not falling asleep independently. Almost everyone wakes up a couple times during the night — adults and babies alike. A lifetime of good sleep habits depends on knowing how to fall asleep independently both at bedtime and overnight – this is a skill babies need to learn. If your baby still needs to be fed or rocked to sleep, there are ways to coach your baby to learn to fall asleep independently.
How to solve it: Start by making some adjustments to the bedtime routine. If your baby is dependent on a bottle or breast to sleep, start scheduling the last feeding a good 30 minutes before their usual bedtime or nap. Then, when they are sleepy but not asleep, make your move and place them into their cot. Sure, they will make a fuss, but give it some time. It’s okay to offer a dummy or a comfort blankie for security (these are harmless, helpful habits for babies).
As long as your baby can drift off on their own, it's fine to go in to check on them if they wakes up at night. That doesn't mean you need to pick them up or nurse them. Once your baby has mastered the art of comforting themselves, your voice and a gentle stroke should be enough to get them settled into sleep once more.
Restless sleep due to frequent night feedings (again). By the time many babies are 6 months old, they don’t need middle-of-the-night feedings anymore. So if your baby is not sleeping without nursing and rocking first, or they are still getting up multiple times throughout the night and won’t go back to sleep without the same send-off, they may have become wise to the fact that crying often results in being picked up, rocked and fed — pretty good motivation to keep right on crying.
What to do about it: First, make sure your baby finishes their last feed of the evening before putting them to sleep and that they are getting enough to eat throughout the day too.
You might even try gently waking them just before you go to bed for an extra feeding. The idea is to maximize the number of calories your baby takes in during your waking hours, so that they don’t need to interrupt your sleep — and theirs for more food. If your baby continues waking, chances are at this stage that they are searching for comfort. So instead of offering the breast or bottle right away, attend to them in other loving ways, like patting them or some cuddles.
Another disincentive to those night feedings: Try shortening nursing sessions or cutting back the formula in their bottle. So if you really must give in to a feed, make it boring. Don't give your baby the idea that night time is playtime. Keep the lights dim during feeding (or turn them completely off where you can), and avoid bubbly conversations. (Soft lullabies are an exception!)
Waking early. Your baby is waking up early — and staying awake, sometimes as early as the crack of dawn. Depending on the time of year, where temperatures can drop down overnight, you will almost be guaranteed that your baby will wake due to being cold if they are not dressed appropriately. Daylight savings time changes can also have an effect on early morning wakings.
What to do about it:Always do room temp check and dress your baby according to lowest temperature point to ensure they sleep well throughout the night. Consider using a sleeping bag instead of blankets to keep your baby warm. Always check the TOG rating when choosing a sleeping bag as these vary on suitability depending on your geographic climate. Find out more about TOG Ratings
If they are starting to wake up early due to earlier sunrise (Daylight savings) you can prepare and start adjusting their sleep schedule ahead of time. Consider also keeping your baby's room more light and sound-proof. Try using instant black out blinds like Sleepy Sundays black out blinds to keep light from shining into their bedrooms in the early morning hours.
Teething pain. At 6 months old, your baby may sprout their first tooth. But don't worry if it doesn't happen until later. Every baby is different.
If your baby is showing signs of teething during the day — such as drooling, biting, feeding fussiness and irritability — teething pain may also be waking them up at night. Teething-related sleep issues can begin almost any time during the first year: Some babies get their first tooth by the time they're 6 months old with teething pain starting as early as 3 or 4 months, while others are toothless until their first birthday.
How to solve it: While you shouldn’t ignore your baby, try to avoid picking them up. Instead, offer a teether, choose a soft silicone teether like the K-BEAR teether to gently massage and soothe sore gums, along with gentle words and pats, or maybe a lullaby. They may settle down on their own after being comforted. If tender gums seem very painful to them night after night, talk to your doctor or paediatrician about options for pain relief.
Some developmental milestones at 6 to 12 months
By 6 months, your baby will show an interest in food and should be starting solids.
- They will have strong head control and will start to make babbling sounds.
- Most can move from tummy to sitting position on their own.
By 7 months, they will have full colour vision, and can see objects at a distance more clearly.
- They will reach with one hand and use a raking grasp (using all their fingers but not their thumb).
By 8 months, they will sit well without support. They will also start to get around by rolling, shuffling or crawling.
- At this time, they will try to chew (which means they’re ready for mashed foods rather than purees). They will also try to feed themselves or hold their own bottle.
- They will understand the word “no” but not necessarily obey it.
- They will display separation anxiety.
- By 9 months, they will have mastered the art of crawling.
Sit unsupported for longer periods (10 minutes) and be able to pull to stand from sitting while holding on to furniture.
- Point at objects and use their thumb and index finger to pick up objects.
- Hold, bite and chew food.
Understand “no” and respond to simple verbal commands. They will copy sounds and gestures.
- They will be afraid of strangers and be clingy with parents.
By 10 months, most will be able to walk sideways while holding onto furniture.
They will be able to use their thumb and index finger to pick up objects more skilfully as well as poke objects with their index finger.
- They can hold a bottle and try to hold a spoon.
- Wave “bye” and understand what it means.
By 11 months, they will try to stand unsupported for a few seconds.
- Reach for, grab, place objects in a container and even throw objects.
- Use body language to communicate, such as waving and pointing.
- Enjoy music and bounce to it.
By 12 months, they will be able to stand alone and attempt their first steps alone (if they haven't already).
- Walk with only one of their hands being held.
- Use their hands and fingers to feed themselves.
- Start to use objects correctly, such as drinking from a cup or brushing their hair.
- Turn book pages and recognize some pictures when they’re named.
- Try to imitate words you say.
- Use simple gestures like shaking their head “no” and/ or waving “bye”.
- Respond to simple verbal requests such as “pick up the toy”.
- Be fearful in some situations.
Show affection and show a preference for some people and toys.
Previous: Part 3: 3-6 Months Sleep