Sleep Training A 6-Month-Old: Tips & Techniques For Success!

Author Image By Paula McLaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH •  Updated: 12/12/23 •  Sleep / Sleep Training

Is your 6-month-old still waking multiple times a night, only sleeping when held, refusing to nap, and leaving you exhausted and desperate for a full night’s sleep? You’re not alone. 

As well as establishing healthy sleep habits, sleep training a 6-month-old is one of the best ways to help your baby (and you) get the sleep you need.

In this guide, I will share with you over 40 years of childcare experience to help your baby learn to self-soothe and sleep for extended stretches. Keep reading to find out how to approach sleep training a 6-month-old in a way that works perfectly for your family.

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Key Takeaways

What Is Sleep Training?

Can You Sleep Train A 6-Month-Old?

Yes, you can sleep-train a 6-month-old. 

Sleep training is typically recommended for babies around 4-6 months of age, as this is when they begin to develop the ability to self-soothe.

However, it’s important to remember that most 6-month-old babies will still be feeding at night, and more often than not, these night feeds are for comfort rather than nutrition. 

Now, if your baby relies heavily on feeding to fall asleep, you will find your sleep training efforts will be more successful if you night-wean your little one first. 

Trust me, trying to sleep train and night wean at the same time will be very tricky to manage. To wean your 6-month-old off nighttime feeds, read this post.

How I Approach Sleep Training

Now, before we begin I must clarify a few things. 

Firstly, I believe that sleep training is not just about implementing certain methods to get your child to sleep… 

Instead, it is about approaching sleep in such a way that you teach your little one to have a healthy and balanced approach to bedtime and naps, naturally.

Secondly, I teach parents that conventional sleep training methods are only used as a last resort after having a calming evening, practicing a consistent bedtime routine, and creating a calming sleep environment.

Sleep training of any kind can be used for both naptime and nighttime sleep, but it’s important to note that sleep training during naps is a separate event from sleep training at night depending on your child’s age, developmental stage, and temperament.

On a final note, research into sleep training is often vague and inconclusive since, in most cases, the perception of what is regarded as “good sleep” and “bad sleep” in infants and toddlers is based on their parents’ perception of how much sleep they are getting and how that impacts on their mental health.

However, I still believe certain sleep training methods have their place in teaching your little one independent and healthy sleep habits. 

By doing so, you will be helping your children get the restful sleep they need to meet their developmental milestones and grow into healthy, happy toddlers and preschoolers.

5 Common Sleep Training Methods + My Personal Technique

As with children of all ages, each one is different. Some 6-month-olds will naturally fall into a healthy regular sleep pattern while others will need a bit of extra help to get them on the right road to healthy sleep, not just for them… but for you too.

If you and your 6-month-old are struggling, then sleep training is a method that can help establish healthy sleep habits for your little one. 

While there are many different approaches to sleep training a 6-month-old, the goal is always: 

To help your baby learn to fall asleep independently and stay asleep.

Here are some of the most common sleep training methods you can consider:

Methods For Sleep Training a 6-Month-Old
  1. The Self-Soothe Technique: The self-soothe sleep method is a more subtle sleep training style and the one that I favor the most for babies and would always try first. It involves helping your baby to fall asleep on their own without any assistance from you by putting into place a routine that gives them the best possible chance to fall asleep independently. This means weaning off contact napping, having a consistent naptime routine, putting your baby down when they are drowsy and not fast asleep, and gradually reducing the amount of time you spend with your baby settling them.
  2. Ferber Method, also known as Gradual Extinction or Interval Method. This method involves gradually increasing the amount of time you leave your baby alone in their crib before going in to comfort them. The goal is to teach your baby to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own by going in to check on them at extended intervals over the training period. This method however does involve leaving your baby to cry for short periods so may not suit everyone.
  3. Chair Method, also known as Camping Out: This is one of my preferred methods. In this method, you settle your baby when they’re drowsy but not asleep and sit in a chair next to their crib. If your baby starts to cry, reassure them with words but do not pick them up and stay until they fall asleep. Over several nights, you move the chair further away until you’re eventually out of the room. Remember, always use your voice to soothe and do not pick your baby up. 
  4. Gradual Retreat or Fading Sleep Technique: The fading sleep method is often a good option if your baby takes a long time to fall asleep and needs your presence to drift off. For example, you might start by holding your baby until they fall asleep, then start putting them down when they are drowsy after a short time of holding them. Next, you can start putting them down awake and then gradually moving further away from them each night until they can fall asleep on their own. If your baby doesn’t sleep after 30 minutes, remove them from the bed and try again in 15 minutes time.
  5. Cry-It-Out Method: The cry-it-out method involves leaving your baby to cry for a set amount of time before checking on them. The idea is that your baby will learn to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own. A more intense version of the cry-it-out method is to simply leave your baby to cry it out until they exhaust themselves and go to sleep. This method can be difficult for parents to implement, and potentially harmful to a baby’s wellbeing. Use the cry-it-out technique with great caution.

Each of these methods has its pros and cons, and what works for one family may not work for another.

But remember, it’s important to be consistent with your approach and to have patience. Sleep training is not a one-night fix and the length of time it takes to sleep train can vary greatly from baby to baby.

My Preferred Sleep Training Technique For 6-Month-Old Babies

Over the years, the sleep training methods I prefer are the chair method for older children or my variation of the Ferber method which involves less crying for babies.

To use my technique, do the following:

  1. Settle your baby as normal after the bedtime or nap routine and put them down drowsy but not asleep. 
  2. If your baby fusses but is not crying leave them alone for a while as many babies fuss for a while before they fall asleep.
  3. If they do start to cry, go in and gently put your hand on them, shush them, and maybe pat their tummy for a short time but do not pick them up. 
  4. Once your baby is calm, leave the room.
  5. Repeat this as many times as necessary until they fall asleep. 
  6. The most important thing is that you do not pick them up. 
  7. Treat nighttime wakings in the same way. 
  8. Over several nights you should find that your baby takes less and less time to fall asleep and you will have to make fewer visits.
  9. Eventually, they will fall asleep alone.

Looking to get your little one to sleep quickly and effortlessly? Check out my Bedtime and Nap Cheat Sheet and master the art of making daytime naps and bedtimes as seamless as possible.

Sleep Training Tips For 6-Month-Olds

It is very important to remember that sleep training can be a challenging process and it does not suit all parents… So, you should never feel pressured to sleep train your baby. 

However, for many parents, it is an important step towards getting their baby to sleep through the night. 

To help ensure your sleep training efforts pay off, here are my top tips (refined over 40+ years of childcare experience) to help your little one’s naps, bedtimes, and nighttime wakings go smoothly:

Sleep Training Tips For 6-Month-Olds

6-Month-Old Sleep Schedule

Simply having a healthy age-appropriate sleep schedule can set your little one on the right road to falling asleep independently and having fewer night wakings (without the need for sleep training).

By 6 months old, your baby should be sleeping through the night and napping several times a day.

‘Sleeping through the night’ means that your baby is sleeping for 6 or more hours at night without waking to be fed.

Many 6-month-old babies will be sleeping for 6-8 hour stretches regularly, but it is important to remember that it is also perfectly normal for some babies to still wake during the night at this age too.

Here’s a sample 6-month-old sleep schedule that contains 3 daytime naps:

6 month old sleep schedule with 3 daytime naps

When To Consult A Pediatrician

If you have tried sleep training your 6-month-old, but there is no progress happening, you may wish to rule out any underlying condition that is impacting the process.

A pediatrician can help rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be affecting your baby’s sleep.

If your baby is experiencing stress or sleep deprivation, a pediatrician can also guide sleep tips and techniques to help your baby get regular sleep again. They may also recommend a pediatric sleep doctor to help diagnose and treat any sleep disorders.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sleep Training A 6-Month-Old

Looking for more information about sleep training a 6-month-old? Here are the most commonly asked questions about helping little ones sleep, answered just for you.

Q: How many nights does it take to sleep train a 6-month-old baby?

A: The length of time it takes to sleep train a 6-month-old baby can vary between a few nights and a few weeks. Consistency is key, and it’s important to remember that every baby is different so a technique that works for one baby, may not work for another.

Q: What are some gentle sleep training methods for a 6-month-old?

A: Several gentle sleep training methods can be used for a 6-month-old, such as the gradual retreat method and the chair method. However, the most important part of sleep training is to find a method that works best for your baby and family.

Q: Is it possible to sleep train a 6-month-old without crying it out?

A: Yes, it is possible to sleep train a 6-month-old without crying it out. Gentle sleep training methods, such as the pick-up-put-down and the chair method, can be highly effective ways to help your baby fall asleep independently without resorting to crying it out.

Q: What are the benefits of sleep training a 6-month-old?

A: Sleep training a 6-month-old can lead to better sleep for both the baby and the parents which means your daytime routines are probably going to go a lot better too. It can also help establish healthy sleep habits that last a lifetime and promote restorative sleep.

Q: How do I teach my 6-month-old to fall asleep without rocking?

A: One way to teach a 6-month-old to fall asleep without rocking is to establish a consistent bedtime routine. This can include a bath, a story, and a lullaby. When putting your baby down, gradually reduce the amount of time you rock them and put your baby down when they are drowsy until your baby can fall asleep without it. For example, if you normally rock for 20 minutes, rock for 15 minutes tonight. Then each successive night, reduce the amount of time you rock baby by 2-5 minutes.

Q: Why does my 6-month-old wake up frequently during the night?

A: There are several reasons why a 6-month-old may wake up frequently during the night, such as hunger, discomfort, habit, need for comfort, or inability to self-settle. It’s important to rule out any underlying medical issues and establish healthy sleep habits to help reduce nighttime wakings.

Q: How long should I let my 6-month-old cry it out during sleep training?

A: The length of time you let your 6-month-old cry it out during sleep training can vary. If you use the Ferber method, you start with short intervals of crying and gradually increase the time you leave your baby to cry it out. While I am not a fan of the crying-out method, especially at this age, you should follow your instincts and find a method that works best for your baby and family.

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Author Image Bio
Paula McLaren is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and a highly qualified childcare expert with over 40 years of experience as a Norland Nanny. She holds a BA (Hons) in Early Years Development & Learning (0-6 Years) and the prestigious Norland Diploma. Paula has worked as a night nanny, run a successful daycare center in London, and helped raise countless children using her tried and tested developmental and guidance methods.

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