How to get your 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 or 12 month old baby to sleep through the night is a hot topic of conversation for new parents. But getting baby used to going asleep unassisted from 6 to 12 months, is still the goal here. Getting your baby to sleep right throughout the night will take a lot of commitment on your part!

This is the third post in my series about getting your baby to sleep.

As I discussed in the earlier posts about getting baby to sleep in the first few weeks and from getting baby to sleep from 6 to 12 weeks, your baby’s routine will change regularly during this first year. And just when you think things are sorted… they’ll change again!

In this article, I’ll talk about getting your baby to sleep between 6 and 12 months.

At this point, the stage is more or less set. What you have been doing so far has set the scene for what can go on for quite some time. This of course can be wonderful or downright awful, depending on the routines you’ve set up, and depending on your child.

It’s not impossible to get a baby of this age to sleep at night, but it will take commitment and determination!

At this point, a baby who just doesn’t sleep because they have never learnt to is likely to need some form of assistance to learn what it means to go back to sleep.

There are lots of different options here, from crying it out, to modified cry it out, to fading and a plethora of other methods.

I would say that the parent knows their limits and their child’s limits best. Maybe you haven’t reached your limit and carrying on as you are works well for you. Or maybe you’re at the point where you just have to make a change.

How Long Will it Take to Sleep Train Your Baby?

To help get your 6 – 12 month old to sleep for longer stretches, you (or someone you trust) will need to set aside a reasonable time frame where the necessary time and energy during the night can be devoted to achieving your goals.

It will take a minimum of two nights and up to a week (or longer for more gentle methods) – and once you start, you should just keep going (assuming baby is well and not sick).

Choose a time that will work for the whole family. Don’t pick a time when your partner has important business meetings, or your older kids have important items on their school calendar.

Irrespective of how gentle you would like the process to be, the thing to keep in mind is that you’re changing your baby’s routine.

They have grown accustomed to your intervention in their sleep patterns, it’s the way it has worked for them for so long… they don’t see the need to change anything. But you do. So, that will mean that the process will involve tears; lots of theirs and maybe some of yours?

Keep in mind the reason for your need to change things and stay strong with it. You won’t be doing any irreversible psychological damage over a few days… certainly not compared with the damage that lack of sleep presents for you and your family!

Getting your baby to sleep

Things to consider with a baby who won’t sleep

  • Is there a bedtime routine? If not implement the bath, breast/bottle, bed schedule.
  • Try moving the cot/bed.  It could be as simple as the location is not working for your baby. Isn’t it worth a try, even if it sounds a bit wacky?
  • Look at your baby’s diet during the day. Are they getting enough calories and the right type of foods?
  • Could your baby have intolerances/allergies? Even subtle intolerances to food can have an impact on your baby.
  • If early morning waking is an issue, is your baby getting cold? Warmer PJs, a woollen singlet, a small heater in the room – perhaps on a timer, a specialist baby sleeping sack, are all options to warm baby up if being cold is the culprit.
  • Is your baby getting enough floor time/movement during the day? A baby who sits in a carseat or rocker, or lies in bed is possibly not getting enough stimulation for their age? A physically tired baby will generally sleep better.
  • Is your baby getting over-stimulated during the day? The opposite to the above holds true. A baby that’s been hauled out around the shops all day, in and out of the car, and experienced lots of different people and environments, can get over-stimulated. It can be hard for baby to wind down after such a big day.
  • Are there emotional issues going on in your household? Any upsets within a partnership (grief, unemployment, financial worries, high levels of stress, anxiety or Post Natal Depression?) Don’t underestimate the effect this can have on a small baby. I recently spoke to a Mum who had a lot of emotional distress in the form of grief, and when the majority of the stress was over her 8 month old was able to settle back to sleeping better. 

If none of the above issues apply, then it could very easily be that your baby is just in a habit of waking up and getting your attention in what has become a very specific way.

The goal would be to change the way in which you attend to your baby in the night. Cutting out feeds and minimising interaction is the intention. In this situation you’ll just need a steely resolve, and to be quite determined in setting your routine.

There are many approaches to ‘sleep training’ and finding the one that resonates best for you is key.

Baby Sleep Training – The Verbal Reassurance Method

You have to feel comfortable with your choice. But I thought I would quickly outline my own favourite method of sleep training. It falls into the modified cry-it-out space. But I add a verbal element to it. This way I reduce the physical need a baby has, by replacing it with a reassuring voice.

The verbal reassurance method is where you lay a standing/sitting baby back down, tuck or swaddle them snuggly, and say a repetitive phrase like ‘Nightie, night, it’s sleepy time’ at 5, then 7, then 10, then 15 minute intervals – with no other interaction in between.

I have also tried it at just regular 5 minute intervals with success for 6 month old twins recently, and it worked over 2.5 nights (it would have only been 1.5 with either baby alone) – I had tried every other possible gentle, holistic approach over 4 weeks!

The verbal reassurance method was the thing that worked and continues to work for them and their parents.  You have to find the thing that works for your family of course, and you have to stick to it to achieve the goal of more sleep.

Be Firm but Fair, Calm but Committed!

Overall, I would say the most important thing in getting your slightly older baby (6 months onwards) to sleep better is an unwavering state of mind.

Be firm but fair, calm and focused, and committed.

Setting your mind to it is crucial to changing baby’s sleep routine! If you are not 100% committed, I would not encourage you to try anything – just cruise along as you have been. Wait until you need the change.

When you reach the point where cruising as you have been is just not working for your family and you have to make a change, the satisfaction you will feel by getting your baby to sleep through the night will be immense, and will be well worth the effort – the harder moments will seem more possible with the overall goal in mind.

That said, the earlier you start, probably the easier it will be.

Don’t be afraid to ask for, and even pay for, help. It could just be easier to get someone else to ‘sleep train’ for you, either by hiring some help or requesting assistance from another family member or a friend. Many sleep consultants can help you sleep train by Skype and email now. You don’t have to do this alone!

Trust your instinct, trust that you’re doing the best by you and your family, and trust the process. It will work! You can do it!

You may also want to read Getting Baby to Sleep – 6 – 12 Weeks, or take a look at Kathy Fray’s 13 Steps to a Sleeping Baby. Or for more expert advice and sleeping tips, check out our Sleep section.

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Jayne has over 18 years experience in caring for children and has worked in both New Zealand and the UK. She has a vast range of expertise and can offer help and advice if you are struggling with your children. You can read more about Jayne on her website- Everything But The Stork. Jayne writes regular columns for Kiwi Families and will also answer your questions about babies and children

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