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3-6 Month Baby Sleep Survival Guide

Baby Boy Congratulations! You have officially passed the parenting Boot Camp that is life with a newborn. You are no longer that stunned slack-jawed new parent stumbling blindly through the produce isle at the grocery. Good for you!

If you haven’t already done so,  take a few minutes to check out the Newborn Baby Sleep Survival Guide. Everything there still applies to your no-longer-a-newborn baby.

While some babies are done with swaddling by the 3 month mark, others will be happily swaddled until they are 6-9 months old. You’ll want to continue to use loud white noise and work hard to make sure you aren’t keeping baby awake too long. While your baby may be taking fewer longer naps it’s also totally normal for babies to still be filling their days with frustratingly short catnaps (check out Baby Sleep What is Normal for more details on this).

Your Baby Sleep Homework

When your baby is a newborn you can guiltlessly let them sleep wherever (basinett, your lap, etc.) and put them to sleep however (nursing, swinging, butt patting, etc.). And while it’s not time to panic, you now have 2 big pieces of homework to work on over the next few months.

1

Work Towards the Crib

Unless you are into co-sleeping for the long haul, now is a great time to start working on having your baby sleep in the crib. I’m not suggesting that the second your baby turns 3 months they need to be in the crib, but I am suggesting that 3-6 months is typically the easiest time window to make this change.

2

Teach Baby to Sleep on Their Own

This is THE BIGGIE. You want to start gradually putting your baby down awake. Some babies will fight this with a fiery passion. So the process of gradually reducing the amount of nursing, rocking, and butt patting you do can be frustrating. But it’s REALLY important. Also? Failure to do so almost guarantees you will never ever sleep through the night. That’s how important it is.

Further Reading

The Ultimate Guide to Vanquishing Short Naps
Is Your Crib as Safe as you Think?
Everything you need to know to make bedtime awesome.
How and Why to Use and Loose the Paci
Weaning Baby OFF the Swing
Bedtime What Time?
Why Your Baby Hates the Crib
What to Do About Short Naps
Are You Keeping Baby Awake Too Long?
Sleeping Through the Night Part 1
Sleeping Through the Night Part 2
What You Need to Know About Sleeping Through the Night – Part 3
Is it time for Cry it Out?
What You Need to Know About Sleep Regressions
And of course the ever popular – Baby Sleep What is Normal?

{Photo credit: Lisa Stout}

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194 Comments


  1. Hi Alexis,

    Our 3 month old is only sleeping 8-12 hours a day, usually on the lower side of that scale, and will go long stretches without sleep often 4-8 hours, and occasionally 12 straight hours without sleep. He has never slept in the crib….even once. Just won’t do it, and even sleeping in the bassinet is extremely rare(perhaps thrice, and he didn’t fall asleep there). He never, ever, ever falls asleep on his own….NEVER. It always while nursing or on the dryer in a car seat…..that’s it. We can tell he’s tired, his eyes are heavy and gives others signs, but he wants to play or feed and refuses to sleep on his own. Any ideas? I’m worried that he’s not breathing as well in the car seat, but if we take him out he wakes up 100% of the time. So we have to watch him constantly when he’s sleeping there to make sure he’s still breathing ok.

  2. Hi Alexis! I’ve been reading this website since my son was born 4 years ago. Because of this website, I stopped rocking/bouncing that baby to sleep, and he has been an awesome sleeper for a long time.
    I now have a 12 week old and I don’t rock her to sleep (or bounce her on a ball) because I learned my lesson. Except this baby nurses to sleep only at bedtime. For naps, I do eat, play, sleep only because I didn’t want a nurse to sleep association. HA!
    She puts herself to sleep for naps (swaddle, white noise, we sing a song) with minimal fussing. No nursing. She ate a long time ago, which is probably why she takes short naps, but I digress.
    For bedtime, I put her brother to bed and then tend to her. Now that I need to do 2 routines, I’m having a bit of trouble. While I read books to big brother, Dad changes baby (clean diaper and new pajamas). I come downstairs and baby nurses her last feed of the night by 7:30. She falls asleep. I take her off (or she pops off) and hold her upright for a bit (she has silent reflux and is on Axid). Then I bring her upstairs. I burp her and swaddle her. She wakes up a bit when I swaddle her. Then I turn on white noise, sing and put her in the rock and play. She sleeps great, usually about 7-8 hours the first stretch, and then every 2-2.5 hours until 8 am. Right now this works, but I’m terrified it will stop. And she will have a nurse/sleep or hold/sleep association due to reflux. Big brother never slept like this. He didn’t sleep 8 hours until he was 6+ months-she’s been doing it since 6 weeks.
    Wow I ramble!
    Okay so my question is, I know I have to move the feeding back so it is boob, bath, book, bed, but does that mean her last feed is at 6:30 instead? Then wake her up to do the rest of the routine? Will that push her to wake up earlier and have more night wakings? Or is that worth it to avoid possible trouble later on?
    I thought the second time would be easier!

  3. Hi Alexis,

    First, I love your site. I have been reading and rereading your posts practically since I came home from the hospital with my daughter, so thank you.

    I have a question for you, if you are still answering comments on this post. My daughter is 18.5 weeks now, and she was/is sleeping through the night since she was about 13 weeks and without even a dream feed since 15 weeks. So that’s, you know, amazing, ha. I’ve also been putting her to sleep in her crib and been going for/doing sleepy-but-awake since basically 8 weeks, trying to avoid creating any sleep associations I’d have to undo later. That said, she’s always been a pretty brutal catnapper until just a couple weeks ago, when her morning naps finally consolidated into a heavenly 2 hour nap. Later in the day was still kind of all over the place, but I figured it would also come together when she was ready. Fast forward to five days ago when, I assume, the 4 month sleep regression hit us. Her naps are a disaster. Back to 35-45 minutes and it is a fight to get her to take them at all. Weirdly, though, nighttime is still ok (at least for now). I literally put her down sleepy-but-awake, shush her for a bit, give her a small lovey that smells like me and she babbles/gently fusses for 1-10 minutes and then goes to sleep. I’ve literally seen her soothe herself back to sleep during the night sometimes, so I know she can do it, but for naps, I am bouncing and rocking and giving her my finger/the paci and then ending up holding her more and more. I am not really sure what to do at this point.

    I don’t know about letting her cry to sleep on her own for naps, since 1) it seems awful and terrible, 2) if she misses a bunch of naps and just cries for like an hour straight, not only will I be borderline insane, but I’m terrified it will mess up her night sleep because of overtiredness, 3) maybe this fussiness is a phase and I need to let her work it out/give her more soothing and cuddling? (Some Wonder Weeks business or something). BUT, my fear is that I am 1) teaching her to sleep only on me and with extensive soothing, 2) it is NOT a phase and the longer I do what I’m doing out of desperation the more I am reinforcing a habit and 3) what I am doing for naps is going to mess up her nights if I keep it up…

    Soooo, any advice would be incredibly welcome. Oh, I should have mentioned, I use a white noise machine, blackout curtains and a sleep sack (she can roll over now, and she likes her hands, so I had to give up the swaddles, but that was a while ago…)

    Thanks,
    Abby

    • To start, sleep training is not awful and terrible. It’s not a puppy party but neither is it terrible.

      But OK you are definitely teaching her to sleep on you. And each time she naps on you or with extensive soothing, you’re digging that groove a bit deeper. And it sounds like even WITH all that soothing, it’s a huge fight to get her to FALL asleep and STAY asleep. So you could argue – it’s not even really accomplishing that much really.

      Sleep training is definitely out there as an option. Another option for a 4.5 month old would be to consider napping in the swing? That’s probably where I would start – it may not be easy peasy on day #1 but commit to it for 3-5 days for naptime (bedtime can continue in the crib) and see what develops! CIO is always a backup plan but this might be a nice gentle segue into independent naps that you can easily wean off of in a month or two .

      Good luck!

      • Hi Alexis,

        Wow–you are quick! I should probably have mentioned that my little girl is a serious swing hating baby–has never fallen asleep in one, and doesn’t even nap in the car or a rocking chair, only bouncing or walking seem to appeal–even having poured through your post about teaching her not to be. Other than the swing, is there anything gentle that you think works, especially for someone who is, admittedly, a bit of a wuss (and my husband is worse…) but is trying not to be?

        Thanks again!

        -A

  4. Hi Alexis,
    How do you feel about thumbsucking to self soothe? I’ve poured over this entire website but can’t find anything! My LO (16 weeks tomorrow)has been a good nighttime sleeper. I worked on putting her down awake (she nursed to sleep for the first 10-11 weeks) and she can put herself to sleep. Bedtime is between 7-7:30. She was waking up for 1 or 2 feeds (usually 3:20 am and 5:30) and then up for the day btw 7-7:30. One night this week, she didn’t wake up at 3:21. When I woke up , she had busted out of her swaddle and was sucking her thumb. This happened 2 nights in a row. She got her arms out, sucked her thumb and slept until 6:30. For the past few days, I’ve left her arms out of the swaddle so she could have her thumb for naps and bedtime. She does wake herself up without the swaddle (the hand not in her mouth jerks up) but can usually go back to sleep at night. But she didn’t used to wake up repeatedly while swaddled. Naps have always been 45-50 minutes, with one or 2 long naps a week thrown in just to tease me.
    Basically, is the thumbsucking a good thing for sleep? Or would it be better to swaddle her so she didn’t wake herself up, and if she breaks free, she breaks free?
    She’s never taken a paci.

  5. I’ve posted to your FB page and just haven’t received much help from others. I thought I’d try here.
    My 3 month old (yesterday) has been a great night sleeper from day 1. We know we are blessed as my first was a wretched sleeper. However, he stopped going down for naps around the 2 month mark. It happened quickly and without me really thinking about doing anything about it because I had to do whatever to survive dealing with a newborn and toddler. So, I carried/carry him through his naps in the ktan. My back and knees can’t handle this any more. For his first nap this Monday I was able to put him down after a quick song. He protested a bit for 8 minutes, then went to sleep for 35mins. The second nap he cried 15. I couldn’t handle it. I nursed him and he slept in his crib 45 mins. Since Monday I’ve only managed to get him in the crib for the first nap of the day. I have to nurse him down every time now, and he doesn’t sleep more than 35 mins (which I’m fine with). The rest of the day I try and try. There are a lot of tears, a lot of comfort nursing, many missed windows.
    At night, I nurse while singing a song and rocking (white noise on). I burp and rock while singing, and I lay him down wide awake (most of the time). We only swaddle one arm at the first of the night. He’ll suck on his hand a few minutes, then he’s out. Sometimes he wakes after 45 mins, lay there awake for 10 or cry for 5 and he’s out. He wakes at 4-4:30 to nurse. We swaddle both arms. I can lay him down wide awake again and he’ll go to sleep no problem. The last 2 mornings he’s woken up at 6, laid quietly awake for 10-15mins and back to sleep until around 7:30. I know day time is a different animal, but how can I get him to sleep in his crib for naps without him screaming? I’m not interested in CIO until he is older. I can’t handle it. Thanks!

  6. My baby is 4 almost 5 months old…. She used to sleep great but now it’s a nightmare…. For naps she will only sleep through the whole nap while being held. She only stays in her crib for like 20 to 30 min…. I go up in her room try and comfort her but she won’t have it. At night time she sleeps from 7-11 waking up at 8 and 9 ish to be comforted. Then after 11 its down hill. She either wants to nurse and won’t go back to bed or won’t eat and won’t go back to bed. We are so exhausted! We have tried everything I feel like. No medical issues, rice cereal at night, back, tummy, side sleeping, rise one side of the bed, sleep in the same room /bed, feed before sleeping don’t feed before sleeping….. Nothing is working.

  7. My 3.5 month old sleeps through the night like a champ (nursed to sleep), but is a horrible 30-45 minute cat napper (not nursed to sleep for naps, rocked to a very very light sleep, usually opens her eyes when set down in her crib). I am trying to teach her to fall asleep on her own fully awake eyes open but she fights it like crazy. You have shared steps for getting you kid out of the swing, any suggestions for teaching your little to fall asleep on their own? She used to sleep and nap in the auto rocking and vibrating rock’n play but we successfully transitioned to the crib a few weeks ago. Still sleeps swaddled.

    I have to imagine if she’s sleeping 10-12 hours at night without waking up she knows how to move through a sleep cycle, so is she just not ready for the long nap yet? I’m so lost.

  8. Oh how I wish I would have found this site sooner! From what I’ve read on your numerous topics and the comments, I am not alone. My baby girl is 4.5 months, she cried/screamed her whole life until about 3 weeks ago. Her pediatrician said she was colicky and I’ve pretty much formed every “bad” sleep habit listed on this site in an effort to survive her colic. Using swaddling and white noise she nursed to sleep or bounced to sleep with a pacifier in my arms and we co-sleep.
    So 3 weeks ago she turned into a happy and smiling baby and I continued bath, boob, book, swaddle, white noise, dim room, and a little bouncing for 8:30 bed time BUT started trying to put her in her crib drowsy. She’s a good night sleeper once she’s asleep, wakes at 2ish and 5ish to nurse and wake up for the day at 7:30. Putting her down at night drowsy & alone did not go well so I started focusing on naps.
    Same routine for naps without the bath and try to put her in swing (she’s not a huge fan of the swing but does like to be rocked and bounced) drowsy – this has also not gone well.
    So my questions are:
    1) how many times am I supposed to try to put her down drowsy in her swing for one nap time?
    Most days I try putting her down drowsy in her swing for a nap until its time for her NEXT nap. The quickest way to get my baby alert and awake is to try and set her down.
    2) how long do I let her cry at nap time while trying to put her down drowsy?
    I’ve read that you’re not a proponent of CIO for naps (I’m not either) so I leave her for 5-10 minutes to see if she’ll settle down but 99% of the time it escalates to red faced hard crying. She missing a lot of naps because of this.
    3) at what point (how many naps does she miss) before I do something different?
    4) and what IS that something different?
    Most of my days are spent trying to get her to sleep, whereas BC (before colic) most of my days were spent holding her & nursing her while desperately trying to keep her asleep. I want to TAKE back some of my day!

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