Your 4- to 6-month-old baby’s sleep routine


By Jolandi Becker – MD of Good Night

From ages 4–6 months, babies develop and change a lot, which could have an impact on your little one’s sleep. Sleep consultants view this as important changes because we celebrate the fact that your little one is forming sleep cycles and the ability to independently link them. 

Setting up a good sleep routine and schedule for during the day can be a game changer, helping you to avoid fatigue and unnecessary waking at night.

How much sleep do they need?

At this age, babies require a total of 13–15 hours’ sleep. This is divided into 3–4 naps during the day and a total of 11–12 hours’ sleep at night. 

What is normal sleep?

Your baby may still need 1–2 feeds during the night, depending on how much they fed during the day and their weight. In fact, at this age, most babies need a feeding during the night. Sleeping throughout the night, even though it is possible, is a bonus!

The naps would probably be short, around 45 minutes each. You might get lucky and your baby might nap longer in one nap, but during this phase, short naps are the norm and there is nothing wrong with it. At this age, babies start seeing further and their hand-eye coordination improves. This means that they can easily be overstimulated, causing them to sleep shorter periods at a time.

Top tips for setting up a schedule for your 4- to 6-months-old baby

It is impossible to set up a strict time bound schedule at this age, and trying to establish this might cause you stress rather than assist you.

We advise that you keep the following three things in mind while setting up a daily schedule. This should assist with your baby’s sleeping routine becoming more predictable:

1.Split the day into 12 day-time hours and 12 night-time hours but include some flexibility.
Let your day start between 06h00 and 07h00, and end between 18h00 and 19h00. You may adjust these times but be aware that 06h00 is already pushing it because in South Africa the sun rises around 05h00 in the summer. If your little one regularly wakes up earlier in the morning, it might be a sign that you need to adjust your bedtime to an earlier time.

2. Keep an eye on the length of your baby’s awake time:
4 months: 1h45–2h00
5 months: 2h00–2h15

6 Months: 2h30

3. Follow what we call a SLEEP, FEED and PLAY routine during the day. This means feeding your baby when they wake up from a nap and not before they take the nap. The SLEEP, FEED and PLAY routine is the best way to teach your baby to fall asleep without sleep associated behaviour like feeding, rocking or holding. This type of routine also helps your baby to digest the food while upright, helping them with cramps, pooping and even reflux!

Although they do need quite a bit of sleep at this age, on the positive side, they already have all the mechanisms in place to fall asleep on their own and to link sleep cycles during the night. This is a good age to lay the foundation for a sleep routine to ensure you have a great sleeper for life!