It’s hard to sleep or get anything done when your 6 month old baby won’t sleep unless held. Learn how to help your baby sleep on his own!
I was convinced my 6 month old hated sleep.
Or rather, he slept well enough—but only if he was snuggled in my arms. Any time I tried to put him down, he’d wake up and immediately start to cry. Of course, the minute I picked him up, he’d go right back to sleep.
The few times he’d keep sleeping only bought me maybe 20 minutes of sleep before he’d wake up once again. So much so that I’d give up and resort to holding him the whole time until he woke up.
As much as I kept hoping he’d grow out of it, 6 months of sleep deprivation made me think that he might not. That I was enabling habits that made it impossible for him to fall asleep on his own. It went so far that I started to think that this is just who he is—that he simply wasn’t a “good sleeper.”
When your 6 month old baby won’t sleep unless held
If you’re reading this, my guess is that you’re starting to lose it, too.
You wake up five times a night and have resorted to co-sleeping because your baby won’t sleep in the crib. He suddenly won’t nap during the day unless you’re holding or nursing him to sleep. This might be fine, except that you also have a toddler to tend to and things you need to do during the day.
Trying to do everything with him in your arms is wearing on you. What can you do to get him to sleep without being held and stop this sleep regression once and for all?
As you likely know, no single solution works for everyone. Different methods can work depending on his personality (and yours). An easy-going baby could get by with a certain tactic that wouldn’t work for a fussier one.
That’s why I want to offer a few suggestions you could try, keeping in mind your baby’s temperament. As always, check with your pediatrician before making any major changes—she knows his needs well and can give you the A-Okay to go ahead.
Once you’re ready, give these tips a try:
1. Teach your baby to self soothe
I’ll be upfront: The one method that finally got my 6 month old to sleep 11-12 hours straight at night—in the crib, no less—was sleep training.
I had resisted the idea of sleep training because I hated the idea of him crying. But I’ve since learned that it’s not the crying that puts him to sleep, but that sleep training is giving him the opportunity to even try to sleep on his own.
At this age, I also knew that he could take in all his calories during the day and sleep a long stretch at night. That all the rocking and nursing I’d been doing was actually preventing him from learning how to put himself to sleep.
The difference was night and day. By checking in on him frequently but briefly and establishing new habits, he was able to sleep on his own after only two nights.
Free resource: Interested in getting started? Check out a preview chapter of How to Teach Your Baby to Self Soothe! Sign up for my newsletter and learn all about the mindset that makes for successful sleep training. Grab it below—at no cost to you:
2. Help your baby settle to sleep
Not ready for sleep training? You can try a modified version, one that combines giving him the chance to self soothe with helping him calm down when he fusses.
Instead of holding him to sleep, put him down awake in the crib. Do what you can to soothe him to a sleepy state, like patting him on the tummy or singing him to sleep. If he whimpers, give him a pacifier or gently rock his body.
And if he’s outright crying, pick him up to calm him down, but not to put him to sleep. As soon as he’s calm, put him back down and allow him to sleep on his own. Repeat this pattern until he falls asleep.
You’ll likely see a progression over time. For instance, he may have only slept for five minutes the first time you put him down before he woke up crying. But the second time, perhaps he stretched it to 10 minutes, and so forth.
You’re giving him a chance to sleep away from your arms, but you’re still nearby to soothe him to sleep when he fusses.
3. Lie down next to your baby
Do you have a mattress on the floor? One way to ease the baby out of your arms, especially for naps, is to lie down next to him.
While you’re carrying him in your arms, make your way to the mattress to lie down. Set him down on the mattress with your arms still around him. Then, ease your arms out from under and around him so that you’re not holding him.
And finally, slowly move away from the mattress so that you can be up and about.
While this doesn’t solve the problem of letting him fall asleep on his own, this does afford you a much-needed break to be able to do what you need to do.
4. Wear your baby
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At 6 months old, your baby is still small enough to be able to worn in a sling or wrap. Like lying down on a mattress, you’re still helping him sleep, but at least you have both hands free to get things done while he’s snuggled against you.
The biggest downside with baby wearing at this age is that he’ll outgrow it or get too heavy. But for especially challenging days, using a baby wrap can be a lifesaver to finally get him to sleep.
5. Let your baby play or talk himself to sleep
In the past, any time I’d find my baby awake in the crib or bassinet, I’d scoop him up right away and rock him back to sleep. I assumed that, because his eyes were open, he’d scream and cry. I wanted to prevent that from happening, so I rocked him before it got to that point.
Only later did I realize that it’s okay for a baby to play or talk himself to sleep.
I learned my lesson a few years later when I had my twins. If they happened to open their eyes after I’d put them down, I’d wait and see what they’d do first. Did they fuss and cry half the time? Sure, but they’d also fall asleep on their own, too.
The next time your baby wakes up after you put him down, wait to see what he does first. He might babble himself to sleep, turn his head side to side, and eventually fall asleep.
6. Have a sleep routine
Your baby can’t tell time yet, but that doesn’t mean he can’t pick up a few cues that it’s time to fall asleep. Sometimes, all you need are consistent rituals that signal to him that it’s time to sleep.
For instance, you can:
- Play music on his mobile
- Read a calm book
- Draw the curtains to keep the room dark
- Turn on white noise
- Hand him a lovey
- Sing a nursery song
When you do these activities, preferably in the same order, he’ll begin to associate this routine with sleep time.
Six months of sleep deprivation is no joke, but thankfully you now have a few methods to try to get your baby to sleep.
Teach him to self soothe so he can fall asleep on his own. If sleep training isn’t for you, help him soothe himself to sleep, giving him an opportunity to at least try. Lie down next to him on a mattress on the floor, easing your way out once he’s asleep.
Put him in a baby wrap so that you can at least get things done. If he’s awake in the crib but not crying, let him talk or play himself to sleep. And finally, establish a routine that signals it’s time to sleep.
You don’t have to be sleep deprived, mama—even if it feels like your baby hates to sleep.
Get more tips:
- What to Do When Your Teething Baby Won’t Sleep Unless Held
- The Biggest Reason Your Baby Will Not Sleep (Even After All This Time)
- How to Manage Being Alone with the Baby
- Why I Regret Rocking My Baby to Sleep
- How to Stay Calm when Your Baby Won’t Nap
Don’t forget: Join my newsletter and grab a preview chapter of How to Teach Your Baby to Self Soothe below—at no cost to you: