What to Expect
By 9 months, your little one has probably transitioned to taking two naps per day (one at 9:00/9:30 a.m. and one at 2:00/2:30 p.m.), if she was taking three or four shorter ones. At 9-months-old, babies can definitely sleep through the night and no longer need nighttime feedings. If your baby has started to crawl, don’t be surprised if she would rather practice her new skill rather than sleep.
Keep things consistent! As your baby gets older, you can certainly change some of the activities to make sure they are appropriate for her age (for instance, add a quiet interactive song or change the bedtime book), but keep the same general bedtime routine. Similar to when your infant was younger, make sure feeding is the first step of the routine instead of the last, and work toward helping her fall asleep independently at bedtime.
As your little one gets older and more aware of her surroundings, it may become a bit more challenging to help her learn to fall asleep on her own. Consistency is key. If she is struggling to learn this self-soothing skill, you can take one of two approaches. You can end the routine by putting her down in her crib, leaving the room, and returning as frequently or as infrequently as you wish to check on her. When you go in to check on her, you can provide a brief and consistent verbal response such as, “Goodnight, I love you,” then leave and come back in as many times as you would like until she falls asleep. Alternatively, you can spend a few nights ending her routine by putting her down and patting her until she falls asleep, the next few nights remaining in the room/doorway until she falls asleep providing those consistent verbal responses, then the next few nights leaving the room but consistently checking on her. Either approach will take consistency and practice.
If having her fall asleep independently (on her own) is not a goal for you and your family, though, don’t worry. Some babies can sleep through the night without needing to learn to self-soothe at bedtime. Other babies can sleep for longer stretches after simply moving the bedtime feeding to the beginning of the bedtime routine (or before the routine altogether). If you start having trouble with night wakings, though, working on self-soothing at bedtime will usually do the trick to help her sleep for longer stretches overnight.
Somewhere between 6- and 11-months-old, your little one will probably start pulling herself up to a standing position. She may also do some walking! Some of these typical developmental milestones can change bedtime a bit. For instance, after your put your little one down at bedtime she may immediately stand up and reach for you. If that happens, go ahead and lay her back down the first few times saying the same thing each time such as, “it’s night-night time, I love you.” If she keeps doing it after the first few times, go ahead and let her figure it out herself. Make sure, though, that she knows how to get back down on her own. Some little ones don’t know how to get back down once they pull themselves up. If she doesn’t know how, practice with her during the day, keeping your bedtime routine consistent.
Babies around 6-months-old sleep, on average, 11 to 15 hours per 24-hour period. There is great variability in infant sleep, though. If you think your baby sleeps too much and is quite drowsy during the day despite getting a lot of sleep, be sure to contact your health care provider. Similarly, if you can tell that your little one is not getting enough sleep or has poor sleep quality (for instance, she wakes frequently or snores) contact your health care provider.
All babies wake naturally during the night 2 to 6 times. Just like younger infants, some older infants wake during the night then return to sleep on their own, without crying and alerting the adults taking care of them. Other babies wake naturally during the night then cry because they need some help to return to sleep. Thinking about how your little one falls asleep at bedtime will help you fix her night wakings. For example, if your little one always uses a pacifier at bedtime to fall asleep, then cries during the night when she cannot return to sleep without it, you can do one of two things. Your first option is to wean her pacifier at bedtime. Your second option is to help her learn to get her pacifier on her own during the night. Place several pacifiers in one corner of the crib. Help her to practice reaching for one and putting it in her mouth at bedtime and during the night when she wakes. Eventually she will be able to get it on her own!
Know, too, that babies typically no longer have the physiological need to be fed overnight once they are about 6-months-old, unless there is a significant feeding or growth issue. If your older infant still needs to be fed to go back to sleep after a natural night waking, make sure you move feeding to the beginning of her bedtime routine or before the routine altogether and outside of the bedroom altogether. This will help break the association between feeding and falling asleep. Until she knows how to fall asleep on her own at bedtime, respond to night wakings calmly and consistently to help get you and your family back to sleep as quickly as possible.
Between 6- and 8-months-old, your infant may still be on one of two nap schedules – with some babies taking several shorter naps per day, each beginning about 2 hours after they last woke, and other babies taking two consistent naps. By 9-months-old, most babies are on a consistent two nap per day schedule. The first nap is typically at about 9:00 or 9:30 a.m. and the second at 2:00 or 2:30 p.m. Just like when she was younger, try not to let her nap any later than about 4:00 p.m. – if she naps late in the day it might be hard for her to fall asleep at bedtime.
Another thing you can do to help your baby nap is to do a mini-naptime routine. Make the routine similar to her bedtime routine but shorter. Try putting her down awake for naps, too. If she still has to work on that skill at bedtime, start there. When you’re working on falling asleep independently at naptime, feel free to just work on one nap at a time. That way, if she has a hard time falling asleep for one nap she still can fall asleep easily for her second. Finally, whenever possible, have your little one nap where she typically sleeps overnight.
Family & Environment
Remember – even though your baby is getting older she’s still too young to have anything in her crib with her when she is sleeping. That means you should make sure to take any toys or blankets out of the crib, and definitely remove any bumpers. Also, your baby is probably old enough at this point to roll over on her own. Keep putting her on her back at the beginning of the night when she falls asleep, but if she rolls over during sleep, there’s no need to do anything about it. During the day, help her to practice rolling onto her stomach then back over onto her back. If she’s rolling over, also remember to wean her swaddle if she still has one. Be sure to remove any mobiles or other hanging objects from over the crib in case she can grab and pull those objects.