Baby Sitting Up Sleeping? How To Help Your Child Through This Milestone

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Why Do Babies Sit Up During Sleep Time?

Is your baby waking and sitting up at night? Or sitting up and sleeping? Does your baby wake up in the night, sit up and cry, or have trouble lying back down from sitting? If this sounds like what’s happening, chances are, your baby is learning a new motor skill. Sitting! This developmental milestone can stress your baby’s sleep, and yours too. Let’s look at what’s happening and how to fix it.
Sitting is a brand-new skill for your baby, and your baby is practicing their brand-new move! As babies learn new skills, their bodies instinctively need to practice their moves. When given plenty of space and a place to roam (like their crib at night!) babies can’t help but move around as nature intended.

Is It OK For Babies To Sit Up Sleeping?

Sitting up at night can become a problem if your child is stuck, or at risk of falling over and becoming hurt. There are times when you may need to help your baby lie down.
Here’s what you can do to make sure this milestone doesn’t derail your baby’s sleep.

You Can Help Your Baby Lie Down

If your baby sits up at bedtime, I recommend going in to lay them down.
I recommend doing this every few minutes until they stay lying down on their own. You would have to be somewhat methodical about it and go in and out without a lot of interaction or stimulus to them. After night waking, I recommend doing the same thing.

Daytime Practice: Sitting Up and Lying Down

Allow them plenty of time to practice this milestone during the day. Let them go from sitting up to lying down on their own. Some parents hesitate to let their baby go from sitting to lying down on their own during the day. They don’t want their baby to topple over on the floor because they don’t want them to get hurt or startled.
If you’re concerned, I recommend putting a thick blanket or pad on the floor while you watch your child. I don’t recommend putting fluffy pillows all around to soften a baby’s toppling. Pillows can keep them from knowing how it feels to go all the way from sitting to lying down on their own.
Babies want to practice moving as much as they can. It is best to allow them that opportunity. While I don’t like rushing babies through milestones, frequent waking causes sleep loss. But sleep can get back on track soon with lots of practice and movement.
What helps most is a baby’s eagerness to practice and learn. With practice, comes faster learning. When given plenty of floor space to move on, babies can get used to their bodies and move as nature intended.
This is a big reason why I am not a fan of bouncy seats, jumpers, swings, and strollers for daytime sitting. These items are confining, and in the end, may inhibit a child’s ability to get comfortable in their body.

What If Baby Falls Asleep Sitting Up?

At this point, you have two choices. You can go in and lay them down on their side, or you can wait for them to lie down on their own when they rouse from a sleep cycle.
If they fall over on their own, they could wake up and cry. We can’t assume that they will always wake and cry if they fall over after rousing from a sleep cycle. Going in to lay them down could wake them too. But we can’t assume that it will wake them every time. If they are in a deeper state of sleep, they will be less likely to wake up.
In my experience, either choice is as good as the other. I understand that both choices can be scary for any parent. No one wants their baby to wake and startle from falling over after sitting up. No one wants to risk waking their baby who’s fallen asleep in a sitting position.
One thing I recommend that can make that decision easier is to put them in a pack-n-play, instead of a crib. Do this until they’ve mastered sitting up and lying down. If they do fall over in a pack-n-play, they won’t fall against hard crib rails. Falling onto the mesh sides of the pack-n-play is less likely to startle them, and it won’t hurt them.
More good news is that even if they fall asleep sitting and you lay them down and they wake up, they will go back to sleep. It may feel like they won’t, but they will.
Even better, this milestone (like all milestones) only lasts a week or two. If your child was a good sleeper before, you can have a good sleeper again. The above recommendations will help you stay on track.
If your child has struggled with sleep for a long time, I help babies and toddlers sleep better. I start by learning what will work especially for them as unique individuals.

Reach Out For Help If You Need It!

This is one of my favorite milestones, and I love to help families in any way I can. If you’re struggling with a baby who sits up in the night, you don’t have to suffer lost sleep. Everyone can start sleeping again in a few nights, and you don’t have to do CIO or leave your baby to make sleep happen! Reach out for a call.


Kim Rogers, M.A.
Kim Rogers, M.A.

I’m Kim Rogers, a solo mom by choice, pediatric sleep consultant, parent coach, maternal mental health advocate, and child mental health advocate. With conflicting information online, I’m here to share the missing pieces and what works. For blog requests, email me.

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If you want me to help you with your child’s sleep

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