Developmental Milestones and Sleep Regressions

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Is Your Baby’s Sleep Disrupted By Learning New Motor Skills?

As your baby changes and grows, they’ll start developing motor skills. Babies are incredible little beings. They constantly surprise us with their growth and development. Every milestone they reach is a cause for celebration. It shows how they are thriving and learning new things. But milestones can also disrupt sleep and create chaos in the night.
When babies learn something new, they often feel compelled to practice it over and over again. It’s like they have an unconscious desire to perfect their newfound skill. This eagerness to practice can manifest at bedtime and during the night. Instead of settling down, they may squirm, roll, or attempt to crawl or walk, even in their sleep.

Babies Get Stuck Practicing New Motor Skills At Sleep Times

As a parent, it can be challenging to witness this chaos during what should be a restful time for both you and your baby. You may be returning your little one to a comfortable sleeping position at night.
Babies have a knack for getting themselves into uncomfortable positions while they sleep. They may wedge themselves between the crib slats. Or they end up in odd angles that seem uncomfortable.
In these moments, it becomes your role to guide your baby back to a more suitable sleeping position. This can involve repositioning them in the crib.
But as babies grow and learn, their bodies and brains are changing fast. This can sometimes interfere with their ability to settle down and sleep at night. Patience and understanding are key during these periods of change and development.
But babies can seem stuck in a developmental milestone. They can need you to endlessly return them to a comfortable sleeping position. What if your baby seems stuck in a milestone? Let’s look at each motor skill, from rolling to walking, and see what to do if it’s disrupting everyone’s sleep in a big way.

Assist at Night



If your baby has started rolling from back to front, they may wake up and cry out. This is because they can’t roll from front to back again on their own during their sleep.
You may need to go to them and flip them back over. Flip them back over without lingering, for about a week or two, until they can roll in both directions on their own.
If your baby is starting to crawl, they may end up “practicing” on all fours when you lay them down for bed. First, wait to see if they will settle on their own. After 10-20 minutes, if they haven’t settled, go to them and guide them to the mattress. I recommend doing this only for about a week. If they haven’t started lying down on their own by the end of the week, wait until they do lie down on their own. They will!
If your child has fallen asleep in a standing position, lie them down instead of letting them fall. They may wake again when you lie them down, and you may have to start the process over again. But this is better than letting them fall and get hurt.
If your child has fallen asleep in a sitting position, you can lie them down from sitting. You can also wait until they rouse on their own and lie down on their own.

Repetition Is Key

If your baby is stuck in one of these stages, it can need a lot of repetition. You may end up going to your child several times each night over the course of a week or two. But after going in to assist so many times, don’t go in anymore. Your child should be able to navigate the developmental milestone on their own by then.
Only go in until your baby has mastered the skill and can return to a comfortable position on their own. It takes about a week on average. Some babies get there in a few days, and some need up to two weeks.
Let Them Move!
If at any time you notice that your child has mastered the milestone during the day, don’t go in at night anymore. Once they can move through these milestones with ease during the day, I find that it is best to let them be. If you keep going in and adjusting your child, you could have an angry awake baby on your hands.
If you want to stay with your baby until they fall asleep, that’s ok too. Just don’t do anything that could create a new “sleep prop” or parent-led sleep association for your baby.
You may have worked hard to help your baby learn independent sleep and self-soothing. If so, don’t reintroduce an old sleep prop, such as rocking to sleep, when you do stay with your baby.
Over the course of a week or two, gradually move yourself away from your child’s bedside. This way they’ll be comfortable and used to sleeping on their own again.

Consistency is Key

Often when a baby has a bit of a sleep regression, it only takes a nudge in the right direction to get back on track. Babies who know how to fall asleep without sleep props will accept going to sleep on their own again in a few nights.
Not every family experiences a regression with developmental milestones. The key is consistency (no mixed messages). Also letting your child move and practice milestones as much as possible during the day. Keep an eye on what you’re doing and your responses so that you don’t give your child confusing or mixed messages.
Get Help If You’re Stuck Too!
Stuck in a milestone and can’t find your way out? Reach out for help. I specialize in helping babies get comfortable in their bodies and their beds. And in this way, they can find their way to sleep. Book a discovery call to let me know what’s going on with your child’s sleep, and let’s figure a way out.

I hope you enjoy this blog post. If you want me to help with your child’s sleep, just book a call. 

Kim Rogers, Pediatric Sleep Consultant

Written by Kim Rogers

Kim Rogers, M.A., is an advocate for children's mental health, maternal mental health, secure attachment, and healthy family systems. She has a certificate in Infant Mental Health from IMPH and The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. She has completed the 2020 MOM Project for Maternal Mental Health. Kim is a Pediatric Sleep Consultant and the founder of Sleeping Well Consulting. Kim works one-on-one with families as a sleep coach and parent coach. Book a Complimentary Discovery Call Today

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