So, you thought that you had nailed it – your baby has just mastered the art of sleeping through the night and bang – it's all gone sideways because they have developed a new motor skill.
Here is a list of motor development milestones – how they can affect sleep and what you can do to help your baby get back on track. A recent study noted that there was a relationship between an onset of night wakings and motor development milestones – babies were found to have a harder time settling down to sleep and would start waking more frequently at night, two weeks before they took their first steps. It is also important to remember that often babies wake up at night and like to practice their new found skills as it is so much more exciting than going to sleep – in fact, they like to cry a little or give you a call to join them for their late night rendezvous.
o 4 – 6 months
Rolling over from their back to their front but can not roll back.
Once a baby starts to roll, the above scenario will have you up a couple of times in the night to help your baby roll back, onto their back. If you have not witnessed them roll from their tummy to their back then they probably have not yet mastered that skill – so you might have to help out initially. However, once you have seen them do it – you should refrain from getting too involved otherwise they will be calling for you to come and do it for them every time. Once a baby has the ability to roll over the neck muscles are stronger and the chance of SIDS decreases. Lots of parents worry about their baby and this tragic phenomenon, but there is no need to worry, your baby is developing normally and is building even more strength for their next amazing step.
o 6 – 9 month
Sitting – Crawling & Standing
Sitting – Once a baby has grown into their head they are not so top heavy anymore and they finally have the ability to sit. You may find that once in bed then can go from being on their back to rolling to doing a fast push- up and are up in 5 seconds flat. For co-sleeping parents this can be especially challenging once there little one is awake and sat up, they think its super fun to poke your eye and touch your nose, while practicing the odd vowel or delightful squeal at the same time. OUCH! You should deal with this by laying them back down and saying a key word or shhh in a calm and collective manor, limit eye contact and do not do anything that will get them excited into thinking it is morning time. They may sit back up a few other times but lay them back down again.
Crawling – This is the one that you were waiting for – your little sugar plum starting to crawl and then of course – when it happens – you realize that you had so much more control when they were sitting only. Whether your baby is crawling on all fours, using their hands, with bum in the air and their legs like they are walking, or sitting on their bum and scooting around in reverse, this is another little wrench in the sleep works for you!
Babies just love to practice this kind of stuff during the night when waking during their light sleep phase. You put them to bed in one spot and the next time you see them they are squashed up in the corner with a blanket intertwined around their limbs looking rather like a pretzel.
Crawling can also bring on separation anxiety as your little one starts to realize that they are not an attachment of you but their own separate being. This type of anxiety has a distinctive cry that is often described by parents as more of a scream or as hysterical and can cause quite a bit of sleep regression.
Standing up in the crib is extremely frustrating for parents especially when this happens half way through sleep training. Just a few nights ago you could lay your baby down and they would drift off to sleep – now you lay them down and before your back is turned two little hands grasp onto the crib rails and the top of a head peppered with wisps of fine hair is struggling to peek over the top. This scenario always makes me chuckle even though it is frustrating. I think it is one of the cutest things to have your little one try and stretch to see you. If you have already left the room though and then they decide to stand it can leave your child with the feeling of being stranded – COME BACK- they cry – for you to be met by a gummy smile and wet cheeks. For most little monkeys who have reach this stage – they can get up but not down, the most worrying part is the possibility that they could fall and bang their head. If this milestone happens before sleep training – then hold off while you teach your baby how to lower himself back down. This can be done by placing your hands on top of theirs on the crib slats and lowering them down and saying a key word as well. If you are in the middle of sleep training you should stay close by and keep helping them down just be careful that you do not turn it into a game – but practice teaching them how to get back down during the day too. If they are already sleep trained – you may have some regression – so you will be back to going in at night for a short while – stay in night time mode and do not make too much of a fuss. The phase will pass and next on the list is walking!
o 9 – 12 months plus
Walking – another bump in the night for you – during these milestones their will be no stopping your little one as they want to explore every avenue possible – yes they will wake up at night and practice scaling the crib – walking up and down – be careful and refrain from having anything in the crib that is hard that could be a possible hazard and if you need to put some crib bumpers on or safety proof then go ahead.
Offer lots of opportunities throughout the day for you little one to explore and use up their energy, at this age they barely stop for to breath. Babies rarely like to be confined to their strollers or strapped into car seats at this age.Although your little one is full of energy that they are just waiting to burn off they still need an adequate amount of sleep so do not be fooled into thinking that naps are not important just because your toddler is not showing signs of slowing down. At this age they still need between 11 – 12 hours of nighttime sleep and 2 – 3 hours during the day made up of two naps.