WHAT IS A DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONE?
Developmental milestones involve physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and communication skills that mark a child’s development from infancy into childhood.
That first giggle, the first time they roll over, those thrilling first steps & first words are some of the most exciting & memorable moments of watching our children grow.
Milestones such as rolling over, sitting, crawling, pulling to stand, walking and talking are HUGE accomplishments for your baby but did you know that each new stage can cause disrupted sleep?
Emerging motor skills may involve disrupted sleep and impact sleep quality. It is super common for babies to suddenly start taking shorter naps, waking more frequently overnight and being difficult to settle when they are learning a new skill. Just remember it's completely normal for children to seek reassurance from us as they go through big changes, and they might need a little more comfort than usual. These sleep challenges should only be temporary as your little one goes through a period of adjustment.
HOW TO APPROACH SOME COMMON PHYSICAL MILESTONES THAT CAN AFFECT SLEEP
ROLLING OVER (3+ months)
You should stop swaddling your baby as soon as they are showing signs of being able to roll over or when they are 6 months old, whichever comes first. You can start by first having one arm out of the swaddle for a couple of days to help them adjust gradually, or you can rip the bandaid off and have both arms out all at once. There is no right or wrong way, but do expect a few unsettled days as your baby adjusts.
Once you are no longer swaddling, infant sleeping bags or sleep sacks are a good option to keep your baby snug and warm. Sleeping bags usually limit mobility a little which can help prevent them from doing cartwheels in their cot or climbing out of their cot when they get to the fun escapee stage! Sleeping bags are also a great positive sleep association that will signal it is time for sleep. Check out my post about positive sleep associations here or here.
If your baby can roll in both directions unaided then it is ok to put them to sleep on their back and let them find their own natural sleeping position. If they can only roll unaided in one direction, then you should gently roll them on to their back whenever you see they have rolled onto their front or side.
CRAWLING, STANDING & WALKING (9+ months)
It is very normal for babies to go through a phase of standing in the cot when they should be sleeping! It may be tempting to go in there and lay them back down but this can quickly become a game, especially if you are repeatedly going in and laying them down over and over. I recommend not intervening unless it is necessary, such as if they get stuck and need your help or if they become upset. If they are standing or crawling around their cot but they are happy and safe, try to leave them be. Eventually they will lose interest in it or they will become tired enough to lay down and go to sleep.
TIPS FOR GLIDING THROUGH DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES
1. Provide your baby with ample opportunity to practice their new skills throughout the day.
This means lots of floor and tummy time for rollers and crawlers! You can encourage crawling by putting something of interest just out of reach to provide a little motivation. For standers and walkers you can help them practice pulling up and cruising along furniture in a safe space or try a push walker. Practice during their awake window helps them to master these new skills, gives them the stimulation and physical activity they crave and makes it less of a novelty at nap time and overnight.
2. Follow age-appropriate awake time guidelines & recognise your baby’s early sleep cues.
By doing so you will be putting your baby down when they are ready for sleep, which should reduce their temptation to have a cot party at nap time. If you are unsure about awake times and are struggling with your routine, please reach out for support.
3. Remain consistent & know that this too shall pass!
Learning new skills is exciting, challenging and involves a lot of physical and mental effort. Try to stick to your usual routine and be mindful not to introduce any new habits that you don't want to continue after this transitional period.
Expect your baby’s sleep to be temporarily impacted as they go through this adjustment period. Be patient, give yourself grace, and don’t panic because you are now armed with the info to handle this like an expert!
If you are in need of a little more help, reach out today for a complimentary 15 minute consultation where we can discuss your sleep concerns and how I can assist you. My approach is gentle, flexible and tailored to YOU, your unique situation, parenting style and child's personality.
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