We all get excited when babies learn to do new things. Who isn’t happy to see that first cute smile? Which parent is not proud to see their baby starting to crawl, roll, sit, or walk? Who isn’t waiting for the first words coming out from these tiny lips?
These are developmental milestones that play an important role in the baby’s life.
Developmental milestones typically fall into three categories: physical, language, and cognitive.
Physical milestones include gross motor skills which are easy to notice such as rolling, sitting, crawling, pulling to stand, and walking.
Language milestones include not only language and speaking but also babbling, imitating, vocalizing, developing new vocabulary, combining words and sentences.
Cognitive and social milestones – include the skills which allow babies to understand the world around them and interact with others. Understanding object permanence and separation can make it difficult for little ones to separate or have someone new put them to sleep.
When a baby is going through one of such learning experiences, it is common to see a sleep regression. Once the little one goes through a new milestone, his mind and body are working more intensely. Even though a new experience can bring lots of fun, it can also make the baby more tired and therefore, more difficult to settle.
Pediatric expert Dr. T. Berry Brazelton explains that a surge of growth in brain development that happens during a developmental milestone ( like learning to walk) often coincides with another part of development slowing down or regressing (like speaking). So, what’s causing your baby’s current sleep regression could be a milestone he’s hitting like rolling over, standing, or walking.
I understand that it can be so challenging and even frustrating to see your good sleeper facing difficulties with sleep. However, you have to know that this is quite normal and it will not last forever.
So, today I would like to share 3 tips with you which will help you to overcome such sleep regression:
1. Encouraging the Practice of the New Milestone
Once a baby hits a certain milestone, he has a biological urge to keep practicing that new skill. The practice becomes unstoppable at the very beginning.
The new learners have to practice and practice the skill and even get frustrated until they reach some level of mastery.
I remember when my own son learned to stand up in his crib. He would just stand up and then after a while would start crying because he didn’t know how to go down on his own. I couldn’t leave him like this. So, I would go to him and lay him down but just a few minutes late he would stand up again. That story continued and continued and he was getting really frustrated and tired. I just couldn’t understand why he kept standing up again and again…
Now I know that all he needed was to practice it until he finally managed to go back down on his own.
So, providing lots of opportunities throughout the day to practice the new learning experience will help babies to learn that new skill. The more they will practice it, the quicker they will master it.
So, if you want your little one to practice how to get down on his own from standing to sitting, let him try to go down again and again during the day. You can just stand in front of him and do the same, saying: “This is what it looks like to stand up”, “This is what it looks like to sit down”, “This is what it looks like to lay down”.
If “the new learners” don’t get enough time and possibilities to practice the new milestone during the day, I assure you that they are going to do it at night.
Another thing to keep in mind is to be careful once you go to assist your little one while he is in the crib. Don’t give him too much attention once you go to him. If every time he stands up and you go in to have a 5-minute cuddle or talk, he could start associating the fact that when he stands up and cries, he gets rewarded by your talk and cuddles. If that happens, you will be in a tough spot.
What I advise you to do instead is go to his room when needed, move him to a different position and leave the room as fast as you can, not showing much attention.
2. Providing More Opportunities for Sleep
If your little one has a difficult time settling down to sleep or his naps are becoming too short, give him more time in his crib!
If he wakes up before completing 30 minutes nap, allow him to stay in his crib for some time. Don’t rush to take him. You need to give him this opportunity to go back to sleep. So, keep trying.
You can also put him in the crib earlier if he takes a long time to fall asleep or he has a busy day. Don’t look at this “as going to bed early”, look at this as “a catching up on the lost sleep time”.
3. Maintaining Regular Sleep Routine
The good news is that developmental milestones don’t last forever.
You may need to go in and assist your “new learner” in the crib multiple times during those few weeks, and that’s okay.
In a week or two, your little one will have mastered the new skill and will get back to the great sleeping. Things will eventually go back to normal if the regular sleep routine is maintained.
To say it in other words, means don’t change anything else!
And I am very serious about it!
Don’t think that out of anywhere your little one suddenly requires a night feed, especially if he was previously sleeping through the night.
Once you change the rules, you are changing the whole game!
If you started feeding your one-year-old again during the night just because he hit a milestone, he will expect that feed even after that. So, play smart!
Don’t change the game!
Still have questions? King of Sleep is here for you!
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One thought on “Developmental Milestones and Sleep”
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