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How developmental stages affect your baby’s sleep

Over the years, we have noticed that almost all babies react differently to developmental milestones and for many of these little ones, their sleep is the first thing to be affected. Now, we don’t mean a complete regression. We do mean interrupted naps (baby has to practice crawling somewhere) and earlier wake times. But for the sleep learned baby and his family, not much changes. After all, you are not going in to check on baby or soothe him back to sleep at first peep!

For the first year of life, baby is growing and developing at a rapid pace. From immense physical changes to cognitive ones, this is an exciting and busy time in baby’s life! Keep reading to learn how to support baby during these physical milestones while also encouraging and fostering the healthy sleep habits you have created.

Progression of physical milestones

While again, every baby is different, the general progress of physical milestones is as follows: rolling, sitting, rocking on knees/crawling, standing, and walking. Each of these requires a lot of practice, visualization, and effort, often interrupting baby’s sleep.

  • Rolling over. Some babies start rolling over during tummy time, from front to back, and others wait until they are in their crib (our recommended Rock n Play makes rolling over quite challenging!) to practice rolling over from back to front. This may wake baby but don’t worry! Soon he will become a master roller and sleep will be restored.
  • Rocking on Knees/Crawling. One of our favorite milestones is when baby starts “rocking”. There’s nothing quite like watching baby on your Nest cam as he gets up on hands and knees and experiments with this strange movement, seeing where it can potentially take him.
  • Sitting. The next one is sitting. Often with sitting, babies don’t cry — they just don’t sleep. They either take forever to fall asleep because they get stuck sitting up, or they end wake at a sleep transition and just sit around. 
  • Standing and Walking. Standing can be one the most challenging milestones for parents to deal with. Babies have been known to get ‘stuck’ standing in the crib, with (in their minds), no way down. So Mom goes in and lays baby down. And you’ve guessed it, baby pops right back up! Our advice? Leave baby to figure it out on his own, he will eventually!

As a parent on a schedule and with your baby’s best interests at heart, you want baby to sleep. But do not despair! Baby will get back on track. In the meantime, remember that the crib is often your child’s only place to truly be free! And, as a result, they love to practice all their skills there.  So let them!

We suggest setting a minimum amount of time for their nap (90 minutes – 2 hours depending on age) and allowing them to stay in their crib for that amount of time, even if they wake early. The less you interfere, the faster they’ll “get it”.

It is our experience that little ones will want to practice a new skill on repeat over a 3-5 day window. Around this time, they find that they’ve mastered the skill and naptime and bedtime is back to normal. Until the next one!

If you are experiencing sleep disruptions during milestones, feel free to contact one of our sleep specialists for guidance!

Author: Melissa Brown