Why New Skills Can Cause Less Sleep (And What to Do About It!)
We’ve all been there before. Your baby’s sleep is going along just fine. You think, Yes! We’ve finally mastered sleep!...only for everything to come crashing down when they start learning a new motor skill.
It doesn’t have to be this way! Sure, your baby may struggle with sleep for a while each time they learn a new skill, but you don’t have to start back at square one because of it!
I find that having a plan of action is the best way to avoid taking steps backward with sleep. Let’s break down three different motor skills that your baby may be learning and talk about the different ways you can help them through these phases without unnecessarily disrupting their sleep and routines.
In my experience working with families, I find this one to be the most frustrating phase. Once a baby can roll, that should be great news! But oftentimes, new rollers will get themselves stuck on their tummies and be angry that they can’t easily get to their backs again. Rolling is often made worse by the fact that it can occur right around the 4 month sleep regression and the need to transition out of the swaddle, which is already rough.
First, I want to address is safety. According to the AAP, we always want to place baby on their back to sleep. However, once your baby is rolling, it is safe to let them sleep in whatever position they can get to.
So what do you do if your baby has learned to roll from back to tummy, but they don’t like being there? And worse yet, they haven’t quite mastered the skill of rolling to their back yet (at least not when they are frustrated)?
I have 3 main tips to get you through this phase:
- Avoid rushing in. Try to give them some time while they are “stuck” to see if they can figure out how to roll back on their own OR become more comfortable on their tummy.
- When you do go in, first try to comfort them on their tummy. If you’ve tried that and are unsuccessful, then you can flip them over to their back.
- Give them LOTS of tummy time during the day and really work with them on trying to roll both ways. This phase will pass as they become more comfortable sleeping in different positions and as they become more proficient rollers.
If you’ve got a new crawler, you’ve likely noticed that they enjoy practicing their new skill during nap time. This can be really frustrating for parents but I also find that baby is often pretty content to hang out, play, and crawl around their crib before taking a nap.
But what do you do when you lay your baby down for their nap at the perfect time and then they spend 20-30 minutes crawling around their crib and playing before falling asleep?!
My biggest advice is to let them be, especially if they aren’t crying. Give them the time and space to crawl and play and the novelty will wear off quickly. In the meantime, give them plenty of daytime opportunities to practice and don’t be afraid to shift bedtime earlier if they’ve spent more time than usual awake during the day.
Also, make sure their schedule is right and that you are allowing them enough awake time before putting them down for their nap. Check out my Free Nap Guide for more information about timing!
This one can be a doozy. Your baby has learned to pull up to standing and they LOVE to do it the second you lay them down for their nap! It’s even worse if they can stand up but haven’t yet learned to sit back down on their own. Below are my suggestions depending on your baby’s current skill level:
If your baby can pull up to standing but can’t sit back down without help:
- Practice, practice, practice during awake times.
- Try not to rush in each time they pull up to standing. If you can, give them 5 minutes before you go and help them back down.
- When you do help them back down, don’t pick them up and plop them down. Instead, try to guide their body from standing to sitting so they learn how to recreate the movements themselves.
If your baby can pull up to standing and can sit back down without help:
- When you place them in their crib, don’t lay them down. Stand them up. This can have a reverse psychology effect and their impulse to pop back up isn’t an issue now.
- If you’ve left the room and they’re still standing, let them be. If they can sit down on their own, then let them do it in their own time.
Can you avoid these disruptions in sleep completely? Probably not. Every baby is different and some will handle these new skills with little sleep disturbance while others may lose quite a bit of sleep in the process. If you’re going through one of these stages right now, hang in there! And remember, your mindset matters too. Try to remember that these are good and important changes that your baby is going through!
Carianna is mom to two energetic and playful little boys and founder of All the Sleeps. She is certified through the Institute of Pediatric Sleep & Parenting and is a member of the International Association of Child Sleep Consultants. She created All The Sleeps because she believes adequate sleep is extremely important not only for growing little ones, but also their families.
Ready to teach your child to love sleep but not sure where to start? Fill out her Free Sleep Consultation form!
Note: Guest blog posts are shared for informational and educational purposes and may not reflect the official policy or position of SlumberPod (parent company, Dovetail Essentials, LLC), our employees and/or contractors.