Can developmental milestones in the first year interrupt sleep?
Yes! Let’s take a look at what’s happening with your child’s development and a perspective on how to manage when their progressions in one area seem like set-backs in other areas.
We often hear parents ask about sleep regressions related to different developmental periods. While it can definitely feel like a regression, it’s really just an interruption as your child moves into a new stage and all their developmental paths settle out.
Here are some developmental progressions your child will make in the first year, some common ways in which these progressions affect sleep and what you can do if your family is in this stage.
1. Motor milestones – When your baby reaches the point of mobilizing on their own, they will be endlessly fascinated with their new skill and often want to practice it while they are in bed or if they wake in the night. Sometimes they are in the middle of their skill development and get “stuck” literally in a position and it’s frustrating for them. Examples include rolling front to back, back to front, crawling and standing. These are the skills we hear a lot about from parents. What you can do is help you baby along to practice these skills and get lots of exposure to them during the day. For example, if your baby is rolling back to front and then gets stuck, work with him to roll front to back so he can become independent in this skill and sort out his own position at night. Babies that are developing motor skills also need more movement during their day than they did when they were newborns. Give younger babies lots of floor time to practice their skills and older babies lots of opportunity to move, crawl, climb, explore. The balance of getting good sleep is getting a good quantity and quality of movement time during the day.
2. Cognitive milestones – Around 4 months of age, babies ‘wake up’ to the world and are very interested in what’s around them. They are keen to explore and know what is going on around them. This is a fun age but can lead to over stimulation for sensitive babies. Watch your child’s reactions to stimulation at this point and take care to not over stimulate them, especially close to a sleep time. This can make it difficult for them to settle to sleep and stay asleep. Around 6-9 months of age, your child will develop object permanence. This means they will understand that you still exist though they cannot see you. Babies that are in their crib room awake may be upset because they cannot see you. Give your baby lots of reassurance during the day by playing games like peek-a-boo and leaving them to play independently in a safe space for a few minutes at a time, returning cheerfully.
3. Teeth! Teething can be a huge issue for some kids and a non-issue for others. It is typically the phase in which the gums are swollen before a tooth erupts that are the most difficult. Comfort your baby during these times using pain management (discuss with your doctor/pharmacist) and lots of love and support. A baby in lots of discomfort needs you to help them be comfortable and get sleep. This is not a teachable time for babies. It too will pass with the eruption of the tooth and then you can get back on track with sleep.