As a mother myself, as well as a sleep consultant whose nine to five job consists of meeting with the parents of babies and toddlers, I’ve come to the conclusion that babies are complicated creatures.
I’ve recently gotten a giggle from Matthew McConaughey’s quote about newborns, saying, “They eat, they crap, they sleep, and if they’re crying they need to do one of the three and they’re having trouble doing it. Real simple.” And in a way, he’s right. A baby’s vital needs essentially break down into eating, sleeping, and pooping, and their only real form of communicating an issue with any of those things is through crying.
But as any parent knows, identifying the fact that there is a problem is far, far easier than solving the problem, and as parents, that’s what we want to do. (And I use the word “want” there in the same way I say that we “want” to, you know, breathe air and drink water.)
Now, if you’re the parent of a baby who’s learning to crawl, or who’s teething, or just figured out how to roll over, this may come as the least surprising scientific discovery imaginable, but developmental milestones are likely to cause disruptions in a baby’s sleep.
Much like the rest of us, babies get excited when they start to learn a new skill. Watching my little one learn to crawl reminded me of myself when I first used Shazam to identify a song playing over the speakers in Starbucks. I was ridiculously, I mean ridiculously excited. I couldn’t wait for another song to come on so I could try it again! lol
To your baby, learning to roll over, learning to crawl, or learning to talk, elicits pretty much the same response. They get a real thrill out of this newfound ability and they are going to practice it over and over. In the morning, in the afternoon, and when they wake up in the middle of the night, and that excitement is going to make it a little more difficult for them to get back to sleep.
The reason I wanted to talk about this is because I see a lot of parents looking for a “solution” in this scenario, and in trying to get their baby’s sleep back on track, they tend to lose consistency. They’ll move bedtimes around, start rocking or feeding baby back to sleep, change up the bedtime routine, anything they think might help. But the BEST advice I can give you is to hold steady.
You’re probably going to have to go in and soothe your baby a little more often during this period, and you’ll have to help get them out of the uncomfortable positions they manage to get themselves into, and you’ll likely have some frustrating nights where your little one will drive you a little batty with their babbling.
And although you can’t fix the situation, you can make things substantially harder for both you and your baby. Adopting a bunch of quick-fixes in order to get your baby sleeping quickly when they wake up at night is very likely to end up creating dependencies that will last long past the time baby’s figured out how to get themselves readjusted when they wake up in the night. So don’t give in to the temptation to rock or bounce them to sleep, don’t let them sleep in the swing, don’t take them for car rides, and above all, don’t nurse or feed them back to sleep.
Offer them some comfort, tell them it’s still bedtime, help them get back into a comfortable position if they’ve gotten themselves pushed up against the side of the crib, or roll them onto their backs if they’ve flipped, but make sure to let them get back to sleep on their own. That way, once they’ve got this new skill mastered, they’ll still have the ability to self- soothe when they wake up at night.
It’s likely to be a bit of a challenge, and it may feel at times like one skill gets mastered just in time for another one to start developing, but hang in here. The whole time this is going on, your baby is also developing the ability to better consolidate nighttime sleep, so stay consistent and you can expect even more of those glorious sleep-filled nights once the storm has passed.
In the meantime enjoy watching your baby grow and learn new skills! it only happens once!