Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Your baby: sleep and developmental milestones

For new parents, there are few more exciting joys than watching your baby roll over and back again, sit up, stand up and then start crawling for the very first time!

 Unfortunately, these exciting milestones often have complications relating to sleep that mean there can be a few 'bumps in the road' when it comes to a settled night's sleep.  

It can come as a bit of a shock when your 'perfect little sleeper' suddenly starts bashing around in the cot all night, banging his head or sticking her leg through the cot bars.  Worrying stuff!

It is important to try and keep some perspective on things when it seems as though your little one is heading backwards for no apparent reason.  Developmental milestones play a huge part in your baby's behaviour, moods, movement and sleeping patterns.  Things will settle down and keep in mind, that shuffling, rolling, banging and thumping about at night is all part of your baby acting out their new skills while they sleep.  Try not to worry and most importantly, try not to intervene too much as there is a risk that you could unintentionally create a sleep problem in doing so.

It can help to run through a quick 'check list' of possible causes before becoming too concerned about your baby's change in sleep behaviour.

Consider whether: Your baby has learnt any new skills over the last few days such as rolling, sitting, pulling up etc..?  Babies have an inbuilt desire to repeat their newly found skill over and over again until they have mastered it and this means it happens not only when they're actively doing so during the day, but also at night when they're sleeping and processing the day's events.

Teething: The most common cause of night disruptions in the under two's.  Comfort your baby and give some relief in the form of analgesia, gum gels or granules if you have sought medical advice on the best form of treatment and do your best to keep the night routine the same as far as possible.  When teething is no longer an issue, revert to your previous routine and be firm in your commitment to get things back on track.

Is your baby well? Colds and bugs get the better of all of us at some point, keep an eye on your little one and make sure that they are otherwise well before being too focused on the sleeping element of their care, you can always bring things back on track if you need to intervene with comfort and cuddles when your baby isn't well.

If your baby does act out at night when previously, they slept calmly through until morning, leave it for a week or two and see whether he or she settles before making any intervention if you feel it is really necessary.  You can of course, speak to your GP or HV if you're feeling concerned about the change, make sure that your baby is well and his or her needs are met to rule out any other cause for the disturbances.  Teething is often another issue that comes into play but the symptoms are more often related to poor settling, late night waking and crying with possible fevers.  

A few tips to keep in mind:

Intervene only if necessary - some babies can pull themselves up to standing but don't know how to sit down again, equally, a baby who rolls onto one side may not yet have the skills to roll back the other way!  Help them without making any other contact and then leave the room.  You are only there to address a problem that needs help rather than to comfort or provide a 'reward' for the behaviour of waking.  No chatting, eye contact or cuddles at this time, there is plenty of opportunity for that during the day or before bedtime.  This can be the difference between a temporary phase and a more permanent problem.

Work it out! If your baby has difficulty sitting down after standing or rolling from one side to the other, use your time together during the day to really have a good go at teaching your baby how to do the actions on their own, this will help them to address their own issues at night rather than needing you to go in over and over again to help them.

Stand back.  Once you know that your baby is able to sit down again or roll in both directions, it's time to cease the interventions during the night as those visits can quickly turn from help to need and your baby certainly doesn't need to be awake any more often than you do during the night!  A few days of firm resolve will save you months, possibly years of grief in the long run.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post, I hope you've found it useful.  If you or anyone you know are facing a difficult parenting challenge, please do get in touch.  You are also invited to 'Like' my Facebook page for regular updates and freebies such as reward charts, how-to tip sheets and more.

Happy parenting!