top of page

How new motor skills effect sleep

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

So, you thought that you had nailed it – your baby has just mastered the art of sleeping through the night and bang – it’s all gone sideways because they have developed a new motor skill.  The new go to language is sleep regression but really, they are not true regressions, but progressions, we want our children to hit their milestones right?

Here is a list of motor development milestones – how they can effect sleep and what you can do to help get your infant back on track.  A previous study noted that there was a relationship between an onset of night wakings and motor development milestones – babies were found to have a harder time settling down to sleep and would appear to start waking more frequently at night, two weeks before they took their first steps. 

It also important to remember that often babies wake up at night and like to practice their new found skills as it is so much more exciting than going to sleep – in fact, they like to cry, baby, blow raspberries a little or give you a call to join them for their late night rendezvous.

4 – 6 months - Rolling over from their back to their side but can't roll back.

Once a baby starts to roll, the above scenario will have you up a couple of times in the night to help your baby roll back onto their back.  If you have not witnessed them roll from their tummy to their back then they probably can't – so you will have to help out initially.  However, once you have seen them do it – you should refrain from getting too involved otherwise they will be calling for you to come and do it for them.  

Once a baby has the ability to roll over the neck muscles are stronger and the chance of SIDS decreases.  

Lots of parents worry about their baby and this phenomenon, but once the babies’ start, there is no need to worry, and your baby is just developing normally and is building even more strength for their next amazing step.

6 – 9 month - Sitting - Crawling & standing 

Sitting – Once a baby has grown into their head they are not so top heavy anymore and they finally have the ability to sit.  

You may find that once in bed then can go from being on their back to rolling – doing a fast push up and are sat up in 5 seconds flat.  

For co-sleeping parents this can be especially challenging once there little one is awake and sat up at night, they think its super fun to poke your eye and touch your nose, normally whilst practicing the odd vowel or delightful squeal at the same time.  OUCH!

You should deal with this by laying them back down and saying a key work or shhh in a calm and collective manor, limit eye contact and don’t do anything that will get them excited into thinking it is morning time.  They may sit back up a few other times but lay them back down again.  

Crawling – This is the one that you were waiting for – your little sugar plum starting to crawl and then of course – when it happens – you realize that you had so much more control when they were sitting only.  

Whether your baby is crawling on all fours, using their hands, with bum in the air and their legs like they are walking, or sitting on their bum and scooting around in reverse, this is another little spanner in the sleep works for you!

Babies just love to practice this kind of stuff during the night when waking during their light sleep phase.  You put them to bed in one spot and the next time you see them they are squashed up in the corner with a blanket intertwined around their limbs looking rather like a pretzel. 

Crawling can also bring on separation anxiety as your little one starts to realize that they are not an attachment of you but their own separate being.  This type of anxiety has a distinctive cry that is often described by parents as more of a scream or as hysterical.  

Standing up in the crib is extremely frustrating for parents especially when this happens half way through sleep training.  Just a few nights ago you could lay your baby down and they would drift off to sleep – now you lay them down and before your back is turned two little hands grasp onto the crib rails and the top a head peppered with wisps of fine hair is struggling to peek over the top of the crib rail.  

This scenario always makes me chuckle event though it is frustrating. I really so think it is one of the cutest things to have you little one try to stretch themselves to just about see over the top of the crib.

If you have already left the room though and then they decide to stand it can leave the child with the feeling of being stranded - HELP– they cry to call you back – for you to be met by a gummy smile and wet cheeks.

For most little monkeys who have reach this stage – they can get up but are not so good at getting down and the most worrying part for the parent is the possibility that they could fall and bang their head.

If this happens before sleep training – then hold off why you teach your baby how to lower themselves back down.  This can be done by placing your hands on top of theirs on the crib slats and lowering them down and saying a key word as well.  

If you are in the middle of sleep training you should stay close by and keep helping them down just be careful that you don’t turn it into a game – but practice teaching them during the day too – how to lower themselves down.

If they are already sleep trained – you may have some regression – so you will be back to going in at night for a short while – stay in night time mode and don’t make to much of a fuss.  The phase will pass and next on the list is walking!

9 – 12 months - Walking - Start proofing!!

Walking – another bump in the night for you – during these milestones their will be no stopping your little one as they want to explore every avenue possible – yes they will wake up at night and practice scaling the crib – walking up and down – be careful and refrain from having anything in the crib that is hard that could be a possible hazard and if you need to put some crib bumpers on or safety proof then go ahead.

Offer lots of opportunities throughout the day for you little one to explore and use up their energy at this age they barely stop for breath.  It is not good practice or do they rarely like to be confined to their strollers or strapped into car seats.  

Although your little one is full of energy that they are just waiting to burn off they still need an adequate amount of sleep so don’t be fooled into thinking that naps are not important just because your toddler is not showing signs of slowing down.  

Want to find out more?

Join my Facebook community - FREE Baby & Toddler Sleep Support.

👉 Topics will be easy to find and broken down by age

👉 Weekly live sessions covering common sleep hurdles

👉 Stay on top of changes by reading about the different ages and stages in advance

👉 Friendly - non judgmental environment

See you in there!

77 views0 comments