Developmental Milestones & Their Impact on Your Baby's Sleep
Updated: Aug 4, 2022
First things first… sleep regression or milestone? When we look at disruptions to our
child’s sleep, we can usually correlate it to a developmental milestone. Sometimes when we throw out the idea of a sleep regression, it can seem like a random stretch of disturbed sleep. Usually there is something of significance with our child’s development that we can tie things back to.
If you were to Google any month of your child’s first two years and ‘sleep regression’ you’ll likely find something written - 8 month regression, 14 month regression, 6 month regression… you get the idea. That doesn’t mean that your child will have a sleep regression every month. There are big milestones that can potentially affect their sleep BUT these can range from child to child as to when they occur. So instead of focusing on ages of sleep regressions, I prefer to shape the conversation around common milestones your child will go thorough. It’s more important to understand what the milestones are since they can vary from child to child.
So what are these milestones?
The major milestones your baby will go through in the first two years can be either physical or cognitive. I’ve listed them below:
Physical - rolling, sitting up, crawling, standing up, waking.
Cognitive - development of sleep cycles/circadian rhythms, attachment/separation anxiety, language.
What to Expect & How to Manage
When your child is going through these milestones, the disruption to sleep can present itself in a number of ways, including more frequent wakings at night, shorter naps, waking earlier in the morning, or a combination. The reason for the disturbed sleep is that there’s a lot on your baby’s mind and a lot to practice! The disruptions can be frustrating to say the least, especially if your baby has been sleeping well. What’s important, though, is that we are thoughtful in how we respond and avoid creating any new habits that could impact their sleep beyond the milestone.
I can’t stress enough the importance of being consistent in your response and giving your child time and space to get back to sleep. It’s easy to try and run in and try to help our baby settle, but we don’t want to establish any new habits. For example, if they are sitting up in their crib, give them the time and space to learn to lay back down to fall asleep. It’s likely that if you race in to lay them down, they will just sit back up when you leave. Particularly for physical milestones, my best advice is to let your child practice as much of that skill during the day. The more they can practice during the day, the less they may feel the need to practice in their crib when it’s time to be sleeping.
Lastly, remember that while these disturbances can be frustrating, they will pass and sleep should return to normal, given that you are consistent in your responses. Cheer on your little one when they are awake, take part in the excitement of these big milestones and bump up their bedtime a little earlier if they aren’t getting as much sleep as they’re used to getting.
If you're struggling with your child's sleep and feel like a milestone or other regression has created a series of issues/challenges, let's connect. I'll help to put a plan in place with you to get things back on track.