Developmental stages and milestones can have a significant impact on your child’s sleep. It is not a myth, but a reality with some children being more affected by others and some stages causing a bigger sleep disturbance. Early waking, short naps and resistance to going asleep can represent the start of a developmental phase. This is mostly apparent for a routinely good sleeper. Parents will repost that their current sleep problems become heightened during the developmental time. Typically, the most difficult issues would be observed around increased motor skills such as standing and walking as well as teething and indeed a language explosion. Whilst you cannot prevent a sleep regression during a developmental stage there are plenty of measures a parent can take to get through a tough period and look forward to returning to your healthy sleep habits when the phase has passed. These regressions can last from 2-6 weeks and it is not advisable during these times to work on long term sleep problems.
As your child’s sense of self starts to emerge within the second half of the first year and his/her ability to roam and explore independently becomes more established, separation can begin to kick in and then fluctuate for the next 2 years. As sleep is the biggest separation for a chid not co sleeping with parent, then you may experience a resistance to sleep time and might want to consider implementing some of the following suggestions:
- Practise lots of games that allow your child to develop object permanence. Peek-a-boo, jack in the box, hiding items under a blanket; all of which can help them to learn that even though they can’t see the item, it still exists. This can help understanding that mummy and daddy go away, but come back.
- It is important to always tell your child that you are leaving and to avoid sneaking way from them, even though that can sometimes be hard on both the parent and the child. Stealing away, can fuel your child’s anxiety around separation and make the problem worse. Practise going away and coming back within your house if you feel that would help.
- Provide your child with a transitional object like a safe blanket or toy that will help your child feel close to you and also to help ingrain positive associations with sleep
- Add extra time to your bedtime routine. Tagging an extra 5-15 minutes can really help to bridge the separation void. Indulge in lots of extra physical and eye contact in the child’s bedroom helping prepare the alert body for sleep
This is a developmental stage that continues for at least the first two years of life. Some children teeth especially hard and their sleep can often be fragmented due to pain.
This stage is often most difficult until the tooth erupts and typically your consistent sleeper will return to sleeping well, until the next time…
During a teething phase, make sure that you are supportive. Provide extra support and reassurance and even consider having some day time sleep on the go in the car or the buggy instead of the cot, until the tooth cuts through. Again teething episodes contribute to short naps and interrupted night time sleep. Under the guidance of your GP use a pain reliever if appropriate.
Establishing a new skill
As mobility increases, your child will become more interested in roaming and exploring. You may get the sense that your 9m + child have better things to do than sleep and resistance to sleep can become relevant. To help with this transition consider:
- Offering lots of practise of the new skill. Factor in lots of floor time and try to avoid long periods cooped up in the buggy or the car.
- Make a safe place with the household for your child to roam around. At this stage your child needs to maximise movement during wake time and alleviate the desire to practise the new skill instead of sleeping.
As your child enters toddlerhood, they can become increasingly busy and difficult to slow down. This may result in a presentation where your toddler seems on the go all the time and not in need of day time sleep or an early bedtime. Don’t be fooled. Most children need to nap to around age 3
Help your child learn to sleep quiet in a dvance of sleep | establishing a calm bedtime routine within the child’s bedroom is a pillar of healthy sleep for children. Don’t underestimate the power of a bedtime routine that you can