Babies are tricky little things at times. Just when you think you *might* just have a routine figured out that works for the family, they go and mix it all up for a bit of fun. Suddenly they don’t want to take that morning nap at the same time any more, despite having taken it at that time for a good few weeks previously. And now they want a longer nap in the morning and shorter in the afternoon, just as you arranged your diary to fit baby groups in the mornings so you’re free for sleep later in the day. No matter what, these babies like to keep you on your toes! Did you know that developmental leaps can affect the way that your baby sleeps? Read on to find out more…
What is a developmental leap?
Simply put, a developmental leap is a period in a baby’s life where she begins to learn new tricks. Hand-eye co-ordination, rolling over, crawling, walking etc. These are all marked and major developmental leaps that your baby will go through. There are other, smaller leaps too- some of which you may not be aware are occurring.
According to Dr. Plooij, creator of The Wonder Weeks the first developmental leap begins as early as five weeks after baby’s due date. So this first leap can come a little sooner or later depending on how close to your due date your baby was born. Dr. Pooij and his team believe that babies become more fussy, clingy and prone to crying during these developmental leaps, because they are experiencing vast changes beyond their control. They are becoming more aware of the world around them, of new sensations and emotions and they are starting to make attempts at understanding this strange world they are in. Makes sense then that sleep can be affected by these leaps!
Developmental leaps continue until baby is around 18 months of age, and so you can expect some changes to routine now and then until around that age.
How developmental leaps affect sleep
Knowing the cause of baby being a little unsettled or fussy is often half the battle when it comes to sleep, but there are things that you can do to make each leap as painless as possible. First, understand how sleep may be affected.
- During the first six months of your baby’s life, do not attempt any form of sleep training. Before babies are six months- or there abouts- they are pretty much still learning the whole sleep and feed thing. Newborn babies especially will need to wake for a feed at least every three to four hours, and often the first three months are referred to as the fourth trimester. You need do nothing more than tend to you baby and get through the wakings as best you can.
- From around the age of six months, and as solid foods are introduced, your baby should be able to sleep for slightly longer stretches at a time. See this post for a rough guide on how much sleep your baby should be getting. At this point, some sleep training can be effective, but bear in mind the developmental leaps!
- Remember that your baby is an individual with her own temperament, which absolutely affects the way that she sleeps. During a developmental leap her sleep is likely to need more attention from you than ever.
- During a developmental leap, your baby may become clingy and cry when you leave her in her cot.
- Your baby may suffer separation anxiety and experience feelings of upset when you are not by her side.
- Your baby may crave lots more physical contact from you, and want to be fed a lot more than usual.
- Your baby may experience mood swings, and require a lot more attention from you during waking hours.
- Your baby may take longer to settle to sleep than usual, and sleep for shorter periods of time.
- Your baby may be so determined to learn a new skill, that she refuses to rest or sleep well until she’s mastered it. Again, it pays to be mindful of your child’s temperament.
How to help baby sleep during a developmental leap
As already mentioned, sleep training is not recommended for babies under the age of six months, and for older babies it helps to read up as much as you can about both the leaps your baby faces and the methods that can be used to help with sleep. The Michi Method is a no cry solution, and parents are encourage to tune in to their baby’s emotions and needs and to respond using their own instincts and beliefs. I never recommend that parents follow any method they aren’t truly comfortable with. Here are some tips to help baby sleep during a developmental leap:
- Accept that sleep is going to be affected. Once you accept that this is a possibility, it will make it easier for you to then move on to help your baby.
- Enlist some help. If your baby is going to be awake for more or longer periods during the night, you don’t want to be doing it alone. Sleep training can be lonely and hard work, so get your partner on board if you can.
- Make time in your day for rest, or quiet activities. If you aren’t sleeping well at night, this make sense! And for baby, it can be a confusing and tiring time too so when a developmental leap is in full swing, take care to limit your calendar if you can.
- If baby is determined to master a new skill, such as crawling, help her as much as you can but keep in mind that she also needs to rest. Try to take her away from the situation as much as you can, and allow time for rest.
- Be mindful of the type of leap your baby is experiencing, and target play activities accordingly. We’ll be writing more on this next week.
Remember: this too shall pass. Developmental leaps certainly can be hard work but they don’t last forever and if you stay calm you will get through it and back to normal before you know it. Good luck!