Even if your child is an independent sleeper with predictable nap and bedtime schedules, settles into sleep and loves their crib (Yes that is absolutely a thing) there will be times where you may/will notice some disruptions to their sleep. It is inevitable that there will be some bumps in the road.
I have identified 3 of the most common disruptors for you, to be aware of and to feel ready to tackle them.
Developmental surges will disrupt your little ones sleep, especially in the first year. At the 4 month mark they begin to roll onto their side or tummy and often get stuck and don’t quite know how to get back onto their backs. They are not there yet and learning to roll the other way takes some practice.
In the meantime, if your little one can only roll one way – onto their bellies, then it is important that you gently place them on their backs again. Once you shift them onto their backs again, just place your hand on the baby with some gentle pressure for a minute or 2 and then move away and let them sleep. Keep your intervention low key so as not to wake the baby up during the shift.
Other developmental milestones include sitting up or standing up in the crib. With any of these milestones, the key really is to help them “practice” getting out of these positions so that they don’t get stuck in their crib.
For example, if your little one is only rolling onto the belly, lay them on a towel or blanket and roll up the opposite end and gently lift the blanket and encourage the baby to roll the opposite way. The more they get used to rolling the other direction, they will be able to naturally do it on their own over time.
With sitting or standing you can coax the baby down by patting the floor or with a toy so they know how to get back down.
The more practice little ones get with these physical milestones during the day, the more opportunity they have to master the skill and the more confidence you will have to leave them be and not rush in every time you see them standing in the crib.
Language acquisition and babbling in the crib is also a common milestone that may disrupt sleep.
All of these skills take energy. Babies ultimately need the sleep and want to sleep, however these milestones may disrupt sleep for a couple of weeks. The important thing is that you do not start creating new habits in order to help the baby, such as start feeding, picking up as these will disrupt sleep more.
My advice is to ride it out, get the practice in during the day and be patient. This will pass.
When our kiddos are sick, and running fevers, it is very hard to watch and parents tend to intervene more at night or with naps. I am a mom too and I totally get it. The thing to remember and keep in mind is that your little one actually needs the rest and sleep to be able to recuperate. However it is tough for them if they are stuffy or coughing.
Be mindful of your intervention if the baby is up. If you typically wait before responding to your little one, forego the wait time and go straight to baby. Go in, wipe their nose, check temperature, give medicine if needed, cuddle and then place them back into their crib to continue their sleep.
The key when a baby is unwell is to avoid starting and creating new habits which can undo all the hard work and effort you have put into sleep. So don’t start feeding or taking the baby into your bed.
If you are concerned it is better to go camp out in your little one’s room for a couple of nights so that you can keep an eye on them whilst they are in the crib. Try not to do this for more than 3 days as that’s the time it can take for a new habit to form. It then becomes doubly hard to break the habit.
Keep your interventions low key and quiet, keep the room dim and once baby is better, get back on track with doing your routine and placing baby into their crib and leaving the room. It may take a couple of nights to adjust, but they will.
It’s always exciting to plan vacations with the family. Often we get carried away and schedule so many activities for one day we forget that our little ones may not be able to handle moving from one activity to another all day long. Children often get overtired with the over scheduling and the jet lag catches up with them.
The more overtired your little one becomes, the harder they will scream, cry and protest when trying to settle into sleep. Typically when this happens whilst on vacation we can quickly slip back into past habits, just to get sleep for everyone and try to enjoy the vacation.
My biggest tip to families who are traveling is DO NOT over schedule your days. Plan for a couple of activities for the day to allow some down time between activities.
Pre-planning is always helpful with little ones. I always advise parents that if they cannot do one crib nap at the hotel, then at least plan the day so that your little one is either in their stroller or in the car around their usual nap time. This will not be the same quality sleep they would get in the crib, however it will give them the opportunity to at least get some sleep.
We have a tendency to keep our kiddos strapped in a stroller, in the car seat or a high chair at restaurants when on vacation. Do ensure that your little one gets the chance to move around during the day. This will help them exert some energy and this will help them actually be ready for sleep.
I encourage you to create a separate sleep space for your little one so that their sleep is not disturbed. Take a white noise machine, some tape and black garbage bags to ensure the room is dark enough. Be prepared and set up the environment before the first sleep.
Keep in mind that even us adults can take a day or two to adjust to sleeping in a new environment. Give your baby some grace and allow them the space to get used to the new environment and use their sleep skills.
Most of all, have FUN when you are away.