As a specialist in children and sleep who teaches parenting classes, I often hear parents say:“My baby slept great until….” To respond, I rely on the following findings from Angelique Millette’s sleep research as well as research from other developmental psychologists and sleep researchers.
Developmental leaps are the periods of time where the brain undergoes significant growth and learning. There are ten major, predictable leaps that occur within the child’s first 20 months of life. With each developmental leap the baby acquires new mental processing skills and will perceive his or her environment in a different way.
Rolling, learning to crawl, learning to pull up to standing, walking are all movement milestones that can lead to increased night waking. It can take a couple of days or weeks for a child to incorporate these new skills into his or her sleep habits.
Teething, ear infections, colds, reflux, and colic all have the potential to impact a child’s ability to sleep at night.
Changes in the Family Structure
The following changes in family life can have the effect of changing the child’s daily rhythm and increase night wakings: mom going back to work, increased business trips for mom or dad, grandparents coming in for a week, vacation, baby starting with a sitter/daycare.
Learning and School
I find this topic interesting because it really highlights how much brain development and change can effect sleep. When a child is on the brink of a language explosion, there can be a regression in sleep. When a child is learning how to read, there can be a regression in sleep. When child goes to daycare, pre-school, kindergarten this can cause sleep regression in nighttime sleep as well as a potential regression or elimination of naps.
This is not a comprehensive list, but it does highlight the more significant ones. A baby’s/ toddler’s temperament plays a vital role in how deeply they are affected by these changes. Some babies/toddlers act as if nothing has changed. Whereas other babies/toddlers are profoundly affected.
What To Do
Knowing how to handle these situations will vary from family to family depending on how deeply affected your little one is affected by the changes. Here are some suggestions to consider:
- Whenever possible, offer extra snuggle time at night.
- On the weekend, spend extra one on one time (without smart phones in hand) with your child. Follow his or her lead in play.
- If you can, “prep” your child for the impending. You can prep them by talking with them, drawing pictures, pretend play about the upcoming event, write a book for them, etc. Babies respond well to this too.
- If you are in the process of or thinking about making significant sleep changes, you may want to consider pausing or starting the process once the changes have subsided. Once your little one grows into the new situation and becomes more comfortable with the his or her new skill set, you can drop back into or begin your normal sleep routine.