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Sleep Regressions & Physical Milestones

Mar05

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Hi Amalah,

I am hoping you can help, because I am going C-R-A-Z-Y. My son, who just turned 9 months, has recently learned how to stand up in his crib. He now spends his naps pulling up to stand, and REFUSING to nap. I have gotten only two naps this week in the crib out of him, and he was incredibly tired (up for 4-5 hours, which is waaay too long for him). If he does not nap in the car or stroller he is maybe napping 45-60 minutes a day, so you can only imagine what shape he is in come 5 pm.

If he is just sitting during his nap, I will let him sit/play/cry but when he stands I go in with no eye contact and lay him back down. He definitely thinks it is a game now, but I can’t have him chewing the crib rail all afternoon. Previously he was a decent napper, a quick 30-45 minute one around 9 and another 1-1.5 hours at 12:30.

And while naps are one thing, this is creeping into his nighttime sleep as well. His bedtime is 7pm, but last night he awoke at 3:45, I let him cry for about 15 minutes on/off until I fed him at 4 (he usually eats at 4:30/5, but always would go back to sleep until 7).

And then we played the standing game until 5. He finally fell asleep for 30 minutes and woke at 5:30 for the day. So now we have a baby who is sleeping terrible and napping terrible. I am assuming this is all part of the 9 month sleep regression as well, but I thought we already did that last month when his two top teeth came in…

So besides hoping for someone to tell me “this soon will pass”, I am hoping for a bit of advice on what to do in the transition. Do I keep trying him in the crib or should I just try to get in naps in the car, etc. until standing isn’t such a novelty (in a few weeks…months, ahh!)? I don’t really want to have to introduce the crib for naps all over again, and driving around isn’t really an option at 3am! Should I go out and buy a crib rail guard and let him stand & chew on that if need be? I feel like laying him down every few minutes is definitely counterproductive, but he already has a bruise on one side of his face from falling into the crib during one of his standing attempts. Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated! We have a very tired boy around here (and his parents!)…

Thanks!!

Haaaaa, YES. Sorry to laugh at your pain, but I swear, it’s all in complete sympathy because we are playing the exact.same.game over here.

But! Since it’s a game I’ve played twice before (see: my first rodeo, this ain’t), I can promise you that it is indeed a THIS TOO SHALL PASS sort of game. Right now — as you may have noticed — the standing-up skill is much more advanced than the sitting-back-the-hell-down skill. They stand up, because they can! And it’s exciting! And new! And wheeeee!

And then: OH CRAP NOW WHAT.

At some point, they figure Phase Two out, and no longer compulsively pull up and cling to the crib rails like demented little monkeys. Just this morning, I watched Ike manage a wobbly dismount from his activity table and get back to the floor from a standing position. GLORIOUS! We’re on our way. Soon he will no longer require my repeated assistance to accomplish the EXTREMELY CHALLENGING TASK of…you know, lying back down and going to sleep.

In the meantime, I’m sorry, but the best way through is to do exactly what you’re doing: Going back in at regular intervals and silently, persistently putting him back down. I do it at Ferber-esque times at bedtime: Three minutes, five minutes, 10. I’ve also bumped bedtime up a little — we were putting him down around 8, but now it’s 7 or 7:30 at the latest. In part because I KNOW he’s gonna pop back up like a damn groundhog repeatedly no matter how exhausted he is, and also because yeah. He’s not napping all that well — maybe one 45-minute nap in the crib, plus some assorted catnaps in the car or at the breast — and he’s falling to pieces by dinnertime.

We temporarily removed the musical crib soother that attached to the rails (since it’s too much fun to stand there and play with), and use this Soothe & Glow Seahorse toy instead (Update on 3/1/14: watch this news report about potential safety hazards for this toy http://www.abc15.com/news/national/no-recall-of-soothe-and-glow-seahorse-toddler-toy-despite-fire-safety-concerns?autoplay=true). Obviously sleep props are completely optional, but I like the musical stuffed toy option because 1) by turning it on every time we go in to reposition him, it reinforces the “it’s time to sleep” signal, and 2) it stays on the mattress of the crib and requires/entices him to stay lying down in order to watch/touch/enjoy it. (The silky “fins” of the seahorse are currently serving as a lovey for Ike, too.)

For naps, we’ve taken a step back and usually try to get him about 99% of the way to sleep before putting him in the crib, usually by rocking in the glider. Then it’s the same old “go in, no eye contact, put ‘em back down” game every five to 10 minutes. There’s no reasoning with them, of course, so consistent repetition is sadly your best option.

If things are getting really hair-pull-y for you and you want to throw money and products at the problem, I’d suggest a crib tent. They attach to and cover the crib rails almost completely, and might thwart your son’s standing attempts altogether — or at least, even if he can pull up using the bars, he won’t be rewarded with a nice view out and gummable crib rails. Then again, it might just enrage him and/or amuse him to stand there and pound on it. (But at least you could employ it later at the inevitable crawling-out-of-the-crib stage, which is even MORE FUN.) You could also try naps in a Pack n’ Play, and see if the mesh sides confound him enough and prevent him from getting his hands on the top rail.

Personally, I take the “only way through is through” approach, because it DOES END. At nine months, they’re working on multiple gross motor skills right now: standing, crawling on hands and knees, cruising, stepping, etc.. Plus there’s all kinds of cognitive stuff going on, like early communication and yes, playing games. It’s an all-consuming process and mucks with their sleep because they aren’t 100% in control of any of it yet. And it’s usually darkest right before dawn and the problem disappears as suddenly as it started. Stay consistent and try not to regress too much with him (i.e. don’t replace one bad habit with a worse one, like taking EVERY nap in a stroller/carseat/etc., though sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do), and eventually he WILL get those noodlely limbs and that squirrelly brain under control and put himself to sleep on his own again.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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8 Responses to “Sleep Regressions & Physical Milestones”

  1. Diedre Mar 06 at 12:29 am Reply Reply

    I have a very alert little one who likes to do everything the hard way, including sleep.  In my experience, you’ve just got to keep on doing what you were doing when everything was working, for at least two weeks.  After two weeks (or sooner if you have a very specific reason) you can try changing one thing at a time to see if that’s what’s needed.  For us, after two weeks our daughter has always settled back into an easier way of going to sleep, with only the most minor tweaks needed.  It’s mostly about waiting it out and keeping things consistent in the meantime so that your baby still knows what’s going on.

    Then again, everyone’s baby is different, so if what I’m saying sounds completely irrelevant to your situation, just ignore it.

  2. Jadzia@Toddlerisms Mar 06 at 1:26 am Reply Reply

    I love the Seahorse idea!  My 18-month-old’s nap behavior is on a downward trajectory, but as long as she’s playing and talking to herself and not freaking out we just let her stay there.  I think it really is a “this too shall pass” situation.

  3. Kari Mar 06 at 1:55 am Reply Reply

    We put the car seat in the crib and strapped him in that and he would pass out almost instantly. He needed to be restrained like he had been swaddled before. I have no shame. :)

  4. Jen Mar 06 at 10:06 am Reply Reply

    I spent a while rocking her to sleep again (this is a baby I used to be able to just put down). Then it passed. It was only a week or two of insanity for us – hopefully by the time this post got answered it already passed for you. We went through the same thing with, “yay! I can sit..wait, now what”, and “yay! I rolled onto my belly…I HATE being on my belly waaaah” and those times it also passed after only a short while. (The rolling onto belly was the worst until she realized that she LIKED being on her belly and preferred to sleep that way….but at first she HAAAATED being on her belly so it was instant freak out time).

  5. Therese Mar 06 at 11:32 am Reply Reply

    My daughter is 11 months old and doing the same thing. I want to lose my mind! I second the musical lovey toy on the mattress. My daughter has a little glow worm that lights up and plays a short lullaby when pressed. I go in and lay her down and press the glowworm so that it plays. I noticed last night that I only had to do it twice before she quit standing back up. Here’s hoping tonight it’s only once and so on…. Good Luck!

  6. Erin Mar 06 at 12:28 pm Reply Reply

    Thanks for answering my question!! Things are getting a little crazy over here…still on a nap strike. I have tried the pack n play the past two days (waiting for a guard rail for the crib to be delivered so he doesn’t chew it to bits). Even if he is 90% asleep while I give him his normal noon bottle, he springs awake the second he hits the mattress. He can’t stand in the pack n play, but just sits and will. not. lay. down. Tried for over an hour yesterday, but he is a stubborn little guy…I have no idea who he got that from, ha! Misery loves company however, so glad to hear I am not alone for now!

  7. MR Mar 06 at 1:36 pm Reply Reply

    I am dealing with this too, but like Amy, this is not my first rodeo. I don’t go in to put her down ever, unless she is crying hard. If she is happily teething on the rail, I let her until she falls over and lays down herself. I know she has gotten a bruise or two this way, but I learned the hard way with my first that they absolutely have to do this sometimes to learn their own boundaries. My first never learned a lesson unless she did it herself.
    I also have the glow seahorse. It gives her something else to chew on and encourages her to sit and play instead of standing. I will also hear her wake in the middle of the night, turn it on herself, and go back to sleep. I bought it after reading a previous column by Amy, so, thanks, Amy!!
    Lastly, it really, really seems to me that you aren’t dealing with a standing issue as much as you are a teething issue. He needs to chew on something. Put a few safe toys in his crib that he can chew on instead.
    Ok, I know I already said lastly, but one more thing. When my LO doesn’t nap and is falling apart at 5pm, I put her in the Ergo and wear her which makes her fall asleep. She will get in a 20-30 minute nap that way. If I don’t do this, the last couple hours until she goes to bed are a nightmare of fussiness (she normally goes to bed at 7). She may stay up a little later until 7:30 or 8 as a result, but then she isnt so tired she is falling apart and can’t fall asleep. She does not sleep well when she is past exhausted, so kind of forcing this late nap actually gets me more sleep. It might work for you too.

  8. Helen Mar 07 at 8:36 am Reply Reply

    When my daughter started sitting up, I used this thing for a few months, and it was fantastic:
    http://www.safetsleep.com/ 

    Eventually she got strong enough to wriggle out of it, so I just tucked her in tightly with a sheet (over a sleeping bag) and by that time she knew the deal, and just went to sleep.

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