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Sleep Regressions & Physical Milestones

By Amalah

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!)…


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


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 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

Amy Corbett Storch


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 Ama...

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 [email protected].

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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