September 6th, 2022
Similar to growth spurts, babies go through developmental spurts too.
When this happens babies can be more fussy and more difficult to soothe. Babies learn 24/7, just because it’s bedtime doesn’t mean those brilliant brains turn off. During developmental leaps, babies can be up for hours at night practicing their new moves and skills. It’s easier for parents to respond with the compassionate support that babies need, when they recognize this behavior as proof that their baby is developing and maturing. It’s also important to note that babies learn these skills by moving freely on their own – not by being propped up, or forced into a standing or sitting position, etc. Among these developmental leaps, some age ranges have become pretty infamous for interrupting sleep, known as sleep PROgressions. The average age for these are as follows: 4 months 6 months, 8-10 months, 12 months, 18 months and 24 months.
Separation anxiety is something that parents see once a baby has acquired object permanence. Some babies can experience this around 4-5 months, but more commonly this happens at around 9 months. This means that your baby now understands that when you are out of sight, you may have actually left, which can be very alarming to a young child. Within the first year of life, children attach through the senses and if they can’t see, smell, taste, hear or feel you – they don’t know if you’re coming back. As you might suspect, this is life threatening and terrifying for a baby. A peak of separation anxiety can be exhausting for a parent – lean on your village and know that this is normal and is only a phase.
Every baby and child is unique. While for some babies teething will disrupt sleep and everything else, some babies will barely show signs of teething at all. Around 4-6 months, babies will begin to get teeth and this process continues well into toddlerhood. Teething can make falling and staying asleep difficult for some babies. Teething is usually seen as an 8 day window, 4 days before the tooth breaks through and 4 days after. Letting babies chew on safe objects or a cool cloth can be soothing during the day. Teething can also affect feeding. Some babies will feed for a short period of time, making feeding on demand even more important during this time. Some breastfeeding babies even go on a nursing strike during this time. This too shall pass.
While traveling can affect babies, especially highly sensitive ones, travel is usually more difficult on the parents. It’s estimated that jetlag will occur for about one day per every one hour of time change. The silver lining is, babies usually adapt quicker than adults. Before aiming to adjust your child’s sleep routine while on vacation, especially if you will only be gone for about a week, and aren’t crossing more than three time zones – consider keeping your baby’s sleep schedule the same. If time zones are significantly different, you can consider shifting your baby’s sleep by about 15 minutes per day, for a week or two before travel. Bringing parts of your child’s sleep environment from home, like sheets, their noise machine, anything familiar from their home sleep environment can help with the adjustment. Using light to your advantage is also very helpful. Using dark sheets or black out shades, and getting your baby out in sunlight first thing in the morning, this will help your baby adjust to the new schedule.
When babies are going through a healing phase, sleep will likely be affected. The best move here is to focus on supporting your child and doing whatever you need to do so that the whole family can get as much rest as possible. This is hardly the time to make changes to sleep – first we heal, then we tackle sleep. While the symptoms of “colic”, gas and reflux are a topic that deserve their own post – I just want to mention that if your baby is experiencing any of these, there is a root cause, and the only true resolution is getting to the bottom of it.
A final important reminder – while there are no true bad sleep habits, only patterns that need to change because they are no longer working for your family; this is never more true than during times of disruption. Lean on your village, and rest in the fact that these times are trying, difficult, normal and temporary.