Help! My baby learned to stand and is no longer sleeping through the night!

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  • September 01, 2010

In this week’s blog I decided to discuss how developmental milestones such as learning to stand up can wreak havoc with a good sleeper’s routine!

Here are two questions I received:

My son is 8 months old and at 6 months, he started to sleep through the night – after I tried your techniques. But by 7 months, when he started teething, he wanted to constantly be picked up at night, which I did. Since then, he has been waking up 5-8 times a night and won’t stay asleep. I started to bring him into bed with me at about 2-3am because I am just so overtired and drained. Naps are also a battle. Now that he’s sitting up and pulling himself up to a standing position, I can’t even leave him to cry a little for fear that he will hurt himself. I feel like I’m falling apart. My husband sleeps in the living room now and has never been much support at night. I feel alone and miserable.

First off, I have read your book, and thank you, thank you, thank you! We accomplished full nights sleep using the Sleep Lady Shuffle. Our now 8 month old has been sleeping great (11-12 hours/night)!! Naps were also great (1 1/2 – 2 hrs each), after nap training! Then he learned how to pull himself up to stand in the crib. He will just stand there and talk then start crying. I go in and lay him back down. Sometimes it only takes once and he will finally fall asleep. But sometimes I have to go in every 15 minutes for an hour, and then he finally gives in and falls asleep. This has been going on for almost 3 weeks. And our naps range from only 1 hour to 2 hours per nap. So we have 3 naps a day instead of 2. What am I doing wrong? What needs to be happening so he can get longer uninterrupted naps? Thanks, Ashley

Cognitive, emotional or motor developmental milestones often affect sleep. In fact, Dr. T. Berry Brazelton in his book Touchpoints: Your Child’s Emotional and Behavioral Development, Birth to 3 reminds us that we may see regression or a period of disorganization not just in sleep, but in social, emotional, and feeding patterns as well.

I find that the most pronounced, although temporary, sleep problems occur as a child is learning to walk. You may also see problems right before your child sits up, crawls, stands, and is potty trained. I address many of these leaps in the relevant age chapters of The Sleep Lady’s Good Night, Sleep Tight, but the key is remembering that these new skills excite children and change their world, sometimes quite literally. For instance, when you child stands up in her crib for the first time, she may discover everything looks different from up there!

When your baby learns to stand up in their crib, I would try not to intervene or if you do put them down once, but only once. If you decide to sit next to the crib, pat the mattress and encourage your baby to lie down. If you sit versus stand, he will be more likely to sit down to be on your level.

Babies do tend to learn how to get up before they can get back down, so let her practice during the day. Let her stand up and try to get down holding on to the couch or your finger. Games like ring-around-the-rosy are also good for developing up-and-down motions. But do the practicing games out of the crib, during awake time, not at naps or bedtime.

Until you child learns how to get down from a standing position you will need to help him, so practice a lot during the day!!! In the meantime, when he wakes at night try to delay laying him down until you think he has reached that moment where if you lay him down you think he will stay down. Its an intuitive process and I know you may misjudge that moment sometimes…its ok. Once she learns stop doing it for him which becomes the new sleep crutch, as Ashley can attest to! So Ashley, its important that you stop laying him down if he knows how to do it himself…regardless of whether you do timed checks or the Shuffle to address his wakings.

Tip for “Alone and Miserable”– follow the guidelines I mentioned above and make sure you read the section on page 21 in Good Night, Sleep Tight or my article on consistency in this blog. I would recommend you re-start The Shuffle and be consistent about how you address all night wakings. Your sleep situation is not unusual and shows you how easy it is to ingrain a new negative sleep habit! Babies are so smart! The good news is that it might not take him so long to “remember” his old sleep skills since it was only a month ago that he was sleeping through the night!

Routine Busters are so common that I dedicated a whole chapter to this issue in my book The Sleep Lady’s Good Night, Sleep Tight.

Was this article helpful to you? Please tell us by commenting below! For more baby, toddler, and family sleep tips and tricks, please subscribe to The Sleep Lady’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and YouTube channel! If you are looking for more sleep content, please check out Get Sleep Now-an exclusive members-only area designed to provide in-depth help and support during your sleep coaching experience.

Kim West
Kim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 24 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. She is the author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night Sleep Tight, its companion Workbook and 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies. Click here to read more about her.

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  • Pavithra says:

    My son in 21/2 years old. He has been sleeping well at night (currently 8pm- 6:30am) and has been taking good naps (12:20-2:30pm) both at home and at daycare. But the last 3 weekends, naps have become a battle/game. We take him to his room so that he can sleep around the same time he does at daycare. We don’t think we are missing his nap window, but he ends up getting out of his bed and monkeying around for 45 min- 1hr and falling asleep latter than he should. We have had to repeatedly go in to intervene. He is still napping fine at daycare. What should we do to get him back into taking good naps at home?

    • KimWest says:

      Pavithra, Your son may be wanting to spend time with you on the weekend! Make sure you have a nice nap routine and set clear expectations of the behavior you expect to see from him. Gate his room, stay around his room or sit in the hallway. Make sure he can’t turn on the light and play around in his room either! Use room darkening shades. You could even do a sleep manner chart just for naps. You can also consider moving his naps to 1pm. Right now he has a very big wakeful window from afternoon nap to bedtime. At daycare there are peers “following the rules” at naptime which helps! I am always amazed that childcare providers can get 8 preschoolers to sit nicely at the table to eat and then all nap at the same time!!

  • Mel says:

    I had the same problem when my son learned to stand up, and I did try the put him down once and only once system but it lead to long bouts of absolute SCREAMING (and my son is normally very placid) so I’ve resorted to laying him down about 25 times a night until he finally lets go and lets himself fall asleep. He is now 12 months old though and it’s the same drill. I do wonder if there’s a better way…for a while rocking was the better way, because at least HOURS of my life weren’t being spent/wasted getting him to fall asleep, but over time he got dependent on rocking and would wake loads in the night. I went back to the putting him down every time he popped up but letting him put himself to sleep — and doing this again during night wakings — and he started sleeping 9 1/2 hour stretches, a miracle! I’d like to shorten the time it takes to get him to sleep because it’s driving me BANANAS. Any ideas?

    • KimWest says:

      Mel, The smallest thing can ingrain a wake up and lengthen the going to sleep process!!! I would do the Shuffle in its pure form and sit next to your son’s crib, pat the mattress between the slots of the crib and encourage him to lay down. Don’t stand yourself…if you sit he will want to be at your level. Once he lays down then you can sh, touch a little between the slots etc. If you are going to lay him down I would wait until you think you have found the “magic moment” where if you lay him down he will stay down- this is hard to get. Be careful, you do not want to train him to cry until you lay him and and pat him for example. The only way to avoid the power struggle over laying him down is to STOP laying him down at this point. Ugh…not easy.

  • Laura says:

    One thing that I didn’t see in the book or here was how do they learn to lay themselves down from sitting (he can sit down from standing, but seems to be stranded sitting up)?

  • […] to standing, you risk it becoming a game. Often, babies learn to pull themselves to standing before they know how to sit down, which can be […]