Rolling Milestone & Sleep

learning to roll

Most of the time, new developmental skills will have an affect on sleep. Our goal during this time is to minimize the sleep disruption while allowing them to figure out their newfound mobility or skill!

When your little one learns how to do something new, we are all so excited for them! Yay, they rolled over the first time, get the camera, etc. But then the reality hits and your child realizes how fun, new, and exciting this activity is.

And they want to do it all the time. In their sleep. When they’re usually an okay/good sleeper (meaning you get decent stretches of sleep), they’ve decided sleep is not a thing but rolling, that sounds fun!

*Important note: the AAP does say that a child can sleep on their belly WHEN they can get themselves into that position, so you do not have to roll them onto their back if they roll themselves. You must still place them on their back when laying them down, but they can assume whatever position is most comfortable for them.

Sometimes the worst “problem” is when your baby can get into one position but not OUT of that position. Like when they can roll from their back to their belly, but not from the belly to their back.

rolling and sleep

So they end up rolling and then crying because it’s new, unusual, or they’re frustrated that they’re stuck on their belly when they’re not used to that. Other times, it’s a disruption because practicing their skills is more fun than sleeping or taking a nap!

Fun fact: babies do not have the same muscle paralysis as adults so when their brain is working hard to integrate a new skill (which happens during sleep), they quite literally start acting out their dreams!

Please know that this is normal and you will get past it. They will go back to sleeping as usual-- our goal is that we support our child in this skill without reinforcing any habits that we don’t want to sustain.

It's also important to note that swaddling must be discontinued at the first signs of rolling or earlier! This blog goes into more details about how to stop swaddling.

safe sleep and rolling

Here are the top 5 ways to get through a milestone, like rolling and disrupting sleep:

  1. Wear out the “newness” of the skill by giving lots and lots of day time practice. Once your child is past the novelty of it, he will feel less inclined to practice when he should be sleeping.
  2. Practice where they’re having trouble and be very hands on in guiding them into/out of positions they’re getting stuck in! If they’re having trouble in their crib and scooting into a corner, that’s where you can practice!
  3. Patience is key-- have a mantra ready for those hard nights like “it’s just a phase” or “this won’t last forever”.
  4. Make sure they’re not getting too overtired! If they’re practicing skills when they should be sleeping, you can assist for naps and use an early bedtime.
  5. Help them when they’re struggling! If you know they cannot get out of a position they’re frustrated in, you can first try to soothe them in that position, but ultimately they will likely need your help for a bit when they’re stuck.
baby sleep and rolling

Other tips to get through this time:

  • Avoid stressing out and suddenly changing your schedule or routines
  • Try to keep the night time wakings very calming and soothing (don’t remove them from their room and turn it into a midnight party if possible)
  • Try to avoid rushing in-- stay curious about what they’re capable of. It’s okay to observe them for a moment before intervening!
  • Don’t fear them learning a new skill-- you can be proactive and start working on it before they’ve mastered it

How long will this last? It’s hard to say! The more active you are with your child with tummy time and developing the skill during awake time, the faster they will lose interest in doing it all night long.

sleeping on belly

Try to take shifts with a partner if possible and go to bed early yourself until your nights are back to normal. 

Author Bio: Ashley Olson is a certified pediatric sleep consultant, owner of Heaven Sent Sleep, and passionate about helping new parents, experienced parents, desperate and sleep-deprived parents form healthy sleep habits for their
children.

She has over 3 years of experience in working with families and has completed over 150 hours of coursework plus continuing education related to infant and toddler sleep. The focus of her work is on fostering a routine that grows your bond with your child while improving their sleep habits. She specializes in custom sleep plans and one on one support in changing sleep practices!


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