How long do you normally give a schedule adjustment before deciding whether you think it's working? We had a rough night with the baby last night and I feel like I did everything "right" yesterday — all three naps were on time and I put her to bed early last night. She woke up and got herself back to sleep in a few minutes at about midnight; but then woke up at 2 and cried off and on until I went in at 3a.
The confounding factor: She started flipping onto her belly on Sunday. When I went in at 3a she was on her belly and crying, and I'm wondering if she was upset because she didn't know how to flip onto her back. I will say, when I went in at 7a this morning, she was sleeping happily on her belly, so maybe she came to terms with it quickly?? She also rolled belly-to-back for the first time while playing this morning, so who knows??
Anna, mom to 5 month old baby S
Welcome to developmental leaps. They are exciting but they can really mess with sleep! The good news is that the disturbance will be temporary if you are consistent in your response. In other words, refrain from rewarding the unwanted behavior.
In the case of this particular developmental leap, rolling, this mom did perfectly. She left her baby alone to sort it out. She could have gone in sooner to flip her baby over onto her back again... but the baby might well have rolled back onto her stomach again and cried all over again. You can certainly try rolling her back and if it works, great, but if she keeps rolling back, there's nothing to do but let her figure it out.
The best way to help takes time but it is to give her lots and lots of floor time to practice her rolling skills. Limit your baby's time in containment devices such as swings, bouncers, exersaucers, Bumbos, Jumparoos as much as possible. This baby learned to roll back to her belly just three days after rolling to her stomach but it can sometimes take a month or longer. A clean blanket on the floor is always the ideal place for a baby to play unless there is a toddler or pet around who poses a risk to her safety. In that case, I recommend a Pack n Play for safety if there is not an adult closely supervising her. Toddlers can hurt an infant very, very quickly and it's not fair to expect them to know better. Same with animals. If you can create physical boundaries to keep them apart, I highly recommend doing so.
In terms of safe sleeping, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that once a baby can roll onto his back indepdently, it is safe to leave him there. This typically happens between 4 and 6 months of age. The important thing is that you make sure that the crib has nothing in it but a tight-fitting bottom sheet and perhaps a pacifier, if desired. Bumpers, soft toys, and blankets are dangerous for babies. A sleep sack is safe but a swaddle -- once a baby can roll -- is not.
The good news is that once babies grow accustomed to rolling, they often sleep more soundly on their stomachs. Assuming you have not been rewarding her new wakings, you may well experience better sleep for the whole family once baby learns to sleep on her belly.
If you want your family to receive all the benefits of being well-rested but need a little help getting there, schedule a free consult and to get the sleep you deserve.
Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and certified life coach for parents. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.