As your baby grows, it’s so exciting to see them learn new skills! At around 4-6 months, your baby will begin to learn a very important mobility skill: rolling over. Your baby will usually master rolling from tummy to back first, then around 6-7 months will learn how to roll from back to belly.
This adorable new skill can also cause a temporary disruption in your little one’s sleep. However, developmental milestones, like rolling, aren’t true sleep regressions, meaning they aren’t a permanent change in your child’s sleep.
Sleep disruptions from rolling should only last 1-2 weeks. But if you’re in the middle of this developmental milestone, you’re probably thinking: “Well, no matter what you want to call it, my baby isn’t sleeping. So how do we get through this without losing our minds?”
Why does rolling interrupt your child’s sleep?
Before I give you some of my tips & tricks for getting through this stage in your little one’s life, first let’s talk about why rolling (or any new skill) can interrupt sleep. Well, first of all, it’s exciting! Your little one has discovered something new that they’ve never experienced before. So can you blame them for trying it out all the time? Even when they’re supposed to be sleeping!
How many times have you stayed up past your bedtime to work on a hobby project or watch one more episode of Grey’s Anatomy? It’s the same for your little one. They’re having fun, and they’re too young to rationalize the importance of sleep versus. staying up to practice the new fun thing they learned.
If your little one is just learning how to roll, rolling can interrupt sleep because the change in position can be uncomfortable or unexpected. Your little one might roll when they are deep asleep, but wake up because of the sudden change in position. If they haven’t quite developed the skills to roll back in the other direction, it may take them a minute to figure things out, which keeps them awake. It will take time for them to master rolling or feel comfortable sleeping on their stomach.
How do you make sure your child stays safe during this phase?
Your baby is now more mobile at night than ever before, so it is especially important to follow Safe Sleep Guidelines as recommended by the American Acedemy of Pediatrics*. If you have been swaddling your baby, once they begin showing signs of rolling, you should stop swaddling so they have freedom of movement and won’t become tangled, which can pose a strangulation risk. If you feel comfortable putting your baby in a sleep sack, this can be a safer alternative to swaddling.
Your baby should sleep on a firm sleep surface such as a crib, play yard, or bassinet, that meets the safety standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission with a fitted sheet only. Your baby’s crib should be free of any loose items, including blankets, toys, loveys, etc. You want to keep the crib clear so that when your child rolls, they don’t become stuck or tangled in anything.
Should I reposition my baby when they become stuck?
The first rule of thumb for this is: Are they unsafe? If their sleeping environment already complies with safe sleep guidelines, then it should be rare that your child finds themselves in an unsafe position. But you should always use your parental instinct and judgment, and reposition your child if necessary.
In general, don’t be so quick to jump in. We want to build healthy sleep habits, so practice makes perfect. You want to give your child the space to figure things out on their own, which promotes self-soothing techniques. Let them discover sleeping on their stomach and see how they feel about it. It may take time for them to adjust to this new position, but once they do, they might love it.
Am I telling you that you should never intervene? Absolutely not. If your child is just beginning to roll and is waking repeatedly throughout the night or is having trouble falling back asleep, you may need to help them reposition in the short term for everyone’s sanity. If you do need to reposition your baby, be quick and quiet. Don’t linger any longer than absolutely necessary.
How can you help your family get the sleep you need during this milestone?
- Safety First. Practice the safe sleep tips mentioned above and be sure to keep up to date with the AAP Safe Sleep Guidelines so you can continue to help your baby sleep safe throughout their lives. If you are still swaddling, now is the time to stop or consider a sleep sack instead. Keep your child’s crib free of any loose items (like blankets or toys), and make sure their mattress is a firm, flat surface.
- Practice Makes Perfect. Give your little one plenty of time to practice this new skill throughout the day. Not only will they be less inclined to practice all night, but this will also help them solidify this new skill and build muscle memory. The more confident they are in their ability to roll, the easier it will be for them to reposition and fall asleep on their own. Here is a link to a helpful video for rolling practice.
- Tummy Time. Your little one may not have spent a lot of time on their stomach before. Give them time and space to get used to this new position, both during the day and at night. You will still want to put your baby to sleep on their back, but when they roll over on their stomach, don’t be too quick to intervene. Let them feel it out, and step in only when you feel it’s necessary.
- Be Consistent. Don’t let all of your hard-earned work go out the window when your little one begins struggling to sleep. If your family has an established bedtime routine, your little one is going down on their own without sleep props, and you have a general healthy sleeper…don’t mix it up! You may need to bend the rules slightly (exception, not the rule) to help everyone get the sleep they need, but this should be a very short-term fix. Remember, this phase will only last 1-2 weeks, so if you can stick to your guns, your little one will be a better sleeper long-term.
Is your little one rockin’ and rolling? If so, congratulations on making it to this big milestone! I hope these tips help your family navigate this exciting time in your little one’s life. However, if you need a little more help during this phase, or your family has been struggling to get a good night’s sleep for a while, there may be more going on. I offer a FREE Sleep Evaluation Call to help you learn more about Sleep Training and see if it could work for your family. This no-obligation call is a great place to start if your family is ready to stop struggling and finally get the sleep you desperately need!
*Please visit the American Academy of Pediatrics website for the most up-to-date information on Safe Sleep Guidelines.