Developmental stages & baby sleep

Developmental stages & baby sleep

Today’s blog is looking at things we need to know about baby development and baby sleep. Moving babies on to the next stage cause mums a lot of angst. You’ve just got your little cutie sleeping really well then comes along those pesky developmental leaps. They start rolling over, moving around the cot and getting stuck and screaming out for you to help them.

I also see many babies being swaddled for way too long, often swaddled until 7/8 months old creating a big issue with sleep. This interferes with their ability to self-soothe and rollover. If your baby can’t put their bare hands in their mouth and roll over its very tricky to achieve a sleep through. Research has found a link between lack of mouthing and sensory processing issues. This reflex and developmental skill for mouthing i.e. placing their hands in their mouth take place around 12 weeks.

These are really common scenarios I get asked about:

My 4.5-month-old just learnt how to roll today! Yay! Only she can’t roll herself back and for her last two periods of sleep she could not settle herself as she’s never slept on her tummy before and essentially “got stuck”.

It took half an hour for us to settle her – eventually on her back like she’s used to. But how do we teach her that she can sleep on her tummy and not only use it for cobra pose??

Worried about her getting to bed tonight 😳 Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance!

Best thing I can tell you is that it will pass. In future try settling her on their tummy to teach her that tummy sleeping is normal and what she should be doing. Once they can roll they are not a SIDS risk. This stage is a pretty short-lived thing so just keep rolling him to his back to sleep and after some nights she will be able to just roll both ways and it will be fine.

Sit by the cot, place your hand briefly on her back to teach her this is what you want her to do. Allow her to cry and feel frustrated. You don’t need to calm her, the baby’s job is to calm themselves. Your job is to be present and support this process.

baby sleep

But you don’t want to create “learned helplessness” where they need you to roll them – temporarily it’s OK if it’s just a learning curve but be careful. And lots and lots of rolling practice in the day! Use toys to teach him to roll front to back. And know that it will pass!

The next stage is 6-9 months and they get stuck sitting up 🙈😂 just know it will pass and help him/her work through it and settle him down, lots of teaching in the day etc. good luck!! Oh, and just in case it helps…a few bad nights of them learning these new things doesn’t undo your sleep work. They are just leaping their brains! It does go back 🙂

Then you have the 6-8 month leap and separation anxiety hits the big time.

This is one mums story – For those who have not long gone through 8-month leap and separation awareness. My poor little pet is now crying when I put her in bed AND catnapping, she also woke at 4.30 am which is unusual. I tried magic presence this afternoon. After a 30 min nap. 20 minutes of crying 😭 (I had earphones in to take the edge off) how long did this last for you?
I’d love your tips and any advice you can offer about how to deal with the waking?

  • My son has been through this stage a few time’s (6, 8 and 11 months) he turns 1 tomorrow. If she responded well to your initial sleep training, it won’t take long. First, 2 stages lasted 2-4 days and the last one just 1 day. You’ll both get there!!
  • My lad is still going through at nearly 11 months, I’m sorry, not helpful but we kept giving in and putting him in bed with us and now have made it so much harder for him so my advice is don’t be as soft as me because you’ll only make it harder for him like I have for my lad
  • my first baby was a dreadful sleeper. This time we decided to be firm early. I’m hoping that this won’t last too long. I get anxious about big changes because of past experiences 😱
  • We went through separation anxiety a few months ago and impacted his sleep he would panic when we put him in the cot and I checked some previous posts on the group and Karen had advised to going back to doing Magic Presence as soon as settling to sleep so we went back to doing magic presence for about 5 weeks-  and within a few days it all got sorted and was so worth it. It also really helped his separation anxiety during the day. It really does get better – you got this 🙌🏻
  • We just go through it 😫😫 I was being soft like above picking up and cuddling. Karen advised to go back to doing Magic Presence and I’m happy to report that after a few days of tough love (magic presence, no pickups at all) she cried for maybe 2 minutes before bed last night then put herself to sleep without me having to go in. Day naps have also improved too! Be strong you can get through it xx
And literally within no time, things are back on track. And if they’re not then you need the new online Nurture Sleep Program to help you.
Limit setting for your baby 0-12 months

Limit setting for your baby 0-12 months

Limit Setting

Toddlers are designed to push boundaries and it comes naturally to these cute little mini dictators. The danger as their parent is you forget to maintain your boundary or limit setting. Until the toddler’s boundary becomes the new status quo. Then you are in for a whole heap of trouble and pain. I liken the toddler to a mini dictator or CEO, they want to be an adult before they’re a child. And they will do everything in their power to get exactly what it is they think they need.

In order to follow rules and understand limits, children need to develop self-control.

Self-control and self-regulation are complex skills beginning to emerge in the early months. They become increasingly consistently apparent between four and five years old. Self-regulation takes many years to fully develop — and adults may struggle with this skill from time to time! Limit setting starts at 0-12 months not when you hit testing times with a 3 year old!

Baby Sleep

Developing Self-Control 0-12 months

Babies naturally act on their thoughts and feelings over which they have no conscious control. They are unable to reflect on or think about their behavior. And they can’t stop themselves from acting on their impulses.

The baby needs your help to develop some self-control and will gradually learn about and gain some self-control across the first year. One of the most important factors in developing self-control is the ability to soothe and calm when upset. Initially this skill is provided by their caregiver by cuddling, rocking, talking calmly, feeding and putting a dummy in their mouth. The parent attempts to understand the baby’s facial expressions, non-verbal body language communication and cries to help in meeting her daily needs. The sense of being loved and understood gives babies a foundation of safety and security and is essential for coping with feelings in a positive healthy way.

What You Can Do Now To Help Your Baby Gain Self-Control

  • Stay calm – demonstrating you can manage your emotions is essential in being able to teach your baby the same skills. This helps her feel safe and then she knows you are avaialble to help her (not dealing with your own emotions and calming down). Modelling self-control is an essential part of helping her work out how to calm herself.
  • Provide basic tools – teach your baby basic calm techniques, at 8 months plus helping her find her comforter or pacifier to help calm herself. Avoid giving it to her and putting it in her hand or mouth. Once you give it to her you are creating learned helplessness and she will not attempt to help herself longterm.
  • Demonstrate self-help techniques – show your baby how to calm himself, provide a teething rusk or teething aid such as Sophie the Giraffe to help him whilst he is teething. Show him acceptable ways of helping himself rather than chastising him for ways you don’t want him to use e.g. biting your finger.

Daily Routines Help Develop Security and Self-Control

Routines are events which happen at the same time each day and usually in a particular order. They acat as a cue to help the baby know what is likely to happen next. They create security and decrease cortisol and help a baby navigate change and challenging situations.

How you can help

  • Determine if there are any particular times of day your baby has a meltdown. Is there a common denominator e.g. around mealtimes or nap times? Organise trips at the baby’s ‘best’ time of day.
  • Use baby massage, reading and soothing lullabies to help calm your baby from activity time to a restful nap.

baby sleep

Get in tune with your baby

Does your baby have a very definite strong personality and temperament and are they resistant to change? Working out your baby’s ‘type’ can help you manage them much better.

A baby’s temperament can have an impact on a care- giver’s ability to meet the baby’s needs. Temperament refers to a person’s characteristics or traits that are biologically based and consistent over time. It influences how we respond to people and our surroundings.

Temperament characteristics shape how easily babies and toddlers are able to manage their feelings and impulses, especially traits e.g.

  • Mood
  • Intensity to particular situations
  • Adaptability

Children who have a more negative mood, are intense reactors and/or who are not very flexible or adaptable may have a more difficult time developing self-control.

They tend to get upset more easily and will probably need more help from you the parent to calm down. This doesn’t mean their temperament is somehow “wrong” or “bad.” But because their reactions are so strong, it may take more time to learn how to manage intense feelings and responses.

How You Can Help Your Baby With Impulse Control

Help your baby learn to self-soothe and calm herself, the more in control she feels the happier she will be. This is a skill which has to be taught and it won’t just happen by chance. Allow your baby to have a voice, to be allowed to cry and express herself. The key thing is you help her with her emotions and avoid letting her cry alone. This is why teaching babies self-soothing skills early is the key to good emotional health as a child and an adult.

Observe your baby and try to understand her feeding and hunger cues. Study her verbal and non-verbal communication, what is she trying to tell you? Once babies feel heard and understood they become much calmer.

And if you’re battling with getting your little one to sleep then… You need to know about my NEWLY launched online #nurturesleepprogram 💤😴

You’ll have direct access to me and my 3 decades of experience as a registered midwife and child and family health nurse via the Nurture Sleep Program.

You can take your baby from sleepless to slumber in up to 7 easy lessons across 3 age groups once you join. Toddler section coming soon.

🍌 FOODS that promote baby sleep
ROUTINE: easy, flexible, sleep-ready
💡 ENVIRONMENT: getting it right
👶🏽 DEVELOPMENT: changes, how these affect sleep
😴 SLEEP METHODS: secret tips that will change your life

It will stop the guesswork and give you:

A tried and tested approach (20 years of helping families with baby & toddler sleep)
Gentle baby sleep methods
Holistic assessment
Nurture & Nourish nutrition program – all recipes have sleep-inducing ingredients and a perfect balance for a good nights sleep
Access to a closed Facebook group for one on one support from Karen and 90+ timecoded Facebook Live videos
Prevention for under 4 months so no need to do sleep training ever
And all at a low $97 for a very limited time

Nurture Sleep Program

I kept telling myself that his sleep would improve

Attunement and getting your groove on with baby

Keeping your 6-12 month baby safe

Keeping your 6-12 month baby safe

On the move

At around 7-10 months your baby will most likely be all 4’s crawling and the stage is important for learning. Between 9-18 months they start to pull to stand and take their first steps. The first thing you need to do is to childproof your home environment to prevent these inquisitive babies keeping out of trouble. Babies by nature are curious and saying NO means absolutely NOTHING! Impulse control is something all babies and toddlers do not have until past 3 years. As the parent, you have to protect your baby.

Bedroom childproofing

When it comes to sleep, even the bedroom needs childproofing. Prepare your cot for these changes by moving the mattress down to the lowest level. The last thing you want is a jumper and escapee in the middle of the night. My youngest jumper out of a cot was 9 months old! Eek.

Childproof your home

Also, think about safety in the home before starting to become more mobile.


Object permanence and separation anxiety

Object permanence and separation anxiety

Object permanence

Object permanence, a period of rapid cognitive development is often linked to separation anxiety. Starting at 6-8 months it becomes permanent at 16-18 months.

In the first year, babies are discovering everything has a life of its own even if it is out of sight. Objects puzzulingly seem to appear, disappear and reappear.


Babies are extremely egocentric with no understanding of the world other than their own current point of view. During this stage the baby’s understanding is, objects exist and events occur in the world independently of their own actions (‘the object concept’, or ‘object permanence’).

Mental Representation

Object permanence means knowing an object still exists, even if it is hidden out of sight. Requiring the ability (on the baby’s part) to form a mental representation of the object.
For example, placing a toy under a blanket, the baby who has achieved object permanence knows it is still there and can actively look for it. At the beginning of this stage the baby is behaving as if the toy has simply disappeared. The attainment of object permanence is signalling the transition to the next stage of development (preoperational).

The 6 Stages of Object Permanence & Separation Anxiety

Babies at 6-8 months can often cry for no particular reason and it can be troubling for a parent. It’s important to be aware, as a parent, you don’t need to fix all their emotional crying. It’s a stress release for the baby and is cathartic. This can be quite a challenging concept for a parent to wrap their head around.

Aletha Solther, an eminent Psychologist, advises parents to (once all needs are met) accept babies may cry for a time while being held, rocked and/or verbally reassured. The crying can then become productive by building trust. Whilst allowing babies and little ones to process big emotions in the only way they are capable.

Suppressing emotions

Suppressing emotions is counter productive and can actually be harmful, research has found. It’s refusing to allow the baby to have a voice and be heard. Once this happens it risks becoming a control pattern. It is actually quite harmful and the baby absorbs their stress. For example a crying baby is put on the breast or a dummy placed in their mouth it is saying to the baby your emotions are not valid.

Never Allow Babies To Cry Alone

As Aletha Solter says, “One of the roles of parents is to listen and empathize with babies and children. You cannot always “fix” everything for your baby, but you can help by being there, holding, listening, and letting her know you love her”. The key thing to remember is we NEVER ALLOW BABIES TO CRY ALONE. Allow your baby to cry in your arms as long as the baby needs to (after all immediate needs have been met). After the baby is allowed to “catch up” on the crying they need to do, they will probably become much less demanding and fussy.

Related articles:

Your Baby’s Unexplained Crying May Be a Form of Stress Relief

Separation anxiety and the toddler who clings to you like a koala

Separation Anxiety and its’ effects on baby sleep

The 4 month sleep regression is real

The 4 month sleep regression is real

Sleep regression

The 4-month sleep regression derails babies, starting off a spiral of sleep deprivation. I’m taking you right back to my Health Visitor training in England. Parents are taught at 2-8 weeks postnatal, how to help their baby self-settle. It’s a gentle no-frills approach with very few sleep problems. Babies are put down awake in the cot, un-swaddled and tucked in with cotton sheets and blankets.

Babies are never patted, rocked or fed to sleep … ever. Parents are taught settling using a hands-on technique until the baby fell asleep.

What is it about the 4-month wonder week that makes sleep come undone?

It’s the World of Events at 4-months…which are patterns and sequences, a real aha moment.

Looking at the practice of other baby sleep practitioners. Both private and health service sleep school.
A lot of babies ‘fail’ sleep school and other sleep consultants.

What are parents being taught?

It’s the usual suspects – patting, rocking, holding, feeding and swaddling babies to sleep after 4 months. Patting to sleep is a big sleep crutch. It’s rhythmic and leaves an imprint on the baby falling halfway down the hierarchy of settling. Unless patted, baby can’t get back to sleep once they wake from a sleep cycle. Toddlers are also asking to be patted, saying to mum, “Pat mummy. Pat, pat mummy’.” 7-month old babies are getting hold of mum’s hand, placing it on their tummy and patting.

What is true self-settling?

Why is it the 4-month wonder week making sleep come undone?

At 12 weeks (3 months) the wonder week effects, “… your baby’s ability to perceive the way things change around him.” Such as a voice shifting from one pitch to another, a cat slinking across the floor, and the light in a room becoming dimmer as the sun dips behind the clouds. Your baby’s world is becoming a more organized place. He is discovering the constant, flowing changes around him”.

At 19 weeks (4 months) babies move to the World of Events, which are patterns and sequences. “After the last leap forward, your baby was able to perceive smooth transitions in sound, movement, light, taste, smell, and texture. But all of these transitions had to be simple. As soon as they became more complicated, he was no longer able to follow them.” (Hetty Van de Rijt PhD., & Frans Plooj, Ph.D. 2014). This is the pat, rock, and feed to sleep.

The real clincher for me was reading an online article by Dr. Lynne Murray (eminent UK psychologist) in the Mail Online. Saying if babies couldn’t recreate the thing that put them to sleep then their sleep would come undone. You can read it at this link:

The Psychology of Babies  was published and I went straight to the chapter on sleep. And lo and behold, there were my UK baby sleep methods and not a mention of a pat anywhere. Babies had hands-free and un-swaddled. Hallelujah for Dr. Lynne Murray, the voice of reason and evidence-based practice.

If your baby’s sleep was predictable until now, it may all fall apart. However, there are many things you can do to help retrieve a good night’s sleep. Continuing to work on building consistent sleep routines and cues. Helping baby learn certain events mean sleep is coming. You may want to work on identifying the sleep associations your baby has and teaching self-settling.

What can you do now to avoid the 4-month sleep regression?

  1. Stop patting, rocking, holding and feeding to sleep at 3 months
  2. Practice putting baby to sleep awake, in the cot, at 2-3 months
  3. If using a dummy avoid using it for all settling and avoid using in the night
  4. Teach baby to roll over in her cot in the day
  5. Practice tummy time when awake in the cot and how to lay her head down on her tummy.
  6. Move baby to a large floor mat with toys placed a little way away from baby
  7. Avoid using the play-gym too much, it can prevent rolling over.
  8. Do more sleep in the cot compared to sleep in the stroller or sling
  9. Stop swaddling before 4 months moving to a sleeping bag or sleep suit.

Once you hit 4 months and sleep regression a whole different approach and sleep training is needed.

I help families all over the world if you desperately need help managing your baby’s sleep regression.

Once your baby can self-settle the rest of those wonder weeks should go unnoticed and be quite seamless. I’ve not had a baby who can self-settle under 4-months come undone later. If you’re still struggling to resolve this issue then consider joining the many parents in my Nurture Sleep Program. You can get access to my 3 decades of experience as a registered midwife and child and family health nurse via the Nurture Sleep Program.

The Nurture Sleep Program will take your baby from sleepless to slumber in up to 7 easy lessons across 3 age groups.

🍌 FOODS that promote sleep
ROUTINE: easy, flexible, sleep-ready
💡 ENVIRONMENT: getting it right
👶🏽 DEVELOPMENT changes: how these affect sleep
😴 SLEEP METHODS: secret tips that will change your life

It will stop the guesswork and give you:

A tried and tested approach (20 years of helping families with baby & toddler sleep)
Gentle baby sleep methods
Holistic assessment
Nurture & Nourish nutrition program – all recipes have sleep inducing ingredients and a perfect balance for a good nights sleep
Access to a closed Facebook group for one on one support from Karen and 90+ timecoded Facebook Live videos
Prevention for under 4 months so no need to do sleep training ever
And all at a low $97 for a very limited time

Scroll down for some more reading and helpful videos below

Preventing the dreaded 4 month baby sleep regression

Miss Rosalie and the sleep training – the wrap had to go!

Why the Baby Gym May Be Delaying the Roll over in Your Baby

Why we need to teach our babies to roll over

Tummy time and play

Baby stuck in sitting in cot & won’t settle to sleep

Baby stuck in sitting in cot & won’t settle to sleep

Baby stuck sitting up and won’t lay down

This blog idea came from a bedtime visit of baby whispering to 8 month Tilly who had got stuck in sitting in her cot.

A breech baby born by caesarean, Tilly had progressed along beautifully and was now pulling to stand. Tilly has a strong personality and is not a baby who likes being shown what to do! Just like many of the babies I see for help with sleep.

sitting in cribSleep training and stuck in sitting

The sleep training was progressing very well … until the final bit. Sitting down in the cot from standing, she tried … and tried … and tried to get herself comfy and move onto her front. But she couldn’t. She was stuck in sitting and couldn’t get to sleep. She repeatedly woke herself up and was getting very cross. I suggested to her mum to gently move her legs out from under her. Tilly was not very impressed with our attempts to help her. No, she wanted to do it all by herself! Does this sound familiar? It was becoming very apparent that Tilly hadn’t had much floor time on her front at all. Because she’d been a breech baby she preferred to sit. So that’s what her parents did. And she sat and sat and was sitting all day long. Except for being in the sling for her day naps but again she was sitting. And when she wasn’t sitting or in the sling she was in bed co-sleeping with her mama. So her parents had no idea about this developmental problem that Tilly had developed.

Avoid putting baby into sitting during floor play

Once you put a baby into sitting position on the floor they just don’t want to do tummy time. So what you need to do is avoid putting them into sitting when you do floor time. Always put your baby into laying down either on their back or their tummy, just NOT SITTING. They may whinge and whine and moan but you don’t give in. You are doing them a big favour, they just don’t realise it. Remember that not everything we like is good for us.

Researching the problem

When I came home from my visit I started researching this developmental problem and it was HUGE. So many babies are getting stuck in a sitting position in the middle of the night. It is a very normal developmental issue and will go away by itself. The danger is when you intervene and start trying to manage it you will cause a new sleep association. And that’s when trouble starts.

There is a very well known sleep book written by ‘her who shall remain nameless’, initials TH. Recommending laying them down in the cot 40 times if you need to. Now the problem with that is, it ends up in a situation like the Jack in the box and by the 40th occasion you’ve got a very angry child! So I say DON’T LAY THEM BACK DOWN AGAIN EVER.

What should you do instead?

In the short term practice Parental Magic Presence™ and allow the baby to come down themselves. The issue is if we always correct them ourselves by laying them down no 1 we have a very angry baby by the 40th occasion of laying down and no 2 we are creating learned helplessness so our baby never learns to do it themselves.

If you’d like to know more and how to manage this… then you need my newly launched online Nurture Sleep Program.

It will stop the guesswork and give you:

  • a tried and tested approach (20 years of helping families with baby & toddler sleep) ✅
  • Evidence based ✅
  • Gentle baby sleep methods ✅
  • Holistic assessment ✅
  • Nurture & Nourish nutrition program – all recipes have sleep inducing ingredients and a perfect balance for a good nights sleep ✅
  • Access to a closed Facebook group for one on one support from Karen ✅
  • 90+ timecoded Facebook Live videos ✅
  • Prevention for under 4 months ✅ so no need to do sleep training ever ✅
  • And all at a low $97 for a very limited time ✅
    Can you tell Karen is getting rather excited for all you parents who need a good nights sleep and one that happens EVERY SINGLE NIGHT and not just in a blue moon 🌑.

How to help the baby stuck in sitting

And during the day what needs to happen is a lot more tummy time and floor time during the day rather than sitting. Most of these babies do not have great core muscles so they sit to reach objects and end up bottom shuffling.

Baby needs to spend a week practicing this skill prior to learning how to get himself off to sleep in the prone position without help. The mother needs to do it repeatedly during playtime when the baby is happy and as a distraction, she needs to use enticing toys or things he’s not usually allowed to play with like the TV remote control or a box of tissues for example. The baby will hate it at first because the unstable feeling may frighten him but the toy will hopefully distract him like a kitten! The mother in this YouTube video does it extremely well and it’s obvious her baby is well practised.

Have a look at this YouTube video this has some great exercises on how to teach baby to navigate moving from sitting to prone and avoid getting stuck. YAY!

Reasons baby sleep may come undone

Watch more videos below in my Youtube series – Promoting Baby development skills