I have a weekly online sleep clinic Sunday nights on Facebook from 8:00-9:00pm EST. Often there are themes; different families ask me the same question. Recently this was one of them:
Q: “I think my baby is having night terrors! He used to sleep so well, but now he is waking up 5 times each night, standing in the crib and he can’t lay down… what do I do?”
A: Night terrors are often a sign of being overtired, and they don’t typically start until closer to two years old – so I don’t think that he is having night terrors.
Is the standing skill new? When a baby is working on new skills, it is very common to see disruptions to his sleep. Babies want to practice when they are shut off from the rest of the world; no distractions. This is often during naptime or the night. Rolling and standing are two of the most disruptive skills, and can really tempt parents to go in and help them by rolling them back or laying them down. I don’t suggest doing that though. If you lay him down, he is going to keep standing and crying until you lay him down again.
What You Can Do To Help
He needs to practice sitting down on his own so that he can stand and sit as much as he wants. Once you see him stand, stand him at everything! Stand him in the crib during awake time, and encourage him to sit down by placing a toy on the mattress. Stand him at your couch and encourage him to sit on the ground. Stand him and let him hold your finger as he lowers to the ground. Before you know it, he will be doing it on his own!
Myth! You do not have to stop using a sleep sack when your baby learns to stand. He is going to be able to get up and down, and before long, he is going to start walking the edge of his crib in his sleep sack!
How You Should Respond To The Night Wakings
Do whatever you were doing before this wonderful new skill caused chaos during sleep time. Give him the space to work through it, practice and then go back to sleep. If you are not comfortable leaving him without responding, then you have a few options. If you have previously sleep trained, you can go back to basics and do what you did before. If you have been helping your baby to sleep, then find a way to put him into bed awake and then respond to him without putting him to sleep (feeding, rocking, walking etc). It will take some practice, but he can do it.
While he is working on standing in the crib, be sure to offer an earlier bedtime. The earlier bedtime is going to help him catch up on the sleep that he is losing while he sorts this out. Once he has perfected the skill, then you can move your bedtime back out to where you started.
He can do this!