The Relationship Between Developmental Milestones and Sleep

Updated: Jul 25


Nothing is more exciting than watching your little one master a new milestone…until it begins messing with your little one’s sleep. While babies are learning a new developmental skill, their brains are working extra hard to try and master this new skill which results in prioritizing learning the new skill over sleep.


You’re left with the question: How do I help my little one master milestones and still have great sleep?


developmental milestones and sleep

Milestones can be categorized into three main categories:

  1. Physical skills (rolling, sitting, crawling, standing, walking, etc.)

  2. Language skills (babbling, imitating, pointing, learn new phrases, etc.)

  3. Cognitive/Social skills (understanding the world around them, for example object permanence and separation anxiety)

Milestones, regardless of the category, have a profound effect on sleep at very predictable stages of development. Hello sleep regressions! Many parents are often startled when their once “good sleeper” begins to wake multiple times a night; however, I’m here to reassure you that this too shall pass.


Here are 3 tips to help you get through sudden night wakings when your little one is mastering new skills.


Physical Milestones: Prioritize Playing on the Floor

There is no better place than the floor to help your little one master new developmental skills. The floor allows unrestricted movement, which will allow your little one to wiggle, squirm, twist, and bend in all the ways in order to master their new physical skills. New learners have to practice and practice skills and even get frustrated until they reach some level of mastery. The more they practice, the quicker the skill will be mastered, helping to decrease practice during sleep times.


There are going to be moments when your little one wakes up because they suddenly rolled over onto their belly or they are stuck in sitting. Instead of rushing to assist, PAUSE, allowing them to practice their new skills. This will not only help them master their new physical milestone but also help them learn how to put themselves back to sleep when their sleep cycle is broken.

first year milestones

Language Milestones: Never Underestimate the Power of a Book

When it comes to language skill acclimation, never underestimate the power of a book. We encourage parents to incorporate a book into their night time routine from the very beginning. Reading with your little one will help them acquire new words, allow them to use their early language skills (pointing), and allow you to help them form a strong foundation for both receptive and expressive language.


Ever wonder what to do when your little one wakes up from a nap early and is babbling and cooing happily to themselves? Let them stay in the crib! There is no need to disrupt this quiet, alone time if your little one is happily chatting to themselves.

toddler language milestones

Cognitive & Social Skills: Peek-a-Boo, Hide and Seek

Not only is playing on the floor great for physical skills but it also strengthens cognitive and social skills, particularly when your little one is going through separation anxiety. This one-on-one time will help your little one better understand the concepts of cause and effect, which will help ease anxiety when you exit the room at bedtime. Peek-a-Boo and hide and seek are two of the best games to play with your little one during periods of separation anxiety.


*Please do not sneak away from your little one with the hope that it will help ease anxiety with leaving the room. Talking and explaining to your little one, “Mommy is going to leave the room now. Night night time”, will help them understand and accept your transition out of the bedroom quicker and with less emotional outbursts.


This is very important: Do not change your bedtime routine when sleep disturbances happen! Nothing will cause a small hiccup in sleep to become a huge crater quicker than changing your routine. Once you change the rules, the entire game has been changed so stick to your regular routine when hiccups occur.


Sleep and development go hand-in-hand, as milestones often cause sleep disturbances due to little ones processing and practicing new skills during sleep hours. Serenity Sleepers is happy to offer developmental milestone consults with VIP packages in order to assist with questions concerning rolling, reaching, sitting, crawling, baby equipment, tantrums, potty training, and etc. so you're not having to frantically Google search because a licensed, trained professional is already on board and ready to help!

Nashville certified baby and toddler sleep consultant


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