Brand new newborn babies are often very still in the cot when sleeping aside from that Moro reflex kicking in. They can of course be and are noisy when they sleep. Some parents have described their baby as noisy as a formula 1 pit stop with all the wind and gurgling and shrieks heard and of course as they grow and weeks pass the rolling around and bumping off the cot sides becomes more frequent.
You may find your baby in a completely different direction from what they went to sleep in.
These movements are a natural part of their sleep cycle and help them develop their motor skills.
As children get older and are able to sit themselves up, stand up and move those limbs more so, it is very normal to see them wake in the night and sit up, rubs eyes and even stand. In most cases they lie back down again and go back to sleep again. That is a sign of a great independent sleeper there!
These movements will most likely happen when they shift sleep cycles. Especially around 1am and 4am. These are the approximate times that sleep cycles shift. Around 1am babies come out of a super deep sleep into a light stage of sleep and 4am is the last sleep cycle of the night and melatonin levels are really running low. In other words even lighter sleep. The body is getting ready to wake so fitful, restless sleep is very common especially in infants at this time.
Most of the time sleep is not disturbed by movements and there is no cause for concern at all. However excessive movement at night may disrupt your child’s sleep and may need to be addressed.
Signs of Disturbed Sleep Due To Excessive Movement in the Cot
If your baby does move an excessive amount their sleep may be disturbed by it. You may find the following -
Difficulty in waking your baby
Snoring and / or mouth breathing
Gasping for breath
Not seemingly feeling refreshed after sleep
Pain or discomfort in limbs (older children are able to verbalise this)
Frequent night wakes
There are many reasons as to why any of the above points may be occurring and when they are addressed you should see your baby moves a lot less and seep is much more peaceful.
For example a 6 month old baby I worked with would only sleep 30 minutes in his cot. He would wriggle about and back arch excessively and cry upon waking. He clearly was not comfortable. I saw a video of him struggling and instantly I knew he was not comfortable.
I referred the parents to see a chiropractor or osteopath immediately. The osteopath was able to diagnose he had a grade 4 tongue tie which was causing tension in his head, jaw and neck and that is why he moved so much and seemed very uncomfortable in his cot. This if course is not common but does happen.
Should You Stop or Restrict Your Baby’s Movements?
No! There is no need to restrict the movement of babies in their crib. In fact, the Lullaby Trust specifically advises against using anything that could limit a baby's mobility in the cot due to the increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). It is completely normal for babies to shift and move around, even shuffling upwards, during their sleep.
Now talking about shifting upwards or downwards in the cot, it happens. This is why it is recommended to place your baby feet to foot of the cot. Often babies are in a little corner all curled up squished sleeping away. This is normal. Legs or arms may be sticking out of the bars.
What Can You Do?
If you are concerned your baby is uncomfortable know that they will wake / right themselves but if you are game and brave you can gently move your baby into a more comfortable position. Be warned if baby wakes….it could be fun and games to resettle for a while! If you have concerns your baby is uncomfortable lying flat do seek advice from a chiropractor or osteopath.
Cot Bumpers and Sleep Positioners
Let’s not beat around the bush here, get right to the point. Do not use cot bumpers or positioners. Do not use anything that is going to restrict your baby from moving. It is quite simply not safe. Please see the Lullaby Trust Here for more evidence backed information on safe sleeping.
Yes your baby is going to learn to roll over and often they will get stuck on their tummy and not quite work out how to roll back onto their back again. Yes, this is probably going to disturb their sleep, you may have to go help your baby get comfortable again but do not use any wedges to stop your baby from this development. Yes your sleep will be disrupted but it is normal this happens and will pass. Lots of tummy time in the day and rolling practice will help. Show your baby how to roll by doing it yourself in front of them!
The cot bumpers pose a suffocation risk so don’t use them. Your baby will work out where the cot bars are just like you know where the edge of your bed is and will not fall out.
As soon as your baby shows signs of rolling over and they are still swaddled it is time to transition out of that swaddle and into a sleep bag. See my favourites HERE!
Remove any loose bedding, pillows, stuffed animals, or other objects that could pose a suffocation or choking hazard.
Use a fitted sheet: Make sure the sheet on the mattress fits tightly and securely, so it doesn't come loose during the baby's movements.
What about Standing?
When your child learns to stand it is normal they want to practice that new skill. It is exciting for them and fun, a whole new world has opened up now and they want to explore it.
So those sleep cycle shifts in the night you may see your child wake and stand. If they are happy and content leave them to it and soon will work out to lie down again and go back to sleep. Other may cry out and need a little help and support. Often this can happen through the 12 month sleep “progression” so support their sleep and ride it out and you will see all will be peaceful again soon.
Ensure your new stander gets lots of opportunity in the day to practise this new skill both indoors and out side!
It is important to remember that movement is a good thing, keeps blood flow going around the body and limbs do not “fall asleep”! These movements, twitches and flexes are all normal and a part of development for the physical body and the brain development.
If you are concerned in any way that your child is making excessive movements in their sleep do speak with your healthcare provider.
Peaceful sleeping to you all,
Your Paediatric Sleep Consultant