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Rolling Regression

Just when your little one is beginning to master self-settling or maybe just when you think things can't get any worse, the rolling regression hits! Oh come on, Hailey. Surely there can't be another regression to worry about? You won't find this one on Google because I named it myself. It is common knowledge that development progressions cause sleep regressions and rolling as innocent as it may seem, can be the culprit for sleep disruption in 4-7 month olds.

SIDS guidelines strictly recommend back-sleeping. This means that your little burrito associates back-laying with sleep. Once you notice your baby can roll from their back to their front, you will need to unswaddle them as a safety precaution. This marks the start of your baby turning into a mobile baby! This transition away from squishy, secure comfort is daunting in itself. To make matters more complicated, your little one will practise that fantastic rolling in their cot. Human brains are wired to practise new skills through repetition and unlike adults who can rationalise and differentiate between daytime and night time activities, babies are going to practise their new skills day and night.

What can you do to help your baby during this time?

Be patient. The more opportunities you give your child to master the art of rolling, the quicker the transition will be. The minority of babies roll onto their stomach during sleep happily, more commonly it takes 1-3 weeks for baby to realise that they are comfortable and safe on their tummy. If you are constantly rolling baby from front to back as soon as they cry, the process will be much longer. I suggest increasing your wait times so you might start with waiting 10 seconds before rolling them back over. After a week you might be waiting 2 minutes before intervening and for other families this might be 10 minutes.

What I don’t recommend is picking up baby and rocking them back to sleep each time they roll onto their stomach. Self-settling babies can unlearn how to re-settle independently if you are picking them up frequently during this (or any) transition. This is an example of how a minor disruption can lead to the undoing of sleep long term. Start with as little intervention as possible and use some pick up put down if baby is highly distressed.

Takeaway Tips

  • Practise tummy time as much as your baby will tolerate. This will also prevent your baby developing flat spots on their head.

  • Swaddle until baby shows signs of rolling from back to front. Start with one-arm out at night time and progress from there.

  • Once baby has rolled onto their front independently, they are safe they are you don't need to intervene for safety purposes (unless they are less than 2 months old).

  • Leave them to experience tummy sleep for seconds/minutes depending on your baby's temperament. If they are distraught, intervene quickly but try to gradually increase your wait time.

  • Know that sleep can always be improved. Just because your baby has regressed doesn't mean you can't get them back to sleeping well.

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