Friday, February 4, 2011
The Hidden Growth Spurt
"My ten month old has been waking frequently at night. I'm exhausted. Help! What can I do? Is this normal?"
Basically every DDC or DDG (due date club/group) gets this question. The responses are usually flooded with confused mothers agreeing that they are going through the same thing. It also seems to be forgotten, as it's not only first time moms who ask this. Probably due to that sleep deprivation. Since pediatricians only talk about physical growth spurts, this one is almost never mentioned to moms to warn them that it's going to happen, and that really sucks.
Because it's going to happen.
I've seen it mentioned only maybe once in an 'about your baby' type of publication. The ten month developmental growth spurt. At this time in baby's life she has just started walking or talking or is making the first attempts to do so. She's typically teething and noticing the world around her even more, as well. Some babies develop separation anxiety at this age that can also contribute.
Now "ten month" is the average age, however, it can happen as early as eight months or as late as fourteen to sixteen months, depending on the child. It lasts anywhere from a week to a few months--again, depending on the child.
It's normal and it does pass. Parents who used some sort of sleep training method almost universally notice it is a complete failure during this time period. It remains ineffective for weeks to months, except in some babies, who may already have medical or psychological issues.
Parents who cosleep report getting crawled on, kicked a lot, rolled over on and just a general increase in sleep activity. Often, a wide-awake baby greets them with the desire to play and or nurse at four in the morning.
Parents who do not cosleep report babies who start escaping their crib, get limbs entrapped in their sleep, cry more often, need to nurse more frequently or simply sit up and start playing at random intervals at night.
Temperament tends to dictate baby's response to this time period--fussy babies fuss, laid back babies entertain themselves, clingy babies cling, etc. All in all, it leads to the same result: tired parents!
Responsive parents seem to have the best luck with babies with shorter times in this phase, but certainly not always. Some previously laid back babies become high needs.
"...even though babies achieve this sleep maturity some time during the last half of the first year, many still wake up. The reason? Painful stimuli, such as colds and teething pain, become more frequent. Major developmental milestones, such as sitting, crawling, and walking, drive babies to "practice" their new developmental skills in their sleep. Then between one and two years of age, when baby begins to sleep through the above-mentioned wake-up stimuli, other causes of night waking occur, such as separation anxiety and nightmares. " 1
Feed the baby (hunger at night continues well into the second and even third year for most children), make sure they're safe and comfortable and try to sleep through the crazies as much as you can. Some babies will let you sleep while they play until they're ready to sleep again (my first was like that--her growth spurt lasted about a month or a month and a half) and some will be super demanding (my second, whose phase lasted about two weeks and I was about to start crying with her by the end of it) and everything in between. The only constant is that "training" is totally ineffective during this time (not that it ever achieves the desired goal of a content, sleeping baby, regardless of appearances) and is basically just torture to everyone involved.
Try to prepare with your significant other for this time period if you can and try not to plan to start any taxing activities that could be really messed up by lack of sleep if at all possible. And just remember--like any other growth spurt, it will pass!