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Parent's Corner

How to Manage Your Baby’s Transitional Milestones (Part I)

By: Pamela Brill

As a new parent, you are the first to celebrate your baby’s ability to sit up, crawl and walk. Nothing brings a mom or dad such joy as seeing their little one embark on these stages of development.

But before babies can mature into full-grown toddlers, they also undergo some milestone moments that may cause some anxiety for their parents and caregivers. In this two-part series, experts will offer their suggestions on how parents can help their baby move through different phases of development effortlessly, so they can enjoy those in-between stages …no matter how nerve-wracking they may seem.

Sleep Sense

The angelic face of a sleeping infant is a precious image. But the sight of a shrieking, sobbing infant baby who won’t sleep on her own is an entirely different story. “Starting good sleep habits from birth really helps eliminate difficult transitions,” says Dr. Dyan Hes, medical director of Gramercy Pediatrics in New York. “It is important to let your baby fall asleep on her own.” Parents who relish the idea of rocking or nursing their baby to sleep will only find it more challenging once their baby wakes and Mom or Dad is no longer there.

Ensuring that your baby has a safe, comfortable place to sleep is the first step towards independent sleeping. According to Dr. Hes, most newborns sleep best in a bassinet or co-sleeper because of their snug surroundings. As babies grow, they can move to a crib or play yard outfitted with a firm mattress and no loose blankets or bumpers. And while it may be tempting to let your little one snooze in a bouncy seat, swing or stroller, Dr. Hes cautions against relying on those places for best rest.

Once your baby has adjusted to her sleeping space, parents may be inclined to put their child on a regular sleep schedule. To get started, pay attention to your baby’s internal rhythms. “Your baby’s alertness rhythms work very much like an adult’s alertness rhythms; they just have more cycles across a 24-hour day than adults do,” says Polly Moore, a baby sleep consultant and author of The Natural Baby Sleep Solution (Workman, March 2016). “Babies have a natural lull in their attention approximately every 90 minutes. When parents learn how to recognize it, they learn to respond by providing a nap opportunity.” Once their child wakes, the cycle starts up all over again. “Once parents become confident…in this area, bedtimes become more predictable,” she adds.

For parents that desire a set schedule, a routine can be helpful for older babies. To prepare your child for naptime, Dr. Hes suggests removing any stimuli from the room that may keep him awake. “Try to lie your baby down at the same time daily, and make the room dark or dim,” she says. To create a calming atmosphere conducive to sleep, consider reading a book or singing a lullaby. “Kids like the predictability of the routine, and will begin to associate this with sleep,” she notes.

Keep on Movin’

Another important transitional stage for babies-turned-toddlers is the movement from being to stationary (sitting up) to suddenly mobile (crawling, cruising and eventually walking). Ensuring little ones’ safety is essential during this stage of development, especially at home where kids are exploring their environment and testing out their skills. Dr. Hes suggests that parents check their homes from top to bottom to rule out any potential hazards. “They should get down on their bellies and slither around the floor where their babies will be crawling. You will see the world from a whole new point of view,” she says. Remove dust bunnies, small toys and anything that your child may put into her mouth.

Babyproofing sharp corners is also a must for new crawlers, as are covers for electrical outlets. If possible, set up baby gates in a room where your little one spends most of her time to create an enclosed space where she can roam freely.

As crawlers become cruisers and walkers, you can open up that space and add some push toys to encourage mobility. “Babies love toy shopping carts to push around,” notes Dr. Hes. “I recommend using these on a carpet, not a slippery floor.”

For new walkers, safe flooring like carpeting or foam mats will minimize the inevitable spills for unsteady feet. At home, babies can walk barefoot to gain proper footing, but invest in some sturdy footwear when walking outdoors. “A grassy lawn is great for walking on, but most babies dislike the feeling of care feet on grass, so this would be a perfect time for little shoes with protective soles,” notes Dr. Hes.