Why is my baby standing up in their cot instead of going to sleep?

If your baby or toddler has started to stand up in their cot when they would usually be settling down to sleep it can feel very frustrating. In this guide we’re going to talk about:

  • Why is my baby standing up in their cot?
  • When do babies start to stand up in their cot?
  • How can you help them settle to sleep when they are keep standing up?

Why is my baby standing up in their cot?

Does your baby keep standing up in their crib? When our babies start to learn a new skill they want to practice, practice and practice some more! Sometimes their favourite time to put in this practice is when they are in their cot or crib when they would usually be napping or sleeping at night. This is very normal, and whilst it can be frustrating at the time, it is a great sign that they are developing and excited to perfect their new skill.

For older babies and toddlers, who perfected the skill of standing a while ago, standing in their cot can be for another set of reasons. They may simply not be ready for their nap or bedtime and want you to know they aren’t tired yet. It can also be a case of FOMO, and even though they are tired and ready for sleep, they might not want to give into sleep just yet!

When do babies start to stand up in their cot?

Every child is different and will develop skills at their own rate, so the urge to practice the skill of standing can happen across a wide age bracket. It may happen as young as 6 months or it could be closer to 10 months of age or beyond.

Some babies never stand in their cots and keep this activity to awake times, so don’t worry if you don’t experience any cot standing at all.

As with any milestone, feel confident that your baby will get there in their own time and don’t worry too much about hitting milestones at very specific ages. You can provide the opportunity for them to practice new skills and let them follow their own development path when they are ready. If you are ever concerned about your baby’s development then speak with your doctor, health visitor or paediatrician to set your mind at ease.

Older babies and toddlers may start to stand in their cot at any age:

  • It may be a sign they are ready for a routine tweak and their sleep timings need to change.
  • They might feel unsettled if there has been a big change, such as starting nursery or a house move, and need some more reassurance at bedtime.
  • They may be learning other new skills, such as talking or walking, and start standing up as they want to practice the other new things they are learning.
  • It can also be ‘just a phase’, babies and toddlers go through different moods and phases just like the rest of us!

How can you help them settle to sleep when they keep standing up?

Like many phases and periods of development, standing in the cot often doesn’t last for a long time and you will come out the other side in a few days or couple of weeks. We can’t force our little ones to stop standing but there are some tips that can help you while they are going through this phase:

  • Practice. The ability to stand is often mastered before they develop the skill of being able to return to sitting/lying down on their own. You can help them practice this when they are awake. Place toys on the ground when they are standing up and let them practice bending to pick it up. You can help them bend their legs and encourage them to reach for a toy/book they enjoy.
  • Review sleep timings. It may be time for them to have longer stretches of awake time between naps or even reduce their day time sleep if they are going to bed very awake. Sometimes standing in the cot or resisting sleep can be a sign that the balance of sleep and timings needs some tweaking.
  • Don’t turn it into a battle or a game.  If your little one keeps sitting or standing in their cot, you want to avoid continuously trying to lie them down over and over. It can be frustrating for everyone and overstimulating. You can try lying them down but if they keep popping back up again then it might not be the best approach for them. If they are calm you can leave the room and let them sit down themselves. Alternatively, you can sit next to the cot as you are settling them and tap the mattress with your hand, giving them signal that it is time to lie down.
  • Consider a sleeping bag. If you don’t use one already then it may be a good time to transition to a sleeping bag so you don’t need to worry about blankets falling away when they stand.
  • Provide boundaries. We want to support our little ones through this phase but also provide some loving boundaries that it is time still time to sleep and support them to do this. Meet any needs the have (check they aren’t hungry, uncomfortable, need a nappy change, are ready for sleep etc.) and support them to settle back down to sleep. This may mean staying with them even if they haven’t needed this previously or giving them some quiet space to settle themselves down.
  • Be patient. Easier said than done in the moment, but remind yourself that this is a phase. This can take time and patience – you want to consistently give the signal that there isn’t anything else happening at this time other than calmly preparing to sleep.
  • Don’t push it. If they are sitting or standing after a short nap, then try to resettle them. If it is clear they are not going to fall back to sleep then move on and get them up.

Take a step back and look at what might be the reason for standing. Support them to practice new skills, tweak their routine if it feels like the time is right and patiently support them to settle to sleep.

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