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Our daughter is one year old. We've been co-sleeping, but about two weeks ago we started transitioning her to her own room. We rock her down and put her to sleep in her room. When she wakes up (usually in 1-2 hours) and starts fussing, we get her and bring her back to our bed and go back to sleep. Sometimes she gets to a full cry before we get to her, but usually we are there before she's too upset.

However, despite our attempt to be as non-traumatic with this transition as possible, she's suddenly gotten very squirmy when she's cosleeping with us. She'll twist about till she's lying perpendicular between us, and then start kicking her dad. A lot.

I don't know if it's related to the transition to her bed, or if it's just a natural development for her age, but I don't know what to try to get her to stop.

It's almost always when she's nursing - she used to nurse very easily lying down. She'd be lying parallel to me, she'd be mostly still, we'd both drift back to sleep ... Now, if she's nursing (or just before or just after), she's in constant motion, either maneuvering herself into the perpendicular, head twisted position that she favors now (cannot understand why, but there it is), or kicking her dad, or hitting me.

She doesn't hit hard - just a rhythmic, keep-the-beat kind of thing. But she kicks a lot harder. Usually she is drumming her poor father in his chest, but she's managed to kick his face a few times, as well as lower. Which makes sleeping pretty difficult for him.

We can't tell her no; she's not really awake. And I can hold her hand while nursing, but I can't hold her feet as well or keep her from twisting all around. If I sit up and pull her into my lap to nurse, she is still - but then I don't get any sleep.

How can I get her to stop kicking and stop squirming when she's sleeping? Or how long should we expect this phase to last? Is there anything my husband can do to keep the kicking at bay?

UPDATE

  • Far the 'how long will this last??' question - just a few weeks. 2 months later, she's almost completely transitioned to her own bed, and the few times she does sleeps in our bed, she is good.
  • We found that giving her a high-protein meal soon before bedtime helped her reach a sound sleep faster and stay there longer. The schedule is a scrambled egg, bath, nursing and reading, and then bed. That gives us 4-6 hours before she rouses (yah!)
  • I did finally figure out that the trade-off with sleeping in her own bed is that I can't do the lay-down nursing anymore. When she wakes at night, she needs the comfort of being held in a lap as much as anything else - the comfort of lying down again doesn't cut it. This is much easier to do now that I'm getting 4-hour stretches of sleep :)
  • We also found the right comfort items to put in bed with her and her preferred sleep temperature. She also sleeps better (ie, without kicking and thrashing) if she's had her naps, and when she isn't teething. So many variables!
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    Just stop with co-sleeping... I know it's a cultural thing sometimes but where I live (Belgium) this is most of the time not recommended, most babies don't co-sleep and don't have any further issue with that... – Laurent S. Aug 24 '15 at 8:51
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    @LaurentS., please remember this meta post: we don't question the premise, if we disagree with it, we had better stay silent. Even as a comment, this isn't helpful. – Stephie Aug 24 '15 at 12:23
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    We implement the 90-5-5 Rule. Baby (who is 3 in our case) takes up 90% of the bed (the middle), and we take 5% each (edges). This reduces the chances of kicking. – Dave Clarke Aug 24 '15 at 12:57
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    We transitioned both our kids out of our bed when they started kicking me in the face at night. Each one was about the same age as yours when they started with the kicks. Maybe that's just nature's way of telling the parent it's time... i.imgur.com/J2BRj.jpg – Chris Sunami Aug 24 '15 at 19:01
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    I just stuck it out. Good thing is it only lasted about 3 years. Now they sleep a little better – Kai Qing Aug 24 '15 at 21:36
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My first thought is that maybe something is making her uncomfortable which causes her to move around more, hit and kick. Could she maybe be teething? When my son is uncomfortable with teething, the main sign seems to be restlessness at night. He'll fidget more and often wake himself up soon after falling back to sleep. Another reason could be if she feels unwell - a cold, earache, stomach ache etc. Of course it's hard to know for sure with a child that age as they can't tell you but the first molars usually start to come in early in the baby's second year and they can be quite a bit more painful than the earlier incisors. If there are no other symptoms of illness, it could be that, especially if she's crying more than usual. You could try giving some painkiller to see if it makes a difference.

We use a baby sleeping bag for our son. It limits the amount he can move around to some extent. That could reduce the kicking. On some occasions when it's been too hot to use it, he does kick his legs a lot before he falls asleep.

When our son sleeps in our bed, I put him on the opposite side of the bed to my husband so I am in the middle. You'll need some kind of barrier to stop your daughter from falling off the bed. You can buy a guard rail or you could put the bed against the wall. However, this way you may be more uncomfortable and not have much space. When this got too annoying for me, we put the crib next to the bed with the side off. This is still considered cosleeping but you will all have more space. You can find guidance online about how to do this safely (for an example, see here http://naturalparentsnetwork.com/how-to-side-car-your-crib/ but worth looking in a few other places for tips to find something you feel happy with if you want to try it). Now most of the time after nursing, I roll my son back into his bed and we both have our own space but he's close enough if he has trouble settling and needs a pat on the back.

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    Teething! I hadn't even though of teething, and yes; just a few days ago she started pulling on her ears. I was so focused on the idea that she was reacting to the sleeping arrangement I hadn't considered other explanations. – Majella Aug 25 '15 at 1:56
  • It might be teething, but as you can see by the comments, this is an extremely common experience when co-sleeping. I remember having seen the same thing depicted in an animated cartoon, and thinking it was hilarious --not realizing at the time that it was a real life experience! – Chris Sunami Aug 25 '15 at 21:04
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A portable co-sleeper might be a good option for this case. I used one with my daughter. It's like a small bassinet with no legs, and is meant to go in the parent's bed, between the adults. Because it has sides, she wouldn't be able to kick her dad, and there are models that have openings so you can nurse. Also, since it is portable, I found it helps with the transition to a crib, since she's sleeping in the same bed in either location (crib or your room).

A regular co-sleeper (the kind that attaches to the side of the bed) would also prevent her kicking dad, as she wouldn't be between you.

Just a note: please check the size on any co-sleeper unit. A lot of the ones on the market are intended for smaller babies and may not be large enough to be comfortable, or have side walls too low to be safe for a baby that can roll over and push up.

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    That's a good thought, but at least for my kids, by around 1 they were already too big for the ones that we've seen on the market. They're not very long - the normal Arm's Reach for example are 34 inches outer dimensions, so 32 or so inside, and for a 'rolly' baby that's not nearly enough given a 18 month old will be around 30 inches. – Joe Aug 24 '15 at 20:00
  • I've also seen (but can't find at the moment) that the 'co-sleeper' mode is only intended until about 5-6 months (until baby can push up) - it's not really safe after that, as the baby can push up and then fall out. – Joe Aug 24 '15 at 20:06
  • I've seen some that are larger, and for the one that goes in the bed, I wouldn't be as worried about the wall height as the baby would still be in the bed if they decided to start climbing. But good point about the side sleepers - definetely would want to check the wall height for a older baby! – swilliams Aug 24 '15 at 21:02
  • In-bed ones, yeah, that's not as much of a problem (though that seems like it would take a lot of space?) – Joe Aug 24 '15 at 21:12
  • I have a queen bed, and it's comfortable for me and my husband. I wouldn't want a smaller bed though. – swilliams Aug 24 '15 at 22:02
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Just because it hasn't been mentioned here before: Normally it takes years until children can establish the complete decoupling between dreams and motion that adults take for granted. Maybe your daughter is just dreaming about physical activities. Even if this started at a time when something else changed, you should be open to the possibility that it's just a coincidence.

Of course you should also be open to the possibility that it isn't. That's addressed by other answers.

Correction: Children's movements during sleep are very often not connected to dreaming. One form that may fit the question (rhythmic movement disorder - as so often it's named like a medical condition though in children it's quite normal, e.g. 66% of 9-month-olds) occurs specifically at the beginning, before there is any dreaming. Source: "Ontogeny of Parasomnias" in Encyclopedia of Sleep.

(Of course, just because something is very common in children doesn't mean it's necessarily normal. It's also possible that cultural bias makes the majority of parents cause a medical condition. To check this, one would have to study children in cultures with a very different approach to child-raising as much as those in Western cultures.)

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    "Normally it takes years until children can establish the complete decoupling between dreams and motion that adults take for granted." Interesting statement. On what study(s?) is this based? I would like to read more about this. – anongoodnurse Aug 25 '15 at 5:19
  • @anongoodnurse: Apparently I misremembered the connection to dreams, or maybe had it from a poor source. In my correction I now mention a source for a different statement. This might give you some pointers. – user13408 Aug 25 '15 at 8:29
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One thing I've seen done is using something to create space on the bed, such as a pool noodle or longer 'side' pillows (like you sometimes buy during pregnancy to support your back or go between your legs). Similar to swilliam's suggestion, but with things you have around the house; that way when toddler moves around, he/she kicks the noodle or pillow and not daddy or mommy.

This won't work for us as ours goes full perpendicular - and we have a queen sized bed, so not wide enough to do a 38" child plus enough for each parent. But if yours stays mostly parallel and just kicks, this might work (or, is shorter and/or you have a wider bed).

  • Since this might be a short-term problem, we could probably work out something like that - we do have a side pillow, as you describe. It could make a good barrier. – Majella Aug 25 '15 at 2:00
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However, despite our attempt to be as non-traumatic with this transition as possible, she's suddenly gotten very squirmy when she's cosleeping with us. She'll twist about till she's lying perpendicular between us, and then start kicking her dad. A lot.

My son is 4. We still co-sleep (one adult bed with his bed adjoining -- he can climb over when he feels the need). He did what you described for months.

As he got bigger it got to be kind of painful. I'm almost always the one that got kicked. I'm pretty sure it's because he wanted to snuggle his head against mommy's belly, but I don't know.

I solved the problem by sleeping with an extra pillow in the area where I needed protection. At some point he got big enough this was less effective. I started re-orienting him when he kicked me hard enough to wake me up. I didn't make any effort not to wake him. Mostly he was half-awake when he was doing this, so maybe 25-50% of the time he was aware I was correcting his position.

Eventually after a thousand corrections (probably not a thousand, but it felt like it) and several dozen admonitions that his feet have to be pointed at the bottom of the bed, it started to improve.

How is this relevant to you? I reckon that the behavior isn't related to any stress from moving her to her own bed. Our son wasn't going through anything unusual when he had his phase. I reckon it's comforting to have their heads where they can smell mommy. The kicking is probably a minor restless-leg syndrome -- pretty common for kids.

I reckon if you keep reorienting her, and maybe pointing out the correct orientation whenever the opportunity presents itself, she'll eventually get the hang of it.

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