Your excitement of new skill your baby learned may not last long when you see her constantly move around in his sleep. Should you be concerned when the baby moves around in the crib while sleeping?
Rolling over is a new milestone that babies achieve when they are around 4 months old. It is certainly exciting to see your baby roll over for the first time. But excitement quickly fades when they start waking themselves up halfway through the night trying to roll their body into a different position.
My 7-month-old was such a tornedo and would not sleep still! Every time I check the baby monitor, I would find him jammed in one of the corners of the crib or laying in the most uncomfortable weird position. Many nights he woke up crying because he had hit his head against the railing of the crib or got his leg stuck between the slats of the crib.
I thought it was just a phase and he would settle one day all by himself. But to my surprise he kept on moving and covering every single square inches of that crib mattress every single night. Some night he woke up crying or other night I find him in the corner of his crib with his legs stuck between slats of the crib.
After several weeks of interrupted sleep for both of us, I decided to find a solution for it.
Let’s look at why baby moves around in crib while sleeping and what can you do to stop losing your sleep over it.
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Why does Baby move in their Sleep?
To understand why the baby moves a lot in their sleep, let’s look at how infant sleep works.
Babies under 3-month-old, begin a sleep cycle in REM (rapid eye movement), next go into a sleep stage called transitional sleep, and then finally arrive at a sleep stage called “quiet sleep” (1).
According to research, newborn babies spend more than 50% of their sleep time in the REM sleep cycle (2). Unlike an adult, babies retain their muscle tone and wiggle, stretch, laugh, or vocalize during REM Cycle (2-3).
Even when they are in the transitional sleep cycle, they are more likely to vocalize and sometimes open their eyes (3).
It is during the quiet sleep cycle; you can say that they are fast asleep where they hardly move at all. But babies spend only 20 minutes in quiet sleep per sleep cycle (2).
As they get older, time spent in the REM sleep cycle declines. But according to a study published in 2008, for some 9-month-old babies, REM still makes up 50% of their total sleep hours (4).
As your baby learns how to roll over, which is around 4 months of age, he is likely going to roll or move around during the REM sleep cycle.
Also, baby sleep cycle is shorter, about 50-60 minutes long (2,5). And the majority of sleep time they spend in the REM cycle. Which explains why the baby moves around a lot during sleeping.
Beyond their biological sleep pattern, there are other reasons why baby moves constantly while sleeping. They are usually not a cause of alarm.
Inadequate Amount of Sleep
A growing baby needs an adequate amount of sleep. Newborn (0-3 Months) sleeps in short bouts scattered throughout the 24-hour. Total sleep duration varies but on average they sleep for 13-16 hours a day.
3-6 months old babies require 4-5 hours of daytime sleep spread over 2-3 naps. Total sleep duration ranges between 12-16 hours per day.
6-12 months old babies still need a total of 12- 16 hours of sleep per day including 3-4 naps.
If your baby didn’t nap during the day or she is overtired or restless, she may kick her legs or move a lot to resist sleep.
Many parents have a misconception that if you keep a baby awake during the day, they will sleep in long stretches at night. But that is not true. If they are overtired, they won’t settle at night and start moving or rolling a lot while sleeping.
Just like an adult, nightmares also affect a baby’s sleep quality. When babies have a nightmare, they may kick their legs or thrash their arms, or cry.
The more common reason for a baby moving constantly in a crib is general discomforts. Depending on the temperature of the room, she may be too hot or too cold in her crib.
If your baby wakes up frequently, check if she has a sweaty back or wet shirt. Sweaty back indicates that your baby is overheating. If your baby moves around in the crib while sleeping, or never stays still, she may be too cold. You may need to dress her accordingly to make her comfortable in her crib or lower the temperature of the room.
If you think your baby is moving constantly because of this reason, you may need to buy a good quality sleep sack for her. I prefer organic wool sleep sacks because it helps regulates body temperature and protects the baby from getting overheated or getting too cold. Read more about the best organic sleep sacks or babies here.
Other discomforts that may cause your baby to move constantly while sleeping are diaper rash, gas pain, or reflux. All may contribute to the quality of sleep your baby is getting at night. Contact your pediatrician for a course of action if this is the case for your baby.
Mostly, a baby moving her arm or legs or moving into a different position while sleeping is not something that you should worry about. These movements are harmless, and they will soon grow out of it.
If your baby’s limb movement is worrisome and you think it is not normal, you need to talk to your pediatrician.
Is it safe for babies to move around in Crib while Sleeping?
According to research studies, for the first 6 months, babies spending more time in the REM sleep cycle or sleeping lightly or moving during sleep has a survival advantage and it protects them from SIDS in case of oxygen deprivation (1).
Let’s look at what Dr. Kimberly Justice, a licensed psychologist practicing pediatric sleep medicine in Florida has to say about infant moving around a lot in his sleep.
So, it is OKAY for your baby to move constantly in the crib while sleeping as long as you take some precautions.
When your baby starts rolling, you should stop swaddling them. When they are swaddled, they can not use their arm to roll over or move to go into a different position. If swaddled baby rolls, it may put them in a position that restricts their breathing and increase the chance of SIDS.
Additionally, when a swaddled baby tries to roll over or move, the swaddle or blanket may become loose and becomes a suffocation hazard to your baby.
Because of that reason, put your baby in a wearable sleep sack with arm opening once they start rolling.
A sleep sack allows your baby to roll or move freely in the crib.
Once your baby starts moving in the crib, it is important to avoid loose blanket, pillow, or any other object that could potentially cause a suffocation hazard in his crib.
Also, they should be laid on their back to sleep on a firm mattress with a fitted sheet. Once you put your baby on their back to sleep, don’t worry if they don’t stay in that position for longer.
How do I Stop my Baby from Hitting his Head in the Crib?
When babies start moving in their crib, they often hit their head against the crib when they run out of the space to move around.
It happens to most of the babies. Unfortunately, there is not much we can do to stop them from hitting their head. According to AAP, the baby’s bed should be free from any loose blankets, pillow, or things that can cause suffocation or strangulation hazards to the baby.
So, all you are left with is giving your baby time to learn his boundaries in his crib. They eventually learn to not hit their head in the crib.
As a mother, it may be hard to see them bumping their head in the crib or even getting knots on their head, but take solace in knowing that baby can not get a concussion from hitting head on crib.
According to Dr.Pickens, Medical director of UNC Pediatrics at Southpoint
“It’s rare for an infant to get a concussion unless they’ve been dropped, in a car accident or unless there is some form of non-accidental trauma going on,” Dr. Pickens says. “They don’t get concussions just by rolling over and banging their head against the wall or hitting their heads on the sides of their cribs.”
How to protect Baby from Hitting Head in the Crib?
Your mom heart may cry when your baby hits his head against the crib and wakes up crying. I understand your feelings because my 7 months old did this every single night. I waited for almost 2-3 months for him to learn his boundaries, as I wanted to avoid putting anything in his crib for safety reasons.
But he kept on hitting his head against the crib and waking up crying night after night, nap after nap. Not only all my hard work of teaching him how to sleep through the night was in trouble, but he got three knots on his head from bumping into crib railings!!
It is then I decided to look for help! After looking through many products, here are the two safest options I found.
1. Pure Safety Vertical Crib Liners
Vertical crib liners are the safest options out there to protect your baby from hitting the head in the crib. This doctor-approved design provides the highest level of airflow and Caron dioxide dispersion rate compared to any other crib liner or breathable mesh liners.
This simple zip on design fits all crib rails- whether it is round or flat. Each liner is 6-inch-wide and fits rails up to 3 inches wide.
What I love the most about this vertical liner is that the individual zipper falls below the crib mattress, thereby avoiding any risk of suffocation or strangulation to your baby.
It is made of a high-density foam inside and polyester cover outside to protect the baby’s head and keeps the baby’s limb inside the crib.
After looking through many products, this is the only safest crib liner available that protects the baby’s head from hitting the railing of the crib.
Pure safety vertical crib liners come as a set of 38 liners, which mostly covers all the railings of standard size crib.
This product is a bit pricey and not every baby needs them. But if your baby is like mine – a big tornado- you might need this. My little one was hitting his head multiple times per night and would wake up crying. After using this liner, he is still hitting his head to the railing but not waking up crying!!
There are other types of padded crib bumpers available at a much better price, but thick material may restrict airflow in and out of the crib. Also, a padded bumper may pause the risk of your baby climb over to get out of the crib.
2. BreathableBaby Breathable Mesh Crib Liner
Another great option for keeping your baby inside the crib is BrathableBaby mesh crib liner!
These mesh crib liners are highly loved products by parents. It is made of the lightweight, breathable mesh without any padding to restrict airflow. The fabric of mesh liner promotes airflow and the baby cannot suffocate or re-breath her own carbon dioxide if she gets too close to the mesh. That’s why many parents are switching to mesh pad than regular crib bumper.
The mesh liner is designed to protect the baby’s arm and legs from getting stuck between the slats of the crib. However, this breathable mesh does not protect your baby from hitting his head against the crib.
Baby Moves Around in Crib While Sleeping: Conclusion
Here you have all the information you need! I hope now you understand why the baby moves around in the crib while sleeping and what should you do in case your baby is hitting her head against the railing of the crib.
As long as they are only moving in their crib and not waking up crying, you should not worry about it. For some babies, it is just a phase and they grow out of it fairly quickly. But for others, moving in their crib or even in toddler bed may last couple of years because they are just restless sleepers, and not much you can do about it!
So, mamas don’t lose your sleep over it and get some rest!!
Do you have any advise on what to do when baby moves around in the crib while sleeping? Leave your comment below.
- Parslow PM, Harding R, Cranage SM, Adamson TM, and Horne RS. 2003. Arousal responses to somatosensory and mild hypoxic stimuli are depressed during quiet sleep in healthy term infants. Sleep 26(6):739-44.
- Grigg-Damberger MM, Wolfe KM. Infants Sleep for Brain. J Clin Sleep Med. 2017 Nov 15;13(11):1233-1234. doi: 10.5664/jcsm.6786. PMID: 28992837; PMCID: PMC5656471.
- Barbeau, D.Y.; Weiss, M.D. Sleep Disturbances in Newborns. Children 2017, 4, 90.
- Montemitro E, Franco P, Scaillet S, Kato I, Groswasser J, Villa MP, Kahn A, Sastre JP, Ecochard R, Thiriez G, Lin JS. 2015. Maturation of spontaneous arousals in healthy infants. Sleep.38(8):1313-21.
- Jenni OG, Borbely AA, and Achermann P. 2004. Development of the Nocturnal Sleep Electroencephalogram In Human Infants. Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology 286: R528-R538.
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