Q: My son is almost a year old and just started walking two weeks ago. He has also been babbling a lot and, in my opinion, is trying to get some words out.

He has begun waking up at almost the same time every night, 2:30 a.m., talking to himself for a bit and sometimes jumping in his crib. Then he will start to cry. The past few days, my husband and I have been picking him up and rocking him to sleep, which seems to help, although it takes a very long time. I believe that he now wakes up at that time to see us and have us rock him to sleep.

Last night we did the cry-it-out method. We went in to tell him it was time for bed at 5-, 10-, 15- and 20-minute intervals and finally he went to sleep at 4 a.m.

I’m alarmed because my son had been sleeping through the night since 2 months, and then around 9 months it all changed. — Via email

A: This sequence sounds like what we call touchpoint: Just before a new spurt in development like walking or talking, a child temporarily loses ground in another area such as sleep.

When the child falls apart at these times, the whole family does too. When sleep is affected, the child — and everyone else — will be exhausted.

Your child’s new trouble with sleep is typical of a child just learning to walk. Watch a baby who has begun to toddle independently. He’ll walk, walk, walk, and doesn’t want to stop. He wants to go where he pleases and doesn’t want any help. He’s putting so much energy into learning to walk that he can’t seem to stop himself during the night.

Somewhere between 9 and 13 months, a baby who had previously been sleeping through the night may suddenly start waking up every three to four hours: the length of an average sleep cycle.

At these ages, instead of settling back down from light sleep to deep sleep again, babies often come right up to an awake state. Parents may find them standing in their cribs, holding on to the railing.

During these months, babies spend more time in light sleep than they will at any other time in early childhood, so of course their sleep is more easily disrupted. Some researchers think that this temporary shift in the sleep cycle is necessary for babies’ brains to learn and memorize the sequence of movements that go into the first step.

Fortunately, touchpoints like these are temporary. (If they’re not, something else is going on.) But the way that parents respond to touchpoints can affect their outcome.

For example, as you point out, picking your child up and taking him out of the crib when he wakes up may reinforce this interval as a time to wake up and stay up.

The trouble with soothing the awakened toddler back to sleep is that you’re doing all the work for him when he needs to learn how to settle himself for sleep.

Instead, you can share the job. Initially you’ll do more, but over time you’ll turn the settling-down over to him. You may need to pick him up briefly when he’s distressed, but holding him and rocking him gives him lots of comfort that leaves him little responsibility.

Try putting him down, and offer him his favorite soft blanket or teddy bear to cuddle.

Speak to him soothingly since he understands you now. Or sing a lullaby and stroke him gently.

At first, he may need you to sing and pat him for a while. Your guide will be his behavior: Watch and listen closely as his sobs begin to subside, his breathing slows, and his face and body relax.

Each night you may be able to do a little less — eventually just singing quietly, and later just sitting beside him as he masters the ability to comfort himself.

Questions or comments should be addressed to Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and Dr. Joshua Sparrow, care of The New York Times Syndicate, 620 Eighth Ave., 5th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10018. Questions may also be sent by email to:

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