Guest Post by Elizabeth Shields of HappyCleans.com
Sleep and quality rest are important for you and your baby.
In those early weeks, your baby’s main activity will be sleep.
One of the expectations for newborn babies is that they require somewhere between 8-16 hours of sleep in a day.
Many parents are given the sensible advice to rest and nap when their baby sleeps during the day, to try to catch up on disturbed sleep at night.
Yet, if you are finding it hard to put your baby down without them crying, you can easily fall into the habit of rocking them to sleep in your arms, preventing you from sleeping when they do.
In this blog post, we look at some easy-to-implement practical strategies for how to put your baby down awake without crying.
Supporting your baby to settle without tears can be a helpful pattern to establish for both you and your baby.
Take a moment to consider life from your baby’s vantage point.
Not so long ago, they were cosseted in the warmth and snugness of the womb, floating in amniotic fluid, in relative darkness with gentle constant movement.
Suddenly they’ve been thrust into a very different environment, post-birth.
Life outside the womb can feel very different for a baby.
Understanding this transition into life post-birth, sometimes known as the fourth trimester, can help parents and caregivers to meet the baby’s needs in those early weeks.
You are looking to provide the support that mimics some of the familiarity of the womb to help them make this important transition.
Such support can help to soothe a fretful baby towards calm, relaxation, and sleep.
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How to Put Baby Down Awake Without Them Crying
Look for Sleep Cues
Being able to put your baby down without crying will involve being attuned and attentive to their needs.
By noticing their cues and signals, you can become more alert to their needs.
In time, you are likely to learn the signs that indicate they are ready to feed, have active time, or settle to sleep.
Common sleep cues you may notice in your baby include:
- Staring into the distance
- Disinterest in people or toys
- Jerky movements
- Sucking fingers
Such cues often come after a period of feeding and activity.
When you spot such signals, try to meet your baby’s needs to settle to sleep without them becoming overly tired.
Your ability to stay calm and regulate your emotional state can help the baby to remain calm.
As you look to prepare to place baby down to settle without crying, keep your cool by taking a moment to breathe and relax.
Your calm and regulated emotional state will be of huge support in giving the baby the cues that there is nothing to fear, nothing to be alert to.
If you are finding things stressful, ask for help.
Outsourcing home tasks to friends and family, or professionals can help you to keep calm so you can attend fully to your little one.
Before you settle baby down, take a moment to calm, center, and ground yourself.
Consider Massage and Swaddling
When you lay them down in their crib, don’t leave the room immediately.
Instead, spend a few moments rubbing your baby’s belly or gently stroking their hair.
Skin-to-skin contact and infant massage offer great benefits.
Another technique many parents and caregivers find helpful in putting the baby down without crying is the use of swaddling.
This traditional practice involves wrapping the baby’s body up gently in a thin blanket or swaddle cloth.
Swaddling can provide the feeling of security that your little one had within the womb.
Many people find swaddling helps prevent a baby from waking suddenly due to the startle reflex.
Swaddling can be used to help your baby recognize the difference between sleep and wake time – in this case, swaddling should only be used before settling the baby down to sleep.
Older babies often find baby sleeping bags to be a secure and cozy signal that it is time to settle to sleep.
If you consider swaddling, it is important to follow safety guidelines that prevent the baby from being wrapped too tightly or overheating.
In the womb, your baby was used to the internal sounds of Mum’s body.
They heard the pulsation of blood as it is propelled through the umbilical cord, which is sometimes referred to as a “souffle” sound, similar to the “shhhhh” sound many parents and caregivers instinctively make to help settle their baby.
A white noise machine or white noise app also provides similar sounds that can be played close to the baby’s cot.
When you are looking to settle and place the baby down, try making a “shhh” sound or
using white noise devices to provide a reassuring background noise that is comforting to
Close to the end of the first trimester, babies in the womb develop the ability to suck.
At birth, the ability to suck is essential to their survival and the way they access milk,
whether from breast or bottle.
Many babies also clearly show a desire for non-nutritive sucking (sucking without receiving any milk).
Some babies suck on their fingers to self-soothe.
Many parents and caregivers provide non-nutritive sucking options through a pacifier or dummy.
To support your baby in settling when you place them down, consider the use of age and stage-appropriate pacifiers or dummies.
(Keep in mind that babies touch everything so make sure to always clean and disinfect.)
Rocking the baby gently provides side-to-side movement similar to what they experienced within the womb.
To help the baby settle down without crying, you are not aiming to rock them to sleep within your arms.
Instead, you are swaying to support, calm, and settle baby to show signs they are drowsy, yet not fully asleep.
Once you see the baby is calm and sleepy, place them down.
You can continue to rock gently with your hand as they lie in their sleep location.
Sometimes a hand placed on them, providing minimal movement or light pressure is sufficient to support the baby to make the transition from almost asleep to asleep.
Do You Really Put Baby Down While They’re Awake?
Yes, you can lay the baby down for a nap when they’re still awake.
Like me, and I’m sure many of you, have rocked baby to sleep and tried to lay them down, only to have them immediately wake up.
This can be especially changing when you’re tired yourself or want to get things down around the house.
The way this works is when the baby is showing signs of sleepiness (like the ones mentioned above) then you lay them down.
In other words, drowsy but awake.
You can use the tips in this article to help make the transition from you to bed easier.
What Does Drowsy But Awake Mean?
When trying to lay baby down awake you want them to be drowsy.
Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re on the verge of falling asleep.
This technique really means awake but calm.
You want the baby to be calm, dry, fed, warm and feel loved.
Their bodies should be relaxed and their eyes may look dazed as they’re starting to get tired.
This is when you want to gently lay the baby down so that they can fall asleep in their crib instead of on you.
So, with these tips – and plenty of patience and self-compassion too, it is possible to find ways to lay baby down for a nap without crying.
As with so many things, baby and child-related, consistency helps.
Trust yourself and your baby to find the ways that work for you both.
The tips here will get you started.
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