How To Get Baby To Sleep In Bassinet And Not In Your Arms
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You spend an hour or two putting your baby to sleep, but the moment you lay him down, he flips his eyes wide open, and then it’s back to square one. It’s one of the cycles I dreaded the first time we had a child, and I believe it’s one that many parents are also concerned about.
It would seem okay at first. After all, it’s your child, and he needs all the cuddling he could get. He had also been used to the rocking motion inside your womb, so he needs to adjust to the outside world the first two weeks of his life. It becomes a problem, though, if it had been months already, and your baby still would only sleep when held or rocked.
When Your Baby Only Sleeps When Held
Us human beings develop certain habits even from infancy. Over time, we would just outgrow them as we mature. Some quirks are difficult to break for many kids, though, and that includes sleeping habits.
You’ve probably heard of stories of parents rocking their toddlers forever to sleep, or even of parents still having their four-year-olds sleep on the bed with them. It makes you wonder if they have gotten enough sleep themselves.
The unfortunate thing about making your child get used to sleeping props is that it’s not sustainable, both for you and your baby. There’s no way the both of you are going to get the quality of sleep and rest you need. It’s setting you up for years of sleep deprivation. It simply has to stop. “But how?” you may ask.
The Dangers Of Sleep Associations
It’s important for you to understand that your baby can fall asleep on his own. First-time parents especially have the tendency to be overanxious and overprotective of their child. It’s parental instinct to want to do everything within your power to keep your child safe and comfortable at all times. However, you also have to understand that there should be a limit to it.
- Sleep associations or sleep props may make it easier for you to put your baby to sleep. But, while using them might be convenient, they are not the best option for your baby. In fact, they are the main reason that newborns fail to achieve the skill of sleeping through the night.
- Sleep props such as intentionally nursing your newborn to sleep, rocking or cuddling, and co-sleeping with your baby interfere with this process by being substitutes to sleepiness as a cue for sleep.
- Not only that but letting your baby sleep beside you is, in reality, dangerous for him as it increases his risk for SIDS or sudden infant death syndrome. The National Vital Statistics System reports that in 2010, 2,000 infants died of SIDS and that in the U.S. alone.
The following section will give you a four-step guide that will help you train your child to eventually sleep on his own rather than being held and rocked or being lulled to sleep using props.
Four-Step Guide To Get Your Baby To Sleep In His Bassinet On His Own
Phase 1: Establish A Consistent Sleep Routine
Routines make newborn babies feel safe, so the first step to helping your child sleep on his own is to create a consistent sleep routine for him. Habits take a while to develop, though, so be patient with your child the first few days. Here are some things to remember that will help you transition your baby into sleep mode:
- Don’t rush things.
- Do observe your newborn’s sleep tendencies.
- Do master putting your baby down while he’s drowsy, but not asleep.
- Do shorten the same routine during the day.
- Do make adjustments over time as deemed necessary.
Consistent sleep cues and routines will help your child get sleepy in anticipation of being put down to sleep. A typical routine for most newborns include bathing, feeding, diaper change, rocking, and then sleep, just like what's shown in the video below:
Phase 2: Break Sleep Association
If you’re like many parents, you’ve probably tried everything to get your newborn to sleep during the first weeks of his life. Pacifiers, milk bottles, and holding and rocking work as quick fixes, but they can develop into unhealthy sleep associations.
In the long run, they can do more harm to you and your baby than good, and when they do, it’s important to learn how to break the habit. Here are ways to help you do just that:
- Decide which sleep props to get rid of.
- Don’t take all sleep props at the same time.
- Decide whether you’d use a gradual approach or do a cold turkey (or to take away your baby’s sleep prop in a sudden or abrupt manner.)
*Note: Every child would respond differently, so if you decide to use the cold turkey method, I recommend that you observe your baby carefully. In our case, our son wouldn’t sleep without his pacifier when he was only a few months old.
We decided to go cold turkey on him and threw his pacifier away without warning. He got a little bit stressed at first, but he moved on and got over it in just a couple of days. From that experience, we’ve concluded that our child could handle the stress well. Several months later, we also had to make a decision regarding his milk drinking.
He was overweight and we had to reduce the amount of milk he was drinking per day. We observed that he drank less when using a cup, so we decided to throw his milk bottle away. He was able to handle the stress easily, and our method worked.
He lost several pounds because of that and weighed normal ever since. Of course, we had to get a “go” signal from his doctor first before trying the approach:
- Agree with your spouse how you’re going to approach the problem together.
- Replace unhealthy sleep associations with a healthy one.
Your child may have withdrawal syndrome at first, but be firm with your decision and simply trust the process.
Phase 3: Get Your Baby To Feel Sleepy Lying Still In Your Arms
Rocking is one of the most common sleep associations for newborns that’s difficult to break. Compared to sucking association, though, it’s a lot easier to deal with. This is explained in this short video:
If your newborn is used to falling asleep with you holding and rocking him in your arms, the next phase is to get him to sleep without it. Here’s how to do it:
- Begin with rocking, but gradually stop before he actually falls asleep.
- He may also protest at first, and you may have to rock him again.
- Keep doing this until he begins feeling drowsy even though you’ve already stopped rocking.
- Do this for a week until your child gets used to the new routine.
Phase 4: Help Your Little One Learn To Sleep On The Bassinet On His Own
The final phase is to help your baby sleep on his bassinet on his own. Here are the steps:
- Lower him into his bassinet with him still a bit awake.
- He will protest at first, of course; pick him up again and rock him a little.
- Do this several times until you have succeeded in putting him down without him objecting.
- Hold him for a few minutes and move to just touching him while he drifts to sleep.
Eventually, your little one will be able to fall asleep with you simply holding his hand or placing a hand on his forehead. After several days, he will begin to accept this as the new routine, and soon you’ll be surprised that your child has learned to fall asleep altogether even without you having to hold or touch him.
Additional Things To Remember
Make A Commitment To Never Quit
Sleep associations can be disadvantageous. If your baby relies on your breast milk or you rocking him to sleep and you go out one evening, it can be a tough experience for your baby and his caregiver. You will encounter some challenges along the way, so make a commitment from the start to never give up until you succeed.
Allow Your Child To Cry It Out
Some babies are easier to wean from their sleep associations than others, and your child may or may not protest badly with you not rocking him anymore to sleep. If it happens that your child is one of the majorities who will cry and shout throughout the process, just remember that crying is an unavoidable part of the training. After all, falling asleep on their own is a skill that babies can master if given the opportunity.
Here’s a video of a baby being put to sleep using the “cry it out” method, a sleep training technique that involves leaving your baby alone to cry until he falls asleep.
Be Prepared For Some Difficult Nights
It’s not all the time that your child will go to sleep at once even when you’ve thought you’ve mastered the method. There will be a few difficult nights, and sometimes, you will have to resort to leaving your child to cry himself to sleep.
This can be excruciating and heartbreaking, but try to relax and remind yourself that when it’s all over, everyone in the house, including your baby, is going to be able to sleep a lot better.
It’s A Team Effort
It’s vital that both you and your partner master the technique of putting your baby to sleep without having to rock or hold him. The two of you must agree on schedules and on how you’re going to approach certain situations. If you fail to use a similar approach, or if one of you gives up, your child may get confused and everybody in the house suffers.
Don’t Get Discouraged By Relapses
It’s not unusual to experience a regress from time to time. A sickness or a change in environment like when you’re traveling may affect the child sleeping patterns. Don’t let this discourage you, and simply move on and help your child return to his routine once things get back to normal.
Final Words of Encouragement
Getting your baby to sleep on his own can be a challenge, but it’s something that’s not impossible to achieve. Sometimes, it may take several days or weeks, and sometimes even longer.
Don’t get discouraged if you do not see results immediately. It’s a process, and what works for other people’s children may not work for yours. Even the methods we’ve shared here may not all work for you. Your baby is unique, so observe him for a while and see which method works best for him.
So, what did you think about this post? If you found this article interesting and meaningful, please don’t forget to share it within your circle. Also, if you have your method of getting your baby to sleep in his bassinet or crib on his own, please do share the steps with us! We would love to know what you have to say in the comments section below!