One of the most common questions I get asked about as a pediatrician is infant sleep. Infant and childhood sleep is a huge topic and there are lots of books about it. I am going to focus on just one aspect of sleep though — getting your baby to sleep in their crib or bassinet. I am by no means a sleep guru, but I hope some of these tips will help many of you and your baby get a better night sleep.
“My two-week old will fall asleep in by arms, but as soon as I put him down in the crib he wakes up!”
First, let me say this is so common in the newborn and infant period. If you are experiencing this, you are not alone! As a pediatrician I know this is hard for any parent, but it is extremely important topic for me. When babies don’t sleep in their own beds, it may lead to unsafe sleep practices such as co-sleeping. Even if only by accident, holding your child to get them to sleep and being a sleep deprived mom or dad can lead to accidents if you fall asleep while holding your child. For all of these reasons, I really encourage you to continue to work on getting your child to sleep in their own crib or bassinet. We know it is the safest place for your baby to sleep.
1) Try “swaddling” him—wrapping him snuggly in a blanket—which can be very soothing. Lots of parents tell me their baby doesn’t like to be swaddled because they want their hands out. You can swaddle with the hands up to allow your baby to be able to get to their hands to suck on them. Being wrapped still gives the baby that warm secure feeling they felt in the womb.
3) Put your baby down drowsy but not fully asleep and then use some of the methods above while keeping your hand on them and “shush” them can help them transition into sleep.
4) Spend time in your baby’s room so they are familiar with their surroundings. Play and read in their room.
5) Start with putting your baby in their crib or bassinet at nap time, then continue to work toward night time. Nighttime sleep is often the more difficult transition. Making these changes in small increments, while making these transitions warm and nurturing experiences, will help your baby learn to connect her room with cozy, safe feelings.
6) If you are transitioning from bassinet to crib, move the bassinet into the bedroom first and try a few nights in with the bassinet in the room before then moving your baby to the crib.
7) Start a nighttime routine. Its never too early to start a nightly routine, bath, dim lights, reading to your baby, snuggle time. This night time routine can calm your baby and prepare them for sleep.
Most of all, it takes time for babies to learn to fall asleep on their own. Helping your child start to soothe themselves during the daytime will help him calm himself at night when you put him down. So, be patient, seek out help when you need it, and remember that these early days and months don’t last forever. I think as with any advice I give parents, consistency is key! Keep working on it, little by little, it will work.
For more information regarding infant and childhood sleep challenges, please see the Zero to Three website.