If you’re experiencing difficulty getting your baby to sleep, think about the routine you’ve established…
My baby cries when I put him down to sleep. He will fall asleep when being held but won’t sleep in his bassinet.
Firstly, know that you are not alone. If your baby cries when you put him down and then settles when you pick him up, you are experiencing a common baby sleep difficulty.
Recently a mother asked me what she could do to help her 8-week-old baby nap during the day. He would sleep well at night but would cry whenever she would put him down during the day. I answered her by outlining some important ways to create healthy sleep habits that apply to all ages and all sleep times. Please start by reading that article here: Baby Sleeps At Night But Won’t Nap During The Day.
Now that you’ve read my tips on creating healthy baby sleep habits, let’s focus on the part where you remain in the room while he settles.
While you’re in the room waiting for bub to fall asleep, you may find that he cries. Babies take around 10 minutes on average to settle but some take less and some take more.
During this time, it’s best to not talk to him unless he is getting increasingly upset.
If his crying escalates a lot after 10 minutes, go to him and say very calmly, “Oh, you are having a rough time of this. I’m going to pick you up and give you a cuddle.”
Hold him, and even soothe him with some gentle rocking until he is calm (not until asleep).
It is important that you don’t become stressed by him crying or he will mirror your stress. Babies cry. They need to cry because that is their only way to communicate. So listen, like you would a friend who is trying to make sense of a confusing situation.
Explain to him you are going to put him down for a rest, and you will rest too. Then lay on your bed (ideally your bed is near his bassinet so he can see you), and at the very least, close your eyes.
He will go to sleep. Because he needs to sleep – so trust in the process. He is capable. He just needs you to model the behaviour you want him to learn, and create the most sleep-inducing environment you can. Rest with him, and he will likely take longer naps if you do.
Babies learn quickly given the right conditions. It’s our anxiety and pressure that we need to be mindful of, because they pick up on it. This tension can itself prevent him from sleeping.
Give him around 10 minutes before you go to him when he calls out after his first sleep cycle. Often babies go back to sleep if you give them this chance. The idea is to convey that his sleep space is a safe, restful, enjoyable place to be. This is the beginning of establishing lifelong healthy sleep associations.
The kind of cries that happen upon waking are usually communicating confusion. Since he usually wakes up in your arms, he has a preference for being there and an expectation that he should always wake there. With his cries, he is asking you, ‘Hey, this is new, what is going on? I don’t usually go to sleep like this?!’
And you can say calmly, “I know this is new, but I you will get a better rest in your bed.”
With consistency and patience, you can establish a new sleep routine while allowing your baby to feel secure and safe.
To help you create your new healthy sleep routine, I’ve put together my top 4 must-haves for all sleep times in my blog post, Baby Sleep Essentials: 4 Must Haves to Help Your Baby Sleep.
Infant sleep is major parenting puzzle. Inspired by Magda Gerber’s RIE approach, I’ve been advising families for over 20 years on how to put the pieces together. I’d love to help you too.