How to Lay your Infant down to Sleep

Babies will often develop their own methods to calm and sooth themselves to sleep. They will often suck a thumb and/or cuddle a teddy. Some of course use a pacifier (dummy). Somehow babies link those actions with security and going to sleep. Unfortunately it is extremely difficult to teach your child to do this and more often than not we teach them to go to sleep in our arms.

You can however provide the right situation that will encourage self calming and self settling. What we have found to work really well is to lay baby down when we think she is ready for sleep, tuck a soft teddy into the crook of her arm and follow up with a soft blanket just under her chin. Now, she automatically sticks her thumb in her mouth, grabs the teddy and blanket, half rolls onto her side and bingo – she nods off.

After four children we have finally got it right. By 8:30 each night all four are in bed and asleep and most nights we don’t hear anything from them until early morning.

So what did we do that was different this time. I must confess, nothing was planned. It all happened by accident and like all cases of hindsight, we thought of course, why didn’t we do that earlier? Here is a summary of what we have found to work.

We made the mistake of allowing them to fall asleep in our arms each night then laying them down once they were asleep. This developed a pattern which at first was almost impossible to break. We used that habit then to our advantage. Since they were accustomed to sleeping in our arms, we added to the routine first a soft toy and later a soft blanket. 

This enabled them to associate sleep with the soft toy and the blanket. You will know when they have developed that association because as soon as you cradle them into your arms with the soft object, they will immediately snuggle into it and start to close their eyes and get that relaxed sleepy state. Once you have that routine, it is time to go to the next stage.

Now that baby has associated the softness with sleep you need to get into the habit of laying them down before they go to sleep. Cradle them with the blanket or teddy and as soon as they get that I am ready for sleep look – lay them down, before they go to sleep. In the beginning you may have to pick them up again, but they will quickly learn to associate the soft teddy or blanket and bed with sleep.

You don’t have to use the same soft teddy every time she goes to sleep either – nor the same blanket. What is important is that the toy and blanket are soft, very soft. They then build an association with softness and sleep. If you have a new born – try it out early – persevere, don’t give up to soon. Of course, the real trick is to pick that ‘right’ time to lay them down, too early and they don’t want to go to sleep, to late and they are over tired.

Of course, preventing that habit from forming in the first place is an even better idea. Don’t let your infant get into the habit of falling asleep in your arms. Once baby is in that relaxed stage and sleep is not far off, lay them down. Use a soft toy, blanket or gentle music if necessary. What you are trying to achieve is an association between sleep and being laid down. If you can achieve that association early, before any other bad habits form, you will have a problem free sleep routine.

When infants form bad sleep routines, it is because we, the parents, allow those routines to form. Start out with the firm objective of developing a good sleep routine.