The Art of Putting a Baby to Sleep

And so the old saying goes, “Put the baby down when they are still awake. Sleepy, but awake, as to avoid any sleep associations.” I don’t think the original person who first suggested this was even a parent. If you thought this was a self help article or I had any words of wisdom on how to get your children to sleep soundly on their own, you should look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for a laugh, or you are simply a parent who is an “expert” at the art of putting a baby to sleep and want to commiserate, read on.

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There are many things you realize when you become a parent. One of those things is – you had no idea what you were talking about before you had kids. I found myself judging other parents before I even became one, and having my own newborn put me right in my place within the first few days of being a mom!

One of the things I’ve always struggled with as a mom is trying to manage my babies’ sleep. I’ve put the baby down sleepy but awake, created ideal sleep surroundings and routines, done everything they tell you to do in the baby books, and have researched sleep training for more hours than I care to say.

In the end, when all else fails, I resort back to the sleep association I know best; rocking. Luckily James was a pretty good sleeper and slept through the night within the first few months. He did love his swing though, and slept in it for most naps. I also held him. A lot. When he outgrew the swing he realized that he still needed his “sleep association,” rocking. The thing is, babies are smarter than you think. The other thing is, I kind of enjoy our “sleep association,” and I find no harm in cuddling my babies while I can.

Still, I found myself rocking a 20 lb baby for what felt like hours. (In reality it was only about 10 minutes on average). There came a time where he became almost impossible to get to sleep and we decided it was time for some gentle sleep training. To help with the arguments my husband and I often had about the perfect method, we resorted to The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley.

To our surprise, James quickly figured out how to put himself to sleep on his own and within about a week with very little crying, he was sleep trained! It sounds like we have a puppy, right?! I hate the phrase “sleep training.”

Anyways, fast forward a year to our next baby – beautiful Sweet Pea. Ella is a completely different child when it comes to sleep. At first I thought I hit the jackpot. Unlike James, she hated her swing. I think she’s spent about 10 minutes of it in her almost 7 months of life and that made me so happy. “Maybe she isn’t going to have a dreaded sleep association!”, I thought. Ha Ha Ha.

I think I need this onesie 😉

Ella loved to fall asleep on her own in the early days, and didn’t really like being held while sleeping or being rocked to sleep. I missed the cuddles but this was nice because although I loved holding James for hours when he was a newborn while catching up on my favorite reality TV and Call the Midwife, it just isn’t possible when you have a toddler to take care of as well.

Fast forward again to almost 7 months and Ella has become that smart baby that no one realized they could be, remember? She isn’t content falling asleep on her own, even though I have always put her down “sleepy but awake.” Somewhere between hitting the 4 month sleep regression and a few colds we hit this winter, she realized that she needed to be rocked to sleep. Except she doesn’t really enjoy it like James did. But it’s the only way to get her to sleep! I’ve tried everything else. Trust me, I often like the cuddle time we get alone and I love soothing her back to sleep, but the rocking is getting old. I have found myself resorting back to my “rocking manual” in my head multiple times when it’s time to get her to sleep, and I realize I would look like a complete crazy person if you were to watch me!

I wish I looked like the moms in Pampers commercials, sitting in the dim light with my calm baby in our rocking chair, staring into each other’s eyes. Once in a while you might catch us like this at 3 am. Instead I look like one of the following on any given day:

  1. An instructor in a jazzercise class
  2. A workout fanatic, with all of the squats I get in
  3. A galloping horse (good thing her room is so big)
  4. A lawnmower slowly accelerating while keeping the gentle bump up and down
  5. A ballroom dancer doing the waltz (although not nearly as graceful)
  6. A spinning top, as I slowly walk around in circles

Although these are a bit exaggerated, I sometimes can’t believe the effort I need to put into getting this baby girl to sleep! Granted, there are definitely days she goes to sleep on her own, and also days where all I need to do is give her a cuddle and a few short rocks, but boy sometimes I don’t even need to workout with all the rocking I do!

The thing is, I know that someday I will miss the days that my babies need me to help get to sleep. There are so many little things about motherhood that drive you a little nuts, but the big things outweigh them every time. I sometimes miss cuddling James to sleep, so if I can give any advice on the topic of putting your baby to sleep, it’s to follow the advice of another “expert” and enjoy these days while they last and your kids while they’re young.

Admit it- you found yourself creating a “sleep association” for your baby. How did you deal with it as a mom?

Some of the items below have been, or are still, a part of our bedtime routine.

11 thoughts on “The Art of Putting a Baby to Sleep

  1. Ryan says:

    OUr lil guy didn’t start sleeping well until around 12 months. I swear he’d pretend to sleep to get our hopes up and then pop those eyes open the second you laid him down. Babies are mean haha

  2. Elizabeth Voyles says:

    Rocking is a big sleep association for my daughter. I finally had to wean her off of it a bit when I found myself rocking her for three hours each night to get her to sleep. Now she goes to sleep on her own. But if she wakes in the night or too early in the morning, we’re right back in that rocking chair. It’s what works best. I appreciate your humor:)

    • betterwithbabies says:

      OH, I feel for you; three hours?! I agree, you have to do what’s best for you and your family. Now my son likes his back rubbed if he wakes during the night!

  3. Amanda Appiagyei says:

    Hahaha, yes! Why won’t they sleep! I start to genuinely wonder if they hate me some nights! You have to laugh though don’t you.

    I used to stress so much with getting my first to sleep in his own cot, now I get the baby in bed with me and it’s wonderful. We all sleep better.

  4. Misty Kroeze says:

    You are so right, each of my kids were completely different when it came to sleep routines but the one thing they have in common was once they hit a year old they absolutely refused to sleep in their own beds. So one of my never will I ever moments before becoming a mother was never allowing my kids to co-sleep. Ha Ha here I am now with 2 kids in my bed and now that they are there and some nights are a struggle, I do know that this will only be for a short while longer and I will someday miss this.

  5. Vicki @ Babies to Bookworms says:

    Haha, your descriptions of your actions made me laugh because I have had trouble putting my daughter down for bed since she was born! Just as I would figure out her “trick”, she would change it up again! I definitely try to enjoy the snuggles though, because I know these days won’t last forever!

  6. Madame X says:

    I remember the days when my daughter was a baby. When she sleeps in my arm when I need to put her in her crib, ooh that’s when it gets hard! That lullaby music sound speaker look great. WIll bookmark this when I’m having a baby again!

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