10 Baby Sleep Questions

Interested in more “how to” and “how not to” cry it out posts? Good because I’m working on them. I’m also working with some awesome local postpartum doulas on the ultimate “Newborn What is Normal” list. There are a ton of newborn baby questions coming up in email/comments that come up that are 100% normal. Thus parents are freaking out over things that they shouldn’t and I hope to help remedy that.

However none of these posts is ready because I’m too busy freaking out about the Tough Mudder which I’ll be doing this weekend. In fact here’s me with my Tough Mudder crew (I’m on the left in purple) doing some race training. Which mostly consisted of slogging up and down the mountain while wheezing, sweating, and questioning the wisdom of doing events such as these.

So in the interim I’ve pulled together a list of 10 baby sleep questions that have come up a lot in email/comments. If you have a medical or safety question I am happy to share my opinion, but I want to be very clear that in all cases my default answer is this:

[box type=”blank” class=”border-dashed2″]The Default Answer*
I am not a pediatrician so if something is worrying you ASK YOUR PEDIATRICIAN. If you don’t feel comfortable asking or don’t trust the answers your pediatrician is giving you GET A NEW PEDIATRICIAN.
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10 Common Questions on Baby Sleep

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  1. I can’t tell if my baby is asleep!

    I’ve developed a highly effective technique to deduce if babies are sleeping. I look at them and I use this specialized method of determination. Eyes open = asleep. Eyes closed = asleep.

  2. Is the swing going to mess up my baby’s back or head?

    There is precious little research on baby swings (insert default answer here*). However I have not seen or read anything that suggests that modern swings (not some old bucket-like swing your mother-in-law got at a yard sale 10 years ago) cause any developmental problems or negatively impact the head/back.

  3. Weissbluth says that motion sleep is not as “restorative” as non-moving sleep. Thoughts?

    I love Weissbluth. I hate that he put this in his book. He asserts that because he sleeps poorly when in the car or on airplanes, thus babies sleep poorly when moving. I also don’t sleep well in the car. Nor can I sleep while swaddled or with a pacifier in my mouth. So I don’t believe the adult/baby sleep comparison is a particularly good one. There is no research to support the idea that babies sleep poorly when in motion. And anecdotal evidence from thousands of swing sleeping babies suggests they a) sleep great and b) are much happier and well-rested then they were previously.

  4. I’m afraid my newborn baby will get addicted to the bouncy seat with the vibrator.

    When you have a newborn you need to embrace what is working right now. Corollary: what works today will not work tomorrow.

  5. My 6 week old baby is still eating 3-4 times every night, when will this end?

    Newborns eat a lot at night. This is one of the many things that make parenting a newborn baby so challenging. You can’t “fix” a hungry newborn baby – you just feed them.

  6. I’ve been reading Babywise and I can’t seem to get the schedule worked out

    I’ve edited the remainder of the question. The answer is: stop reading Babywise.

  7. I read a study that white noise causes brain damage. Should I be worried?

    In 2003 there was a now-famous study where baby rats were effectively raised with deafening white-noise throughout their entire lives. These rats did not develop properly. If this concerns you (insert default answer here*). White noise is certainly something that would benefit from further study. However nobody is suggesting you raise your baby in a sound-deprivation chamber of deafening white noise. But there is ample evidence that mild (50 dB – the volume of a shower) white noise, especially when they are sleeping, has numerous benefits for babies.

  8. My baby makes a ton of noise when they sleep. Is something wrong?

    Babies are noisy sleepers. They grunt, clench their legs to their chest, fart, burp, etc. None of this indicates a “problem”. It’s also one of the many reasons white noise helps everybody sleep better. If you are waking up every time your baby grunts in their sleep you will never, ever sleep.

  9. What is a good sleep routine?

    It’s whatever you like that is a) calm b) quiet and c) you can live with doing it for the next 5 years. Ideally the nap routine is simply a shorter version of the bedtime routine. The “classic” bedtime routine is bath, books, boob, bed. If you’re trying to break the nursing to sleep habit, then you would restructure your routine to separate boob from bed (or bath, boob, books, bed.) Your short-version nap routine would be boob, books, bed. Feel free to add whatever fun soothing activities (massage, songs, kiss the dog, etc.) that you enjoy.

  10. When should we start using a sleep routine?

    Now. It won’t hurt you at any age and it may help you. For newborns your routine might be diaper change, nurse, sleep. But it’s still something you do consistently. You can add to it as your baby gets older.

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Hope these help. More to come when my brain is back in the game 🙂
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Are You Keeping Baby Awake Too Long?

One of the most commonly held baby myths is that, “babies will sleep when they are tired.”  Life would be simpler if it were true….but it’s not. Helping your baby fall asleep, figuring out when they need to sleep, and making sure they get enough sleep is pretty much the bane of every new parent.

How long should your baby be awake?

Newborn babies generally sleep a lot (according to Dr. Weissbluth newborns average between 11 – 18 hours of sleep per 24-hour period). However baby sleep is generally broken up into 7-8 “naps” varying in length from 15 minutes to 4-6 hours.

Most newborn babies (under 8 weeks) can’t stay awake very long (I sometimes refer to this as a baby’s “window of wakefulness.”) Although it varies by baby, most newborns can stay awake no longer than 45 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Some may not be able to stay awake more than 30 minutes at a time. This is generally the maximum amount of time you want your baby to be awake at any point throughout the day.

So hypothetically this means that if your newborn baby wakes up from a nap at noon, she will need to go back down for another nap around 12:45. Assume she takes a 30-minute nap and then wakes up (now its 1:15 pm). Then she would be ready to take yet another nap at approximately 2:00 pm.

As babies get older their window of wakefulness (maximum time they can stay awake) gets longer, the naps generally get longer, and the number of naps they need gradually decreases and becomes more predictable.

How do you figure out how long your baby should stay awake?

A few newborn babies will fall asleep after a certain amount of time no matter how hard you try to keep them awake. Some babies will give very good clues that they are tired so you can settle them down to sleep as soon as they look a little glazed over, rub their eyes, yawn, etc. Some will stay awake far longer than their bodes can handle. You’ll know THIS is your baby if they stay awake for 1.5 hours or longer and then have a grand mal meltdown.
[pullquote]You’ll know you’ve figured out how long your baby should stay awake when she falls asleep really easily. If it’s a struggle to help her fall asleep (assuming something like hunger, tummy gas, etc. isn’t preventing her from falling asleep) you’re either trying too soon, or you’re trying too late.[/pullquote]

As a general rule you should use the guidelines in the table below. I know you’ve been told “all babies are different” but in my experience almost ALL babies fall within these guidelines. Thus if your baby is vastly off the grid that I’m suggesting here, you probably have an overtired baby on your hands.

Baby Age Time between Naps Nap Duration Number of Naps per Day
Birth – 6 weeks 45 min – 1 hour 15 minutes – 4 hours  4-8
6 Weeks – 3 Months  1 hour – 1 hour 45 minutes  30 minutes – 2 hours  3-5
3 Months – 6 Months  ~2 Hours  30 minutes – 2 hours  3-4
6 Months – 9 Months  2-3 hours  1-3 hours  3
9 Months – 12 Months  ~3 hours 1-2 hours  2

Is Your Baby Awake TOO Long?

Probably.
Most parents keep their baby awake too long. It’s the #1 most common baby sleep mistake. People might tell you, “My baby just doesn’t need that much sleep.” Um….no. Just because they’re not sleeping doesn’t mean they don’t need to sleep. If your newborn baby is awake for 6 hour chunks of time during the day you have a sleep problem. It’s OK, it happens to the best of us. But let’s acknowledge it and work on fixing it rather than assuming that your baby is just different.

Most babies will let you know they’ve been awake too long because they’ll become fussy and difficult to soothe. Very happy babies will sometimes throw us a curve by hiding the fact that they are overtired by remaining calm and happy even when they’ve been up for a very long time (1.5 hours or longer). However you generally don’t want to keep your baby up for long windows of time (regardless of how delightful they are) because regardless of their behavior – overtired babies sleep poorly.

So put on your baby detective sleep hat and play around with your window of wakefulness. Once you’ve figured it out you can pretty much use that as a gauge throughout the day.

How long will your baby sleep?

Anywhere from 20 minutes to 4 hours. Some pediatricians will advise you to wake up your baby for scheduled feedings for a few days/weeks after they are born (this is common with preemies or other babies that might need a little extra love and food for a while) but once you get the green light from your pediatrician, you generally shouldn’t wake sleeping babies.

Should your baby be kept awake longer after longer naps?

No.

How long your little one can stay awake should remain relatively consistent throughout the day (the one exception to this rule is during the Witching Hours – see below.)

What about “Cat Naps”?

Little babies are notorious for nodding off for a few minutes here and there. The most common complaint is that they’ll fall asleep for a few minutes while nursing but then wake right up again when the breast is removed. Was this a real nap? Or do we wait for another hour before trying to put them down again?

Every baby is different but as a general rule, anything ~10 minutes or longer constitutes a REAL nap. Meaning if your baby falls asleep while nursing and then hangs out there for 10 minutes (lets face it we all do this from time to time) you will likely need to wait for an hour (or whatever your baby’s window is) before trying to put her down for a nap again. Similarly if she falls asleep for 10 minutes on the way home from the mall, you will have to wait an hour to try to put her down for a nap.

Some babies transfer well from the car well – they can be removed from the car while sleeping and continue to sleep happily in their car seat which is now sitting in the living room. If this is your baby, lucky you! If not you have two choices:
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  • Accept the occasional car “cat nap” as part of life.
  • Plan for the car “cat nap” by bringing a nice latte and magazine with you. When your baby falls asleep in the car, park somewhere comfortable, leave the car running, and enjoy some quiet time while she sleeps.

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What is the “Witching Hour”?

For most babies the Witching Hour(s) fall somewhere around 5:00 – 11:00 pm. This is a time of day where babies are generally fussy and will stay awake for a longer period of time. Thus it would not be unusual to have a newborn baby who is awake but generally unhappy from 8:00 pm – 11:00 pm. After this long window of being fussy and awake, most babies will then have their longest period of sleep (2-4 hour for a baby who is only a few weeks old, 3-6 hours for a baby who is 1-3 months old).

This is generally the ONLY exception to the window of wakefulness. So if you find your baby fighting sleep in the evening, it may simply mean that you have found your witching hour. While this can be exhausting as most parents are running out of steam at this time of night, it’s totally normal.

If, however, you find your newborn baby staying awake for 2-3 hours at a time at other times during the day, she probably needs additional help falling asleep or there is some unknown factor which is keeping her awake. Don’t be too quick to assume that “your baby is simply different” or that “she needs less sleep.”

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Note: You can find an overview of baby and kid sleep by age here. It includes the average amount of time babies can stay awake between naps. At the bottom of the post you can download a printable version to keep as a cheat sheet. How cool is that?
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Too Young to Cry it Out?

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of emails and comments asking about “cry it out” (CIO, the Ferber method, Ferberizing, etc.). Also cry it out was pretty much the only thing anybody wanted to talk about at the new baby playgroup I spoke at a few weeks ago. I tried to steer the conversation to who has the cutest pediatrician (I do OBVIOUSLY) but they kept going back to cry it out.

This is a BIG TOPIC. There are lots of opinions about cry it out however they’re all wrong unless they happen to agree with my own opinions, in which case they are totally on the mark.

Cry it out is the tool of last resort. Nobody comes home from the hospital with their precious new baby thinking, “A year from now we’re going to let you cry and we’ll all feel terrible about it. Welcome home baby!” They try lots of other things, get ground down into a sleep-deprived pulp, and eventually concede defeat, settling on cry it out as a sleep strategy when all other avenues have been attempted without success.

There are definitely circumstances in which I believe CIO is the right answer. Although it’s not the right answer for EVERYBODY. And there are definitely times when I believe it is a mistake. It can be done right. It can be done wrong. And when it’s done wrong it tends to be an ugly ineffective mess for everybody involved. Almost everybody wants to know the same things about cry it out.

What You Want to Know About Cry It Out

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  • WHEN should you try this?
  • WHY should you try it?
  • WHAT are the alternatives?
  • HOW do you do CIO the right way?
  • WHAT should you expect?

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All good stuff that I promise to get to in good time. However since I don’t have time today so I’m going to briefly address what has come up a bunch lately.

When is Baby Too Young to Cry It Out?

Apparently some pediatricians are recommending parents try cry it out at 3-4 months of age. As they are pediatricians and I am not, this puts me in the uncomfortable position of disagreeing with a pediatrician. But personally I think this is too young.

Why 3 to 4 Months is Too Young for Cry It Out

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  1. They genuinely need you.

    When a baby is young (<6 months) they haven't developed self soothing skills. They can't settle themselves when they cry. They may not be able to fall asleep without help. They can't go for long periods of time without food. It may not be a reasonable expectation that they simply fall asleep on their own.

  2. You have other options.

    There is an inverse relationship between baby age and the number of options you have to successfully help them sleep. Another way to put it is when you are struggling with a baby under 6 months of age who isn’t sleeping, you still have a lot of tools at your disposal. When your 1.5 YO refuses to sleep your quiver doesn’t have so many arrows in it.

  3. It can be rough.

    As younger babies have less self-soothing skills the amount of crying involved tends to be greater than if you wait until they are older. It’s not a guarantee that CIO for a young baby will be a long painful ordeal but in my experience it’s significantly more likely.

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If your baby is under 6 months old and you’re thinking about cry it out or you’re worried that you’re “spoiling your baby” by picking her up every time she cries, I would suggest that you try to commit to some other techniques first. Do whatever you need to do to keep your baby from being awake too long. Make sure you are taking advantage of swaddling and loud white noise. Maybe your baby isn’t ready to sleep in the crib, your newborn may respond well to sleeping in a swing.

I’m not suggesting that these things are easy. Swings don’t magically solve all your baby sleep issues. If they did I would be selling them on this site for $1000 each. Keeping an older baby swaddled can be challenging. If your child is chronically sleep deprived you may need to FORCE the issue (take her for a car ride/stroller walk, whatever works) for a few days to get her sleeping. You may need to forgo beloved playgroups or coffee dates with friends to make sure she isn’t awake too long. It may take a week or two before things start to get easier (and in the meantime you may feel like they’re NEVER going to get better).

But they will. Billions of people have figured out how to get their kids to sleep and you will too. And if all else fails, at a certain point, maybe for your family, cry it out is the answer.

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Cry it Out VS. Testing the Waters

There is a big difference between cry it out and leaving your baby alone for 5 minutes to see if she’ll settle herself back down to sleep. While I’m suggesting that under 6 months is too young for cry it out, I am DEFINITELY a fan of occasionally putting babies down awake for a few minutes to see what happens (set a timer for 5 minutes and don’t go back in – they will often surprise you). Similarly when your baby wakes up at night make sure they REALLY need you before you pick them up. Stare at the clock to make sure you aren’t rushing in to get them 20 seconds after they wake up (20 seconds can seem like an eternity when your little one is crying). Wait a minute or two and see what happens. Even if you just tried this a week ago and it didn’t work, try it again this week. Newborn babies are developing at an unimaginable pace so you want to check back in regularly – what didn’t work last week may very well work great this week. Letting your baby fuss for a few minutes is NOT cry it out.
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{Photo Credit: I should be folding laundry}

Are You Making these Baby Sleep Mistakes?

Giving birth is a big deal. Even an easy birth leaves most Moms feeling like wet cat food. Your house is probably full of meddling relatives and your living room is awash in baby blankets and burp cloths. Baby care and feeding is significantly less straight-forward than it seemed in that New Baby class you took a few months ago. And you are so fatigued that you get winded opening the fridge.

Your plate is probably pretty full so I don’t want to send you into panic mode about newborn baby sleep (hint: newborn=0-3 months), but here are some common potholes for babies you want to avoid. Actually everything here applies to babies from birth to 6 months.

10 Common Newborn Baby Sleep Mistakes

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  1. Keeping Baby Awake Too Long

    Most new parents are confused by how long their newborn baby should be awake because so many believe that they’ll simply fall asleep when they need sleep (some will, most won’t). Truthfully most newborn babies can only stay awake about an hour. For the first few weeks your newborn baby may only be able to stay wake for 30-40 minutes. Even if your baby SEEMS content to stay awake for longer periods of time it is in your and your baby’s best interest to help her sleep more frequently. Overtired babies cry more and sleep poorly at night so managing sleep throughout the day is a great way to make the first few months a happier time for everybody.

  2. Keeping Baby Awake During the Day

    Most newborns are surprisingly awake at night. Horrifyingly this “playtime” often happens between 1:00 am – 4:00 am when no civilized parent has any interest in playing (and the TV selection is limited to infomercials and Who’s the Boss). It is a commonly held myth that keeping baby awake during the day will solve this problem (this is the “tire them out so they sleep better” theory). This is patently untrue. Keeping baby awake during the day will simply make baby more tired and potentially exacerbate your night party problem. What will fix it?

    Time.

    When baby is up at night keep the lights dim and activity to a minimum. No loud, blinky, bouncy toys. Most babies will organically sort out this day-night sleep reversal by ~6 weeks of age.

  3. Trying to “Fix” Baby’s Sleep

    I love it when families take their children’s sleep seriously. I really do. However while there are many things about newborn sleep that parent my not love (awake at night, short naps, frequent feedings, etc.) part of being the parent of a newborn is accepting that for now, baby is driving the sleep bus. Trying to force a schedule, getting frustrated with cat naps, feeling anxious about how much your baby sleeps, etc. are all loosing strategies when you have a newborn. Which leads me to…

  4. Forcing the Crib

    About 0% of newborn babies will sleep happily in a crib. I know you just spent $1000 on that delightful Pottery Barn crib and can’t wait to see your little peanut sleeping in it. But you and your peanut will be much happier and will get a lot more sleep if you accept that most babies aren’t sleeping in the crib until sometime between 2-6 months of age (and sometimes later). For a newborn, the crib is huge and flat which is pretty much the opposite of what they are used to. Where do they sleep? In co-sleepers, with Mom, in car seats, or my personal recommendation, in a swing.

  5. Letting Baby Cry it Out

    Listen tired peeps, there are definitely times and circumstances where CIO is the answer. This is not one of those times.

  6. Worrying About Sleeping Through the Night

    Your newborn baby might be sleeping through the night at 8 weeks. Or it may be 8 months. You may get a lucky night where she sleeps all night and then be horrified when it never happens again. I know how tired you are. For a year and a half I would fantasize about leaving my baby home with my husband so I could go to a hotel and sleep blissfully uninterrupted for AS. LONG. AS. I. WANTED. Newborn sleep bounces around like an angry snake. You’ll have hideous nights. Wonderful nights. And you’ll never know what you’re going to get. Don’t worry about it. It won’t be like this forever.

  7. Not Accepting Help

    I see MANY couples who have convinced themselves that there is only one parent who has the skills to care for baby during the night. This is ridiculousness. If your partner can’t care for baby at night then show them how. Put them through baby boot camp. Whatever you have to do to enable them to take some night parenting duties off your shoulders. If you’re nursing and feel like it HAS to be you, start working on getting baby to take a bottle (it doesn’t get any easier as they get older so best to introduce this now). Let Dad take 1 feeding a night while you get some uninterrupted sleep in the guest room. Don’t allow yourself to be the sole baby zen master in the house.

  8. Not Sleeping When Baby Sleeps

    After a few weeks you’ll probably notice that there are general times of day when your baby is more likely to sleep in larger chunks. One of the first good chunks to develop is when they go to bed at night (generally after being awake for a longer period of time). So if you aren’t going to bed when your baby does, you’re missing out on the biggest window of uninterrupted sleep you’re likely to get all day. I know the house is a mess, you haven’t showered in a week, and the grass in your yard is so high that your neighbor’s 5 year old got lost in there. Forgetaboutit. Go to bed.

  9. Not Using Sleep Aids

    Parents will also express their concerns about baby getting “addicted” or becoming “dependent” upon sleep aids (swaddling, white noise, pacifiers, swings, etc.). So their solution is to not use them and thus avoid sending their baby to White Noise Anonymous to deal with their sleep aid addiction. If your baby is under 6 months old, sleep aids are your friend. Embrace them. I promise you, your kid will be out of the swaddle by kindergarten.

  10. Comparing Your Baby to THEIR Baby

    In every new baby playgroup there is the blessed child who starts sleeping through the night at 4 weeks and takes huge chunky naps during the day. You will look at this well rested, recently showered parent and start to feel like you must have failed in some significant way. You haven’t, they just got lucky. About 33% of babies are “easy” – they are easily soothed, fall asleep easily, sleep longer with less frequent night wakings, etc. It’s just the way of the world. Your baby will get there too. Eventually

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If you haven’t already checked it out, Baby Sleep: What is Normal is also a really great resource on how much sleep babies need by age.

So did I miss any? Feel free to share any stumbles you’ve had. I promise you, you aren’t the only one!
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{Photo credit: Emery Co Photo}

The Ultimate Baby Swing Sleep Guide For Swing Hating Babies

Step 1: Buy baby swing.
Step 2: Assemble swing.
Step 3. Put baby in swing.
Step 4: Turn swing on.

What, it’s not working for you?

But My Baby Hates the Swing

I have never failed to get a baby to fall asleep. Contrary to what you may have heard, I do not do this by reading my blog posts to babies.

I use baby swings.

[image type=”frame1″ align=”right” “]baby sleeping in papasan swing[/image]Most of you live too far away for me to show you in person how I get babies to fall asleep in baby swings so I’m going to do my best to describe my no-fail baby swing sleep technique here. If you have a newborn baby (0-6 months old) and are struggling with sleep, short naps, etc. I would give the swing a try.

Start with the basic baby swing steps:
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  • Run it by your pediatrician. I’ve found they almost unilaterally will support your decision. But best to make sure first.
  • Put the swing where your baby currently sleeps (or sleeps most often). This is probably in your own room and it’s OK if it’s not currently THEIR room (we can easily move in that direction once we’ve mastered the swing). This is our new “sleep spot” and for the next few weeks, the baby should generally sleep in that location, in the swing, round the clock. (It’s OK if a few car/stroller naps sneak in there, it happens.)
  • Make your sleep spot a dark place. Room darkening blinds work great for this. However you can temporarily create a dark space by simply taping aluminum foil to the windows with masking tape. Sure it’s a little ghetto but it works great!
  • Put something in there that will create loud and continuous white noise. White noise will help your baby sleep and (assuming the sleep spot is YOUR room) will also help block the sound of the swing so YOU can sleep.
  • Set up your baby monitor.
  • Move whatever other sleep supplies (swaddling blankets, pacifiers, books, chair for nursing/feeding, etc.) you need so that it’s relatively close to your new baby sleep spot.
  • Put your swing into the sleep spot.
  • Use your swing on the highest speed setting available. For newborns, faster is better.

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Put the baby in the swing, strap them in, turn it on, and voilà – baby sleep nirvana!

For some babies, it may be just this simple. If so, congratulations and I hope you are currently enjoying your victory nap. In fact everybody should try to put your baby awake into the swing, turn it on, and walk out of the room. Wait a few minutes (literally – use a timer and don’t go back for 3-5 minutes) and see what happens. Your baby may surprise you.

Or maybe not. In which case we move on to what I like to call the Varsity Sleep Swing technique. We’re going to slather your baby with so much soothing that they will literally be incapable of staying awake. It’s like when I have 2 glasses of wine and then try to watch Masterpiece Theater, only modified for the younger set.

Varsity Sleep Swing Technique

All of the above PLUS:
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  • Swaddle your baby. Remember swaddling is all about the arms, having the legs wrapped up doesn’t add anything. So it’s totally fine to leave the legs loose so you can safely strap your baby into the swing with swaddled arms.
  • Put something that smells like Mom near baby’s face. Like that t-shirt you’ve been living in for the past month because you’re too tired to deal with laundry. Cut off a small piece (~6″X6″ nothing large enough to become an entrapment hazard) and put it in the back of the swing near the baby’s face. When not being used for naps/sleeping keep this little piece of t-shirt tucked into your bra during the day so it always smells like you/milk.
  • Use a pacifier. Some babies don’t take to pacifiers but if yours does then by all means use it.
  • Jiggle their head.* Put your swaddled pacifier sucking baby in the swing in the dark room with the white noise. Crouch down behind the swing so they can’t really see you. Push the swing with your arm (the motor is off for now). If your baby is not calming or falling asleep, jiggle the back of the swing left and right WHILE you are swinging it back and forth. The goal here is to have your baby’s cheeks wiggling like a bowl of jello. (Here is a good video example of baby jiggling). You can also shoosh loudly (I know you are rocking the white noise already but for some reason the added shooshing seems to help). Keep it up for 2-3 minutes or until your baby starts to look tired. A great visual cue to look for is the sleepy blink – your baby starts to blink more slowly as though their eyelids are getting heavier. When you start to see sleepy cues turn on the swing motor.
  • (Optional): Nurse baby to sleep while swaddled THEN put them in the swing. NOTE: This is fine to do for younger babies (<4 months) or if you’re struggling to get them to fall asleep any other way. My advice is to play around with other methods to help them fall asleep IN the swing but this is a valid fallback tactic to use in the short run.

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[box type=”blank” class=”border-dashed2″]*About head jiggling. This is what it sounds like – a jiggle. Shaken baby syndrome is an act of violence that requires forceful slamming motion. It is almost impossible to achieve this level of stress with a baby cradled in a swing but I want to be very clear that we are talking about jiggling vs. violent shaking.[/box]

Note: Your baby may be crying/complaining while you are swaddling her and strapping her into the swing. That’s OK. This probably means she’s a bit overtired – she may be short on sleep in general or maybe she was just kept awake a little longer than she could handle. Unless she is hungry this is a really good sign that she needs sleep so take a deep breath and continue to help her fall asleep in the swing.

Short-Term Sleep Swing Goals

I know some of you will feel like the swing is a detour because what you REALLY want is that peanut sleeping in his own crib. But the swing is going to solve two critical short-term issues:
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  1. Increase the Total Amount of Sleep

    Babies sleep better and longer while moving. There is a reason most babies fall asleep seconds after you start the car. In general, babies will take slightly longer naps (+20-40 minutes) in a swing and newborns who are waking up a lot at night (4+ times) will often drop one of their night feedings after being put to bed in a swing.

  2. Help Baby Learn to Fall Asleep.

    Like potty training, getting the straw into the juicebox, and spitting, falling-asleep is a skill that you will need to help your child develop. Early on we help babies fall asleep primarily by rocking and nursing. However as your baby gets older these techniques will start to fail you (I’ll be writing a bunch about this later). If your goal is help your baby become a happy toddler who is capable of sleeping through the night then at some point you will have to help her learn to fall asleep. This can be a real challenge to do without any crying. Unless you use the swing in which case it’s really really easy.

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Long-Term Sleep Swing Strategy

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  • As your baby gets closer to 6+ months of age you want to gradually wean off the swaddling, pacifier, and swinging. To wean off the swing, simply start turning the speed down. If naps & night sleep remains the same then continue. If she starts waking up more often, she’s not ready and the speed needs to stay up where it was. Wait a week or two, then try again. There is no rush.
  • When you’re ready, move the swing next to the crib so that baby gets used to sleeping in that location.
  • Eventually you’ll find yourself putting baby down for naps/bedtime in a non-moving swing. When you get to this point, the transition to the crib is relatively painless. The first time you put your baby in the crib there may be some “hey this is new?!?” complaining but it is generally mild and ends quickly.
  • If your baby was happily sleeping in a non-moving swing, they SHOULD sleep just as happily in the crib. If, however, after a few “getting used to the new digs” nights you find that the crib-sleep is markedly worse than when they were in the non-moving swing then you may want to investigate the possibility that your child may have reflux. Swing sleepers who have mild reflux may sleep just great while held upright in the swing but terribly when placed on their backs. If you have concerns, definitely talk to your pediatrician.

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Anybody else have any ideas on how to get those swing-hating babies to sleep in the swing?
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{Photo credits: Bart Cicuto and Pat David}