Encouraging your baby to sleep outside your arms: 6 simple steps

I have a six-week-old baby. He is most comfortable sleeping in our arms. Once he is asleep, we try to put him down in his crib or bassinet. He notices this change in environment and wakes up quickly. He has never been able to go to sleep on his own. This makes the nighttime especially difficult for us. What can we do?


Gayle Peterson

Gayle Peterson, PhD, is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She is a clinical member of the Association... Read more

Your newborn is quite bonded to you. He is following his natural survival instincts to remain close by: It is all he can do to ensure his safety. As a conscientious parent, you should congratulate yourself on tuning into his cues. But it is time for a change.

Helping Your Baby Go To Sleep on His Own: 6 Simple Steps

1. Transition your baby from your arms to his bassinet with a song you begin singing while he is laying on you.

2. Continue to sing this song as you lay him in his own bed. Your continuous singing will occupy his auditory sensory channel, leaving him mesmerized. He may stir, but the sound of your continuous voice and placing a hand on his back for one minute will likely calm him. He will learn comfort from your soothing voice and warm hand.

3. Gently remove your hand, but keep singing softly to him. He may indeed stir again and even begin to cry.

4. If he cries, place your hand on his back again -- do not pick him up -- and repeat the process. Continue to sing to him after he calms down.

5. If your baby breaks into a full, lusty cry, you may need to pick him up in your arms and soothe him again. If necessary, pick him up, continue singing or speaking soft reassurances to him in your arms. Hold him only until he is calm, then quickly return him to his bassinet. It may take two to three times, but your gentle, firm insistence will get the message across that it is safe for him to sleep in his own bed with the security that you are nearby.

6. If this process is frustrating you or your baby, try again when your baby is a bit older. At two months of age he is likely be more accommodated to his new environment outside the womb.

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