How to Settle Your Baby to Sleep in their Cot
Sometimes as a mum we can feel like we have become permanently attached to the couch. Sitting there hour up hour feeding and cuddling especially during the first few months when your baby needs to eat and frequently sleep during the day and night. It can be a beautiful, but exhausting time.
As much as you love cuddling, rocking and holding your baby to sleep you also have basic needs that need to meet. Such as eating, having a shower and getting some sleep yourself. Getting your baby to sleep a few happy hours in their cot during the day and night is essential to give you a few hours to sort the house, attend to your other children and get yourself organized. Depending on the age of your baby depends on the best approach with transitioning to cot sleeping.
Transition to a cot is most likely going to involve some sleep work. It can be as simple as putting a few good sleep habits into place with your newborn, or it may be a complicated series of steps with your toddler. Your approach to this time of transition also depends on your parenting style, the sleep associations your child has developed and the age of your child.
Babies grow quickly in the first few years of life and what worked for your newborn, doesn’t work for your nine months old, and what worked for your nine-month-old doesn’t work for your 18-month-old. But don’t fret, your baby no one is ever too old to adjust to healthy change. It’s not always easy, but it’s still worth it. Change is good, it’s healthy, and it’s about progression. Your child learning to sleep by themselves in their cot is an early step towards their own independent life.
The first three months of a baby’s life is also called the 4th trimester. It is because babies at this age still enjoy many of the comforts of the womb to help them settle to sleep.
Newborns love: swaddling, shushing, sucking, and swinging.
These are beautiful ways to calm your baby and help them drift to sleep. It is why parents often resort to getting their baby to sleep in the car, in their arms, carrier or swing. Babies love motion, vibration, and noise. However, while it’s always good to have these backup plans, it is a great idea to help your baby get used to cot sleeping as soon as possible. The earlier you start, the easier time you will have later.
The AAP recommends a separate and firm sleeping surface for your baby as the safest option for sleep. While they recognize that babies often fall asleep in other devices, the recommendation is to move them as soon as possible to a proper sleeping surface, such as the cot or bassinet. Getting your newborn acquainted with their with a bed for some sleep is a significant first step in helping your baby for a positive sleep associate the cot.
Newborns being small are recommended for sleep in a bassinet in their parents’ room for the first 6 months. It is a great sleep habit to get started early. A baby who has been sleeping well in a bassinet will generally transition to a cot quiet easily. They will already be used to the firm flat surface. They don’t have to be taking all naps in the bassinet, however, if you can get 1 or 2 naps and bedtime in the bassinet this will help enormously readying your baby for their cot.
You’ll probably notice around 3 to 4 months of age, maybe later that your baby is getting ready to move out their bassinet. They might be starting to look at little cramped, getting a bit too heavy and if they are trying to roll, then it’s time to move. There is not a lot of difference between sleeping in a bassinet to sleeping in a cot, just more room.
However, it’s nice to make the transition in stages.
- Use cot sheets in your baby’s bassinet for a week or so. Make sure you pulled your baby tight, and there is no loose bedding.
- Move the cot into your room. The AAP recommends room sharing for at least six months and ideally up to 1 year of age.
- Make up the cot with the sheets you put on the bassinet. It will provide lots of familiar and comforts and smells for your baby.
- Make sure the bed is free and clear of pillows, blankets, bumpers, toys. Just have a fitted sheet and your swaddled baby.
- Keep your same wind-down and bedtime routine. If you haven’t created one now is a good time.
When placing your baby to sleep in their cot for a sleep place them at the bottom of the cot. This way there is nowhere to wriggle down too.
It is an excellent technique to use to settle your newborn baby in a cot or bassinet to sleep. This technique helps to promote independent and safe sleep at an early age. It is not sleep training, and it is an in cot settling method for babies under four months of age.
Shush pat can sometimes work on older babies but is better suited for the newborn stage. Starting early with good sleep habits will make your babies sleep journey much more comfortable in the long run.
Good Habits to Try
- Swaddle your baby ready for sleep
- Complete your wind-down routine
- Place your awake but almost asleep baby in the crib
- Tell your baby it is time for rest. Your voice is a very powerful soother for your baby.
- Make sure you have your white noise playing or make shushing sounds with your voice
- Roll your baby onto their side and support them with your are hand
- With your other hand firmly pat your baby’s back or bottom in a firm and rhythmic motion
- Use your baby’s fussing as an indication for speed, then as they settle you can slow down your patting
- Once they have fallen asleep, gently roll your baby on their back to sleep safely.
It is an excellent technique to use up until 12 to 16 weeks of age. After this time it can become a little too stimulating for your baby. It can take 20 minutes for your baby to settle and relax into sleep. Before your newborn drifts into a deep sleep where you feel them almost ‘melt’ into the mattress, they are in a restless sleep.
They make noise, move a bit, twitch and might seem like they are quite awake. Just keep shushing and patting until you feel their little body relax into blissful slumber. The more you use the technique the better you’ll get and the more you’ll find out the speed and firmness that your baby enjoys.
Choose one nap a day or focus on in cot settling for bedtime. Once you have success there, add another rest maybe the midday nap and work on in cot settling. The more your baby is settled in the cot, the quicker and easier it will be.
Sleep associations can help or hinder your baby’s transition to cot sleeping. A sleep association is anything that your baby has associated with sleep. For instance, traditional sleep associations are feeding, rocking, patting, singing, white noise, swaddling, sleeping bags, a lovely, and motion.
Babies begin to form sleep association as early as 6 to 8 weeks of age. It is why it is a great idea to get good sleep habits started first. However, this is also why sleep associations can become such a problem later on.
As we mentioned, earlier newborns love being rocked, patted and swung to sleep. They also often naturally fall asleep while feeding. It is entirely natural and healthy, and there’s nothing to fret. It is perfectly ok to feed and rock you’re nine weeks old to sleep.
However, it might be difficult, stressful and ineffective trying to feed and rock your nine-month-old to sleep several times a night. It is a great idea to slowly transition away from the dependent sleep associations such as rocking, swinging and feeding to sleep.
At around three months of age, it is a good idea to start becoming more conscious of the way your baby is falling asleep. This age is still delicate and early so sleep associations won’t be deep-rooted and difficult to change.
Your baby is no longer considered a newborn and easing away from rocking and patting to sleep over the next few months will help your baby learn to sleep happily and independently in their cot.
Start slowly and gradually.
To start, aim to have your baby fall asleep in their cot for bedtime. Have an enjoyable and consistent wind-down routine, consistently is essential as a good wind down routine is your baby’s cue that it is time to sleep.
If your baby is under 16 weeks of age, try the shush pat technique. If your baby is more than four months old, you will need to use a different method and maybe some sleep training to help your baby learn to fall asleep independently.
Aim to phase out feeding and rocking to sleep by 6 months of age.
Independent Sleep Associations
Focus on encouraging independent sleep associations such as swaddling or using a sleeping bag depending on the age and development of your baby. Using a dummy before four months, this is an ideal calming tool to use with newborns. 4 to 6 months is a great time to stop using the model quickly.
However, you don’t have too. From 6 months onwards you can teach your baby to find and replace their dummy. White noise is a significant independent sleep association that used from birth up until toddlers years.
Work to encourage independent sleep association and fade out dependent sleep associations.
Transition from Motion Sleep – Carrier/Swing/Pram/Car/In Arms
As a mother of twins, the swing was a staple that I could not do without. I only could not rock both my babies to sleep at the same time. I would feed one and then put them into the swing; then I would feed the other. One would get mamma rocking and then the other swing. Or if I was exhausted and needed a rest, they both had the rhythm to settle them to sleep.
I phased these swings out over a month and started to calm my boys to sleep in their cot more during the day. We used bassinets at night time. Beginning the transition earlier is better and easier before any dependent sleep associations can become too deeply rooted.
These items to have their place, especially in the first few months of life with your newborn. But they cannot sleep in the swing, the carrier or car for every nap forever. They are great options to have for an assisted sleep when you are out and about or as a backup plan having trouble getting your baby to sleep.
Work on it in the cot first. It is the most permanent part of your babies sleep. Going to bed is something we all do. Of course, the routine before bed changes as we grow and develop, but the basic concept is the same. So getting a reasonable bedtime happening in the cot at an early age is a top step towards independent sleep.
Work on the midday nap. This nap is around for the longest, and most children will keep this nap until they are three years old. Get this nap happening in the cot too.
The Morning Nap
You can have some flexibility with this nap. I used to love heading out in the morning for a walk or run while my boys had a nap in the pram, then other days they would sleep in their cot.
If you have older children and need to run some errands for school, it is also great to have short naps in the car. Or maybe you have school errands you need to run, get bub into the vehicle for their first nap while you head to the shops. Having this nap on the rest gives your day a bit of flexibility and allows you to get out of the house.
The Afternoon Nap
If your baby will sleep in their cot for their short afternoon catnap that is wonderful. However, this can be tough for babies to take and many resist this much needed little shut-eye to help them get to bedtime. It’s a great nap to have assisted in the carrier or pram. It is the first nap, so it’s not essential to get your baby sleeping in their cot for this nap.
Object permanence develops in babies around 5 to 7 months, possibly earlier according to some new studies. Object permanence is where your baby has begun to understand that even though they cannot see an object or person it still exists. It is when we see the onset of separation anxiety a normal stage of development for babies.
Mom has left the room, and they know she still exists, but they don’t know where she has gone, and when she is coming back, so they cry and get upset. Babies often start getting very attached to their caregiver and don’t want to be separated from them.
Separation anxiety can begin around six months and usually peaks at about 9 to 10 months. Hello, nine months of sleep regression.
Separation anxiety can become an issue when putting your previously good sleeper down for the night or naptime. Your baby can suddenly start getting upset when you leave. They have become more aware and don’t want you to go. A fantastic way to help with separation anxiety at an early age is to play games of peek-a-boo. This fun game is a beautiful way to teach your baby that you will come back.
You can also pay for the bye bye game.
Say “bye, bye” to your baby and leave the room. The come back in full of smiles and say “hello.” This way your baby learns that even though you go away, you come back and are not gone forever.
In terms of sleep, it’s a great idea to promote independent sleep associations so that your child has already become accustomed to sleeping on their own. A great way to do this is to introduce a lovely.
A lovely is a sleep-approved blanket or toy that you present to your child between the ages of 4-6 months. It provides all the comfort that your child needs at night times and can help soothe your child to sleep when separation anxiety starts up.
Sometimes babies can develop anxiety about sleeping in their cot; this can occur for a variety of reasons. It may be part of not wanting to be separated from parents, but sometimes babies can also develop anxiety specifically around sleeping in their cot.
Help to reacquaint your baby with their cot at times other than bedtime. Pull the side down, put toys in their bed and spend some time with your baby playing in their cot. You can also read books together in the cot.
Be prepared to get into the cot with your baby at first, give them cuddles and let them know the bed is a safe and comfortable place. A suitable sleep training method to use with anxiety is gradual withdrawal. It is where you move slowly from the room throughout nights.
From Co- Sleeping to Crib Sleeping
When co-sleeping no longer suits your family or is not working anymore, it will be time to transition your baby to a cot and potentially their room for the first time. It is a lot of change for your baby to process.
If your baby is now a toddler, there will be some strong sleep associations around sleeping with parents, the parents room and being held. It is by no means impossible, but it will take a few weeks to help move your baby from your bed.
- Place the cot by your bed with the side down. It is a significant transition step to ease your child from your bed slowly.
- After a few nights, put the bottom of the cot up
- Next move the cot towards the door over a few nights
- Set the cot up in the baby’s room
- Put a mattress next to their cot and camp out for a few nights
- Over the next few nights gradually moved the bed away from the cot
You might also need to employ a few other sleep training tips and tricks depending on the age of your baby. After co-sleeping, for a long time, a slow transition can be a comfort to both mother and baby.
The most crucial aspect of any sleeping training or for parenting for that matter is consistency. Keep a consistent bedtime routine, keep a steady wind down method, use the same independent sleep associations for all sleep.
When you have decided on a sleep training method to help your baby learn to sleep in their cot, be consistent with the method. Powerful and well-developed sleep associations can take weeks to change, and if you continuously change ways, things can get very confusing and upsetting for your child.
Give things a good week or two at least to improve. It can be frustrating because it may seem like your babies sleep and yours has gotten worse than it was before. Change is difficult for everyone, and things will often get worse in the period of adjustment before they get a lot better.
Your child’s sleep is an ever-changing and evolving journey. Travelling, sickness, developments, teething, moving house and simple changing needs can impact your child’s sleep. Stay as consistent as possible, while also meeting your child’s different needs at different times.
Transitioning to the crib can be a little step or a huge move depending on previous sleeping arrangements. It might take a few days or a few weeks. It is an essential step in your child’s transition to independent sleep.