As a new parent, one of the most frustrating things is when you can’t put your sleeping baby down in the crib because they keep waking up every time you even think about it.
You can clearly see your baby’s tired. But, whenever you make that final move to put them in their crib they suddenly blink and look up at you with those eyes, as if they’re saying, “it’s time to play!”
You saw the eyes relax, mouth slightly agape, and there was even a phantom suck. You could’ve sworn you had a sleeping baby on your hands, but now all of a sudden it’s playtime again.
What just happened, you ask? This one really shouldn’t come as a surprise. Let’s take a look at how our sleep patterns work to avoid this from happening again.
First and foremost, it’s not possible to spoil a newborn. Spending time soothing and cuddling your baby while they nap fosters development and helps with bonding.
How adults sleep
When you, as an adult, first drift off into sleep, your brain enters into what is known as non-REM sleep, or deep sleep. During this phase of sleep, your mind and body quiet down, your breathing is shallow, and your muscles are completely relaxed.
After about an hour of this, your brain begins to work again and you go into a stage of sleep known as REM sleep. During this stage, your brain exercises, your eyes move under your eyelids and you may even adjust the covers without waking up. This stage of sleep also allows you to wake up to go to the bathroom then go back to bed and back fall asleep again almost immediately.
These two sleep cycles alternate throughout the night so in reality, you don’t sleep deeply all night, even if it seems like you do.
How babies sleep
You rock your baby and her eyes start to droop, then close completely, but her eyelids are still fluttering and breathing is irregular. She startles and twitches and may even have a sleep grin or she may be sucking on a phantom boob. As soon as you put your “sleeping” baby in the crib, bam! They start crying and you have to start all over again!
Why do sleeping babies do this? Simply because they weren’t completely asleep yet.
- While adults go directly to sleep, babies take about 20 to 30 minutes before they enter into the deep sleep phase from which they are not easily aroused. When they grow older, they enter the deep sleep phase faster.
Adult sleep cycles last about 90 minutes while baby sleep cycles last 50 to 60 minutes. This means that they experience a vulnerable period of waking about every hour or less and they will wake up if any upsetting stimulus occurs like hunger or wetness. If not, baby will simply descend back into deep sleep after about 10 minutes.
If putting your sleeping baby down has been a never-ending challenge, read on and learn how to successfully put your baby in their crib without waking them up.
#1 Create a conducive environment
If you feel it’s almost time to sleep, dress baby for sleep. Dim the lights and make sure the room temperature is just right. Prepare your baby’s environment for sleep.
#2 Watch baby’s eyes
Are your baby’s eyes darting under his lids? If so, wait until they relax and he’s breathing heavily. Use the floppy arm or leg test. Lift and drop an appendage. If they don’t wake, you’re good to go. You’ve got yourself a sleeping baby!
#3 Stay in contact
After putting them down in the crib, keep one hand on baby’s back and one on their tummy. This continued pressure eases the transition before you slip away.
#4 Be patient and keep trying
If baby startles as soon as you start to think about moving, wait a few more minutes. During daytime naps, especially, it may be a good idea to have a magazine or your phone within arm’s reach because you might be stuck there for a while.
During the first few months, baby’s needs are the highest while their ability to communicate is at its lowest. In the case of short light sleep cycles, researchers suggest that babies are built that way for their own survival. Baby’s sleep patterns are as they are to enable them to wake up in response to their environment.
Remember, just because baby doesn’t sleep by himself during the first few months of life doesn’t mean they will always need to be soothed to sleep.
If you find your baby just hates sleeping in their crib, you can always try bed-sharing with the mattress right on the floor!
Have you been having any difficulty putting your sleeping baby down? Share your experience in the comments!
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First published at www.todaysparent.com