Developing good sleep habits in babies can seem tricky and tiresome at first, but the payoff is well worth the investment. Katie shares her experience with teaching Nolan to fall asleep all on his own…

I’m sure that you’ve heard someone say, “Don’t wake the baby!” Even if you haven’t had a baby, yet, you’re probably familiar with this scene: Rock baby to sleep, carefully lay her down, an unexpected noise wakes baby, rock baby again, gently lay her down, tip-toe or even crawl out of the room as to not wake the baby, repeat as necessary. And anyone who makes a sudden sound is in big trouble!

You probably haven’t heard the phrase, “Don’t rock the baby (to sleep).” This might sound shocking to you as it did to me when I first read about this concept. As the birth of my son got closer, about a year ago, I read more and more about babies. It probably got to the point of annoyance for my friends as half of my conversations began with, “Well, I read…”. I didn’t read so much because I was unfamiliar with babies. I had been babysitting from about age 13 into my college days. It’s just that I really enjoyed learning more!

Although I’ve been familiar with small children, I was shocked at this suggestion from one of my books: “Don’t rock your baby to sleep. Lay him in bed before he falls asleep.” I was beyond confused! Rocking a baby to sleep is like breathing air, it’s just what you do! It’s like they were suggesting that we put an end to everything good and innocent in the world! Plus it’s a sweet, precious time, knowing that she’s comfortable in your arms and chest. There is nothing more adorable than a quiet, sleeping baby.

But I agreed with the philosophy behind this new concept, even though it went against everything that seemed normal to me previously. So I entered motherhood ready to put my son in bed for naps and nighttime… awake!

I know that this might sound cruel and insensitive, to abstain from an opportunity to hold my son before bedtime, ushering him into sleepyland. But I actually feel like I’ve given him an even greater gift than falling asleep in my arms, the ability to peacefully fall asleep on his own. We still have sweet, cuddly rocking times. There are definitely exceptions, such as sick days or post-operation days, when I’ll comfort him (and myself) by rocking him to sleep. And even on normal days, I get my opportunities to hold him closely.

When it’s time for naps or bedtime, I don’t expect him to go immediately from playing hard to falling fast asleep. (Although some days, it seems to happen that way.) Normally, I set up the environment to help him wind down. Turning down the lights and sounds, I hold him and sway or rock. Once he appears to be calm, I lay him down. He fidgets around, gets comfortable, and falls asleep!

I’m not writing to convince anyone to change from the routine that you feel comfortable with. However, if you’re expecting a baby soon, and interested in hearing different ideas that might be helpful, you might like to consider this one. These are some of the benefits that I’ve experienced:

  • My son has learned to see his room as a comforting place.
  • If he wakes up in the night, he’s able to fall back asleep on his own.
  • I don’t have to worry about breaking his habit of being rocked to sleep as a toddler.
  • Instead of spending hours rocking, I have more time to myself.

You might be thinking to yourself, “That sounds nice and all, but it can’t be that easy.” You’re right. At the beginning it’s hard, probably harder for the mama than the baby. But through consistency (which I wasn’t always great at), you can get to that point of a peaceful naptime/bedtime, letting your baby fall asleep on her own. And if you’re planning to establish this routine with your new baby, it will be easier when you start from the beginning.

You might be thinking I’m crazy, which I am in some ways. But if this is something that you’re interested in discussing, just leave me a comment. I’m always open to questions, criticism, or more suggestions!

– Katie