Baby sleep training methods are hot topics among parents. All new parents want to create healthy sleep habits for their little ones, so they can get some sleep themselves.
Someone may have already told you that rocking your baby creates a bad sleep habit, but rocking your newborn might be the only way to help him or her fall asleep these days—is that okay?
Don’t worry. We have the answers to help you feel confident in the way to put your baby to sleep.
Does Rocking Your Baby Help Them Fall Asleep?
Many factors can impact even a tired baby’s ability to sleep. Most parents have spent exhausting hours trying to get their baby to bed at one point or another.
Several methods can help you coax your baby to fall asleep, like walking around while holding your baby and humming the tune of a lullaby. Sitting down in the nursery to rock your little one is another effective way to get them to drift off to sleep.
Your newborn baby—who has just spent the last nine months enjoying a constant gentle rocking motion in your womb—loves swaying in your arms and is quickly soothed enough to fall asleep. The consistent back and forth of rocking is proven to naturally help your baby fall asleep faster with less time spent crying.
Is It Bad to Rock Your Baby to Sleep?
The short answer is no. Rocking your baby is a natural way to help them fall asleep. Adults and babies both experience better sleep thanks to the calming effect of rocking. Better sleep leads to better memory retention and overall improved cognitive function.
Rocking your baby to sleep only becomes a problem when it isn’t working well for your family anymore.
As the nighttime caregiver, you may become frustrated with the time it takes to rock your little one to sleep when they wake up or the frequency at which your baby wakes wanting the rhythmic movement.
Consider your baby’s sleep needs, as well as your own, when you’re working out a bedtime routine. Do your best to get you and your baby to bed on time and with limited interruptions. If rocking your baby to sleep each night is becoming more of a burden than it is helpful, it’s time to start exploring other sleep training options.
Interrupted Sleep at Night
Feeling like you’ve had a good night’s sleep comes after several hours of uninterrupted sleep. Of course, new parents can expect their babies to wake up for night feedings and diaper changes—this is normal.
When you start to experience periods of interrupted sleep between the normal night wakings, if your baby is fussing simply to be rocked again, or the time they’re awake is extended because of the need to be rocked back to sleep it can create a sleep deficit for you and your baby.
And it doesn’t take long for your lack of sleep to start taking a toll on all aspects of your life.
Frequently interrupted night sleep can leave you feeling irritable and stressed. You might grow impatient easily and quickly become overwhelmed. It’s possible to be more clumsy than normal and have slower reflexes. Your mental, emotional, and physical well-being are all influenced by poor sleep quality due to consecutive nights of interrupted sleep.
Your baby’s health and wellness will also be affected by this kind of fragmented sleep. If sleep cycles are interrupted and your baby isn’t spending enough time in restorative deep sleep, their growth, immune system, and memory retention can all be negatively impacted. They, too, will be cranky and unable to learn and process information as well as they could have with proper sleep.
A bedtime routine that drags on and on at the start of the night can be a great source of aggravation to parents and caregivers. If your little one is having trouble initially falling asleep, their overall sleep quality—and yours—will decline.
The delayed onset of sleep can happen for a few different reasons: Your baby isn’t tired yet, is over-tired from interrupted sleep the night before, or is overstimulated by the environment or the method you’re using to get them to sleep.
Even at a few months old, rocking your baby to sleep can be a stimulating experience that keeps them awake instead of lulling them to sleep.
A baby that is alert and squirmy at bedtime might be telling you that rocking to sleep isn’t working for them anymore.
This can all sound very daunting to a parent who’s just trying to get their baby to sleep any way they can.
If you notice that your little one has made a sleep association with the rocking motion and they’re still very dependent on being rocked to sleep for every nap and bedtime, you can start to decrease the time you spend with them in the rocking chair.
Begin by rocking your baby just until they get drowsy. Once they look up at you with heavy eyes, lay them down to sleep while they’re still awake and move on to a different method to soothe them, like rubbing their back or patting their bottom. It takes time to establish a new sleep routine. Be patient and remember that a few difficult nights doesn’t mean you should give up.
How to Rock Your Baby to Sleep
It’s always okay to rock your baby to sleep if it works for you. Rocking your baby to sleep may seem intuitive, but there are different ways to do it that may work better depending on your baby’s preferences.
Holding your baby upright on your chest while you rock may be more comfortable for a baby with reflux. An older baby might also like being held upright with their head laid on your shoulder.
Small newborn babies are usually most comfortable cradled in your arms horizontally across your body or belly down on your forearm with back support from your opposite hand.
However your little one likes to be held, these tips will help you create the best experience possible when rocking your baby to sleep:
Focus on your baby’s reaction
Make sure they look comfortable and they’re enjoying the rocking motion. After all, it’s supposed to be relaxing enough to put them to sleep.
Hold your baby close to your body
Snuggled tight against your chest is where your baby feels most safe. Tuck your arm around their legs and pull them in close as well.
Dim the lights and sit in a comfortable rocking chair
A dark, quiet room helps babies fall and stay asleep. Using a chair that easily glides back and forth makes less work for you.
Gently sway while standing
If rocking in the chair isn’t working this time, stand and sway side to side for the same soothing effect. This also helps ease the transition from rocking to laying down in the crib.
Keep a consistent beat
Time your motions with a steady back-and-forth movement. A change in pace can be startling.
Don’t let yourself fall asleep
It’s easy to feel drowsy when rocking your baby to sleep. If you feel yourself starting to drift off, change your position to wake yourself up, lay your baby down in their bed, or hand the baby off to your partner.
Combine other calming sleep aids
While rocking you can offer a pacifier, breast or bottle feed, or turn on white noise to help your child sleep.
Enjoy your cuddle time!
You won’t always need to rock your little one to sleep so soak in this moment.
You can find the glider of your dreams in Nurture&’s collection of nursery seating. Rock your baby to sleep in a chair that offers a smooth glide and swivel, adjustable headrest, power recline, and a spacious seat all wrapped in stain-resistant fabric, like The Glider Plus. Upgrade your comfort when you pair your chair with the matching Gliding Ottoman to kick your feet up while you sit with your sleepy baby.
When Should You Stop Rocking Your Baby to Sleep?
There is no exact age or moment that will define when you have to stop rocking your baby to sleep. This time will be completely unique to your situation.
You don’t have to stop rocking your baby to sleep strictly for the sake of teaching them to self-soothe. Falling asleep and staying asleep on their own is not only learned behavior, but a developmental achievement that each child reaches in their own time. By rocking your baby to sleep and practicing other healthy trust-building techniques you are contributing to the process of teaching your baby to self-soothe.
After the newborn stage, around the time your baby is 3 months old, you may start to see signs as to whether rocking to sleep is going to continue to be helpful to your sleep schedule or not.
Rocking your baby to sleep can be a part of your naptime and bedtime routine for as long as you like, but if you or your baby are no longer benefiting from this sleep method it’s okay to stop.
Whenever you choose to stop rocking your baby to sleep doesn’t mean you can’t ever do it again. It might be helpful to reincorporate rocking to sleep when your little one is sick or going through a sleep regression.
Even as your child gets older they may still want to be cuddled and rocked when they’ve had a bad day.
The Benefits of Rocking Your Baby
There’s a reason why this act of soothing care feels instinctual. Whether you’re trying to get them in bed for the night or you need a quiet moment in the middle of a busy day, rocking your baby is naturally beneficial to both of you.
Helps them fall asleep easily
Although nothing beats the comfort of a parent’s arms, you can also take advantage of a rocking bassinet to get your little one to sleep.
You are your child’s safe place and when you hold them close while rocking you’re growing your connection.
Establishes emotional regulation
The rhythmic movement of rocking can reduce crying and help you and your little one calm down after a tantrum.
Stimulates proper brain function
Your baby learns and develops at a rapid pace and requires restful moments, like time spent gently rocking, to process it all.
Rocking your baby to sleep can provide them with the opportunity to spend quality time in deep sleep when long-term memories are stored.
You know your baby better than anyone else, but if you have concerns about your baby’s sleep patterns you can reach out to your pediatrician for advice. They may be able to recommend a pediatric sleep consultant to help you with a personalized sleep routine for your family.
Rocking your baby to sleep is good and there’s no wrong way to do it. If it works for you and your little one, then keep rocking!
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