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Why will My Baby Only Sleep in My Arms?

Babies have spent the last 9 months being close to you, hearing you breathe, feeling you move and being bundled up warm and snug in your womb. When they are born we buy them a beautiful bassinet or cot, with pretty linen and expect them to be comfortable lying on their back, on a flat surface; and you wonder “why will my baby only sleep in my arms?”.

Some babies need some assistance to make that huge transition from being curled up in-utero to a cot or bassinet mattress.

To help your baby be more able to sleep in his or her cot you can offer some support;

  • Keep in mind it can be actually hard for a baby to find separation from you and being in a cot comfortable.
  • Cuddle your baby until calm because we are asking too much if we place them in their sleep place and expect them to both self calm and fall to sleep.
  • Place your baby into their cot when they are relaxed and drowsy and almost asleep in your arms.
  • When you place your baby in their cot, keep your hands over them and “sh-shhh” or talk quietly to them while they adjust to the sleep surface.
  • If your baby doesn’t instantly relax, keep your hands over them to help them feel as if they are being cuddled
  • If your baby is distressed, simply pick them up and soothe them (you CANNOT spoil a young baby)
  • Once baby is calm, try to place your baby back into the cot and try settling again.
  • If your baby is finding it difficult to calm to sleep, then just cuddle to sleep and then gently place your baby in the cot once asleep.
  • Avoid forcing sleep time in the cot, rather, offer comforting so the experience is a positive one for all involved.

Be realistic, your baby may find it unsettling to have to sleep in the way you want, so be patient, just offer your baby opportunities to sleep in the cot, but when your baby is becoming distressed and not able to respond to your comforting, be kind and loving and pick your baby up and offer comfort. Once calm, try again. You only need to try once or twice initially and build up those learning opportunities over time.  Babies learn through their experiences so each time your baby experiences this gentle settling, it reinforces to them that the cot or bassinet is an okay place to be. Over time your baby will begin to understand that this is where sleep happens.

Keep in mind; babies find it hard to be away from you so separation for sleep may feel overwhelming for them, so your kindness and understanding is essential during this adjustment phase.

It may be tempting to look for a quick fix and listen to people who recommend “training your baby”, however, the more pleasant the experience the more your baby will be able to adjust to sleeping away from you. If you force them to sleep alone by training that inevitably included episodes of intense crying, they are not learning how to drift to sleep in a natural, comfortable way, but rather a way that causes significant distress.

Be patient, sleep will come and if it is not, find a kind and informed resource to help you find ways to improve sleep without causing your baby great distress.

You may find the resources at www.helenstevens.com.au helpful to understand the needs and responses to babies. Also join the informative and supportive facebook page; Helen Stevens Parent Infant Consultants

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