Rocking your baby to sleep can be rewarding but aggravating at times. Inside you’ll read some pros and cons to rocking your baby to sleep and some tips on doing it effectively.
Have you been asking yourself this question…”Should I rock my baby to sleep?”
I’ve previously written about the importance of sleep and have a really big focus in my parenting on making sure that my kids are well-rested.
Just yesterday my 2 year old fought her afternoon nap – maybe she’s teething and she has a cold – and from 4 until her bedtime she was majorly out of sorts.
She did things she’d normally never do. She refused to follow instructions she normally wouldn’t even think twice about.
Children who aren’t well-rested struggle with their behavior.
Sleep problems in kids can lead to lots of different issues including not being able to pay attention, low impulse control, and impaired cognition.
Let’s face it… rocking your baby to sleep can become a large part of putting your baby to sleep.
So… let’s consider how, when, why and where you rock.
And most importantly, whether you are wiling to make it a habit.
Consider these 4 truths about rocking your baby to sleep:
PRO – Rocking helps make baby drowsy
Children ultimately need to learn to go to sleep on their own.
Yes, it’s possible to go to sleep without your intervention. Honestly, the sooner that happens the better for everyone involved.
Whats the science? Well, here it is!
We transition from active to passive sleep nearly every 45 minutes. Children who are perpetually rocked will not be able to bridge this transition without the help of rocking.
I’ve found that with my babies, at naptime, gentle rocking to get the baby to a drowsy phase works well.
Ready for everyone to start sleeping better? Use this checklist to help you get there.
How did I do this?
- First, rock gently until baby is drowsy.
- Then, lay baby in the crib. Because they are already feeling the effects of drowsiness – they may go to sleep on her own with minimal fuss.
- Sometimes, not so minimal fuss, but with consistency they will still go to bed on their own.
- Guess what? 45 minutes into their nap they didn’t need me to put them back to sleep.
- Throughout the night (after they were weaned from night feedings) they didn’t wake up for my help.
Rocking was useful to get them from a wide awake to “ready for sleep” mode but didn’t become a sleep prop.
Read: How to Stop Contact Naps (Peacefully)- and What to Do Instead
PRO – Rocking is great for a sleep emergency
Things happen. Kids get over-tired. Sometimes you’re out in the stroller for nap time.
There are times when a mother will simply do whatever she has to do. No matter how desperate, to resolve a sleep issue.
At time when my babies have been way overtired, out long past their naptime, and were desperately fighting sleep even though they were exhausted, I’d consider rocking them fully to sleep.
Because it was an occasional thing it didn’t become a habit and so it was effective as a trick up my sleeve.
When babies are sick they are often distressed in the evening, and this is a good time to utilize rocking. It helps lull them into security and you can get their sleep started for them.
Read: Is Sleep Training a Baby Bad or Dangerous? Let’s Talk Facts!
Every so often during extreme fussiness and 25 times day and night are not the same thing.
Read: Get A Tired Baby To Sleep — In 4 Simple Steps
CON – Rocking can become an association that creates overtiredness
If you have to rock your little one every 45 minutes for naps or hourly overnight, they’ve got a sleep prop.
Sleep props are things that a baby or child depends on to get to sleep and, without them, they will not go down.
- Certain toys
- Nursing a baby to sleep means that no one but you can put the baby down and that can mean very little time for refreshing and rest for a mother.
- Rocking your baby to sleep means they will not transition well.
- Pacifiers mean if it falls out of the crib our out of their mouths, someone has to put it back in or the nap is over.
Pacifiers are great if baby is able to keep it (or put it back in) their mouth.
Read: The Top 10 Indicators It’s Time to Sleep Train
Tried-and-true *hands on* newborn settling strategies that even the most fussy (or wide-awake-sleep-refusing) newborns cannot resist!Learn More
The goal is that you put a baby in the bed and the baby goes to sleep on their own. This is independent sleep.
Rocking, while soothing to baby, quickly can become a sleep prop. If you are able to rock your baby down for a nap or bedtime and they sleep peacefully and fully, then amazing. Keep it up.
It only becomes a problem when baby then wakes up every 30 or 45 minutes for nap or every hour overnight to be rocked again, that you have an issue.
Create sustainable sleep habits for your little lamb so the whole family can sleep peacefully without the stress, drama, and tears.Learn More
FACT – Rocking is not the only way to get cuddles.
Many mothers value the cuddle time that comes with rocking your baby to sleep.
I’m certainly not proposing that you never love on or cuddle your little ones before bedtime/nap time. However, there is a balance establishing a healthy sleep schedule.
You can find plenty of time for cuddles, hugs and kisses without carrying them into rocking time – if that’s your desire.
My first born wasn’t much for hugs and cuddles. She’d kiss you indulgently and then push you away.
My firstborn son was a cuddle maniac and I had to force myself to put him down so he’d learn to walk.
Honestly, I never felt bad putting them down with a kiss for a nap because I found plenty of time and opportunity for physical affection elsewhere.
Read: The Nap Trap- How to Deal with It and Not Resist It
There’s the exception…
I knew of a working mother who said she knew rocking to sleep at bedtime probably wasn’t the best idea, but it was one of her most prized times throughout the day.
Since most of her day is away from her little one that is cuddle time she wouldn’t trade for the world. In her situation, I might do the same.
However, if you are home much of the day with your children I think there is plenty of time to find the hugs without it impending your baby’s ability to sleep on their own.
Read: Separation Anxiety At Bedtime – Calm Solutions For Peaceful Sleep
Here’s a handy dandy list of 28 things to try so baby will stop fighting sleep and sleep longer and later.
Couldn’t agree more with everything above; I loved holding and cuddling my kids – and it is such a nice thing when they can sleep in your arms (my son did it all the time at church, but my daughter does not) BUT I have seen many people use it so much with their kids that their kids then wouldn’t fall asleep without being held or rocked – and I didn’t want to get stuck with that.
While not all of it falls down to just parenting alone (child’s personality comes into it, of course), I am quite proud of the fact that I walk into my child’s room, put them in their beds and can walk out without a problem and they will fall alseep without fuss – other’s have even commented on it!
Also loving the new look to this Blog.
A Mother Far from Home says
I agree that the rocking is special and it’s something you can only do during a short season. I think for us, the key was to not overuse it so they were unable to get to sleep without it! Yes, I kissed my son and put him down once then walked out of the room. My friend was like “I can’t even believe that happened. That is like unheard of.” Ha! I said, no no no no it isn’t really, it’s very doable! Thanks for the compliment about the look. I needed a small update!
When my baby was born I thought that gentle rocking her to sleep is not a big deal. But day by day she wanted me to rock her longer and longer! When she turned 3 months I was really tired of it and I had to do something to make her fall asleep alone. After searching the internet I decided to get S. Urban’s guide about teaching a baby to fall asleep alone ( http://www.parental-love.com ) and I’ve heard that sleep training is a long process. Well now I know that it’s not true! Took us OLNY 2 days to make my baby girl to fall asleep without rocking and in her own crib and she was only 3 montsh old! The guide helped us a lot!
Rachel Norman says
Thanks for sharing this!