What Do You Do When Your Newborn Only Sleeps in a Carrier or Sling?

A baby carrier or sling is a very natural place for a newborn to like to sleep. Before birth, a newborn baby is used to being inside the womb. After birth, he loves sleeping how he has been accustomed to sleep – warm and cozy, smelling Mom, feeling Mom, and listening to Mom’s heartbeat. Some newborns, however, seem to ONLY want to sleep in a sling. Interestingly, newborns can develop surprisingly strong sleep habits in just a few days! So. What do you do when your newborn only sleeps in a carrier or sling?

First, there is nothing wrong with your newborn sleeping in a carrier or sling during the daytime if you are enjoying it and following basic safety precautions. It is a precious time of bonding, both for your baby and for you. So if you’re feeling guilty, feel guilty no more! In fact, the more hours you can spend in physical contact with your baby, the better. And, you simply can’t spoil a newborn. Eventually the time does come for your little on to learn to sleep on his own.  I remember the day well when it dawned on me that I needed to learn how to lay my son down to sleep! For a newborn, sleeping alone is a totally new concept, so it can take a while for him to become comfortable with it. For this post, I asked some other experienced moms to share ideas that worked for them, and here are two common strategies and some great tips from other real moms!

  1. Teach Your Newborn to Accept Being Laid Down After He’s Asleep
    • How It Works– First, you let your baby fall asleep. It doesn’t matter how he falls asleep – being rocked, nursed, or in the carrier. Once he’s asleep, you wait for a few minutes for him to enter a deep sleep. Most babies have a window of time that begins five to ten minutes after they fall asleep where they can stay asleep most easily while being moved. Finally, you gently transfer baby into his crib. It is helpful to keep your hand on baby for a minute to make the transition feel less sudden. Trust me, your baby is super smart. He knows if his mother has suddenly left. Aimee has found success with easing away. First, you lay him down gently. Then, remove one of your arms. Then, take away another arm while leaving a few fingers of one hand on him and finally lift your hand off of him.  Congratulations! You are one clever Mom and have potentially outwitted your baby! If baby wakes up shortly after being laid down, you repeat the process. Some babies wake easily during the transition into their cribs. In this case you get him used to the transition in stages. With my son, the first few days I would lay him down on my bed, and then lay down beside him and read a book while he napped. I transitioned over a few days to sitting beside him while he slept with one hand on him, and then to simply laying him down in his crib after he had fallen asleep.
    • Advantages – This was my method of choice because my son always fell asleep while nursing. Letting him nurse to sleep was something that worked for both of us and was special to me. Having to wake him up after nursing each time to make sure he fell asleep independently, would have made nursing exhausting for me!  And, remember that nursing or feeding naturally makes baby sleepy. I have found that it is always good to go with the flow! And, never to wake a sleeping baby!
  1. Teach Your Newborn to Fall Asleep Independently in the Crib
    • How It Works – For this method you begin by making sure baby is sleepy, has eaten well, has a dry diaper, and is comfortable. Next, you wrap/swaddle and then lay him down in the crib. The first few times maintain physical contact after laying him down to help him go to sleep. At this point, there will be some fussing and crying if he is used to falling asleep being held. If baby becomes really upset, you can pick him up or even nurse him for a few minutes until he calms down again, but be sure to lay him back down before he falls asleep since the goal is for him to learn to fall asleep in the crib. This process may take awhile the first few times, but soon baby will begin to recognize his crib as a place to go to sleep. Kirstie, one of our contributors has found that a key to success with this method is to tell yourself that you have more patience than baby does and to listen to a good audiobook during this process. She has also written a previous post describing her experiences using this method.
    • Advantages   – One of the main advantages of this method is the consistency it gives both mom and baby. Baby gets used to exactly the same method of going to sleep every time. Lindsay, another one of our contributor moms here at Mommy Medicine, has found that whatever method mom decides to use for a going to sleep routine, she needs to be prepared to repeat it every time (day or night) it’s time for baby to sleep. Consistency is really important, so if you’ve decided to teach your baby to fall asleep on his own, stick to it unless there is an unusual circumstance.
  1. A Final Tip: Swaddling
    • Swaddling is so simple but can be an extremely effective tool in the mommy tool chest! When baby is sleepy, you wrap him in his swaddle before putting him to sleep. The swaddle provides extra comfort especially for young newborns. Megan, one of our moms, discovered these benefits of swaddling with her 3rd child and is a big proponent of encouraging other new moms to try swaddling. Swaddling can also be especially helpful for preemies. Megan is not the only Mommy Medicine contributor who is a fan of swaddling. Check out this post from Aimee on what to do when newborns start to outgrow their swaddle.

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (2/19/2018) Suzanne Shahar (Flickr)

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