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Help Baby Sleep without Rocking, Swinging, or other Motion

help baby sleep without motion


Rocking babies to sleep is a very natural way to help them sleep, and human beings have been doing it since the beginning of time. It makes sense that babies often nap better when we recreate womb-like experiences. They love to sleep in warm, cozy, slightly noisy, gently moving places, so parents often use all sorts of motion to put their baby to sleep - rocking chairs, baby swings, sling carriers.

All of this is wonderful for newborn babies; however, there usually comes a time when parents want their baby to nap in a crib. This transition is not always easy, and not every solution will work for your baby. Here is an assortment of ideas to choose, combine or alter in order to come up with the answer that works best for your family.


Gradual Changes

Don’t change everything about your baby’s nap all at once. Instead, make gradual switches, in stages, to help your baby gradually transition. For example:

If your baby sleeps in an infant swing, set up the swing in the baby’s bedroom right beside the crib. Do not do anything else differently for a week. That way your baby can get used to the new location. Then, begin to use a slower speed on the swing. After a time, shut the movement off as soon as the baby is asleep. Next, follow your usual routine, but do not turn the movement on at all. After a week or so of your baby sleeping in the stationary swing, put him in the crib for a nap.


Mimic Motion

Take a small hand-held massaging vibration device (used for backrubs) and turn it on. Place it in the corner of the crib (away from your baby) and put your sleeping or drowsy baby down in the crib. The feel of the vibrations and the humming sound can help your baby fall and stay asleep. You must keep an eye on your baby or remove the massager from the crib once your baby is sleeping.


Use a Baby Seat

Take an infant bouncy seat or vibrating seat and put it in the crib. Make sure that the seat is stable and won’t tip over. To keep your baby safe, you MUST stay in the room, awake, so you can keep one eye on your baby (It’s a great time to read a book!). Turn the vibration off after your baby falls asleep so that he’ll become accustomed to sleeping stationary in the crib. After a few days of using the seat in this way, you can gradually reduce the speed of the vibration until it's turned off completely. The next step is to keep the nap routine exactly the same, but remove the seat and lay your baby directly in the crib.


Keep it Familiar

One way to make the crib more agreeable is to recreate parts of your baby’s current swing or napping seat environment. Here are a few ideas:

  • Put the swing in the room next to the crib and turn it on while your baby is in the crib. The familiar sound--even when your baby is not in the swing--may be comforting and can be a good sleep cue.
  • The swing bed is likely small enough that your baby can touch the sides. Instead of laying her in the middle of the crib, try positioning her at the top or bottom corner. That way she can feel the sides of the crib near her.
  • Put a small, stationary cradle in the place where the swing usually sits so the surroundings are familiar.


Baby Massage

Babies who are accustomed to the multi-sensory stimulation provided by motion–naps may find a pre-nap massage relaxing enough to prepare them for sleep. Massage for this purpose is best done after a diaper change in a darkened room, preferable the same room where your baby will nap. (Most babies prefer gentle squeezes rather than rubbing – experiment to find what your baby likes.) Peaceful music or white noise can further create a relaxing ambience for your little one.

Create a calming routine for your baby and follow it exactly for a week or so to see how effective it will be. Choose a week where disruptions will be minimal and you can be home every day at naptime. Start your new routine about fifteen or twenty minutes before your baby’s typical nap time. If he has no typical time, watch his behavior for tired signs.

Move to a quiet, darkened room. Turn on soft music or white noise, and give your baby a massage. At the end of the massage simply lay your hands on your baby for a few minutes to see if she is drowsy enough to sleep. She should be relaxed and peaceful.

If you are unfamiliar with how baby massage works, ask your health care provider, midwife, Doula, or lactation consultant for guidance. Or check out one of the many wonderful classes or books on baby massage.


Be Patient

Any time you change what you are doing at naptime your baby may resist the idea. Stay with any new idea for a few weeks to allow your baby to adjust before you judge its true effectiveness.


These ideas are from The No-Cry Nap Solution

Elizabeth Pantley's picture
No-Cry Solution Series Author

Elizabeth Pantley is a parent educator, mother of four, and the author of the now-classic baby sleep book, The No-Cry Sleep Solution, as well as six other books in the series, including The No-Cry Separation Anxiety SolutionThe No-Cry Potty Training SolutionThe No-Cry Discipline Solution, The No-Cry Picky Eater Solution, plus other successful parenting books. She is known worldwide as the practical, reasonable voice of respectful parenting.