Your baby won’t sleep in a cot? Try this…
How to help your baby settle to sleep in a cot
At a glance
- White noise can help
- Check temperature in the room
- Offer sensory comfort
It's not unusual for babies to be resistant to the idea of sleeping alone in their cots, away from the warmth of a cosy body to snuggle up to. Luckily there are a few things you can do to make the transition an enjoyable and hopefully sleep-inducing experience.
Before you became a parent you'd be forgiven for assuming all babies sleep in cots, just like those cute and cosy images you see everywhere. In fact, we're so used to seeing images of cheerful, obedient babies who quickly doze off in their cots seconds after being set down on their backs, it's easy to fall into the trap of feeling like a failure when your baby simply refuses to sleep in his cot.
But the truth is, not all babies like sleeping alone and away from their mothers - especially when they've spent the previous nine months or so snuggled up inside her belly.
While there's no miracle fail-safe sleep technique to make a baby sleep in their cot, there are a few practical ways in which you can help.
Make sure baby is comfortable.
Check the room temperature - ideally it should be between 16 and 20 degrees C. Ensure it's dark by investing in blackout blinds or curtains and make sure they are wearing something comfortable that's not too small or itchy.
Make the cot a safer place
A firm and flat, waterproof mattress and a comfortable baby sleeping bag should all help – and remember that the safest cot is a clear cot.
Try the gradual retreat
If your baby can't bear to be separated from you, try putting the cot next to your bed, so that baby can see and smell you. Every night try moving the cot a few inches away from your bed and eventually into their own room. This slowly, slowly approach gives baby time to adjust to the distance that's being put between you both.
If your baby has become used to napping in the car-seat or buggy during the day, this could be the reason why they find it hard to settle in their cot at night. Motion can have an irresistibly hypnotic effect, which can be useful but isn't the best way to get baby to sleep at night. Try breaking the motion sleep cycle by gradually eliminating motion at nap time. For example, try putting baby in the buggy when they show signs of being tired but not pushing it to see if he will fall asleep.
Provide sensory comfort
If your baby only likes falling asleep on or next to you, it could be because your baby finds your scent reassuring and likes snuggling up to you. Try to recreate your scent in your baby’s cot by using an unwashed cotton t-shirt over the mattress (like a fitted sheet). The idea is that baby will be comforted by the presence of your scent. But don't ever leave any loose item of clothing in the cot – a clear cot is a safer cot.
Another reason baby gets upset when you try to transition to a cot is being transferred from the heat of your body to a relatively cold cot. Some babies enjoy swaddling as it feels like they are still being cuddled and held close. Alternatively, try using a baby sleeping bag or just holding your palm over your baby’s belly for a few minutes to keep them warm and reassure your baby of your presence.
It's a common misconception that hanging mobiles featuring soothing colours, music and even lights can help a new baby nod off to sleep when placed above their cot. However, mobiles and night projectors can actually have the opposite effect of over stimulating your baby so that your baby is no longer sleepy enough to fall asleep on his own.
Babies are used to noise in the womb, the sound of white noise drowns out other distractions and can help them sleep. Bizarrely, it can also help to calm them down by blocking out all other stimulation. Try downloading a white noise app - some parents swear by it.
If sleep issues seem out of control, and you have any on-going concerns or worries about your little one, talk to your Health Visitor or GP who can help.