It often happens that rocking becomes the only way to soothe and put your baby to sleep. If it’s rocking a newborn baby who weighs about 3.5 pounds, there’s probably no problem. But the baby is getting older and heavier, and rocking him becomes a real problem. Especially if mom has unbearable back pain, or her hands are numb, or she can’t lift heavy things, and you can’t expect help from dad.
Our tips on how to wean the baby from endless rocking and how to teach him to sleep are combined in this article.
Rocking – is it bad or good?
In the womb, the baby is used to constant rocking. That’s why light rocking is good for helping the baby fall asleep. In general, in the first months of life, it helps the baby to fall asleep absolutely everything that resembles the womb life – darkness, constant smooth noise (“white noise”), gentle rocking and slight squeezing (swaddling).
Rocking and any other help for babies to fall asleep is essential. Babies themselves do not know how to calm down due to the immaturity of the brain and nervous system.
Parents of very young babies in the first 3 months of life need not worry about “bad” habits and negative associations. The period from birth to three months is often called the period of “catching up” and adapting the infant.
But it is important to gradually alternate your help and ways of resting so that the child does not get used to one single way. And a habit is formed when an adult constantly uses the same action (for example, rocking) in the same conditions (for example, falling asleep). And it is repeated day after day. So it turns out that the mother herself has accustomed the baby to fall asleep with the help of one single “prop” for sleep – rocking.
When your baby is 3 months old, it is important to give your baby a chance to try to calm down on his or her own, without active help. What does this mean for parents?
For parents, it means:
Gradually respond to a crying baby: don’t immediately run and grab him in your arms, give him a breast or bottle, but try to soothe him with your presence, voice, and touch.
Learn to recognize your baby’s cries and needs: remember that there are many reasons for crying, and your baby has many needs too, not just food! Sometimes the baby may be hot and stuffy, he “asks” for a diaper change, or just misses mom or dad, thus demanding your attention. Therefore, it is not necessary to immediately rock the baby intensively, take him in your arms or put him on the breast / bottle. Observe your child, analyze its behavior and try to find different ways to calm your child.
Why is it important to give up rocking?
Parents are very creative when it comes to putting their babies down. Some bounce on the fitball with the baby in their arms, some rocking in the stroller or rolling it until the baby falls asleep, and some rocking in the car, because their baby can only fall asleep when driving in the car (such a ritual before bedtime – a few laps around their block in the car so the baby calms down and finally falls asleep!)
But when you’re rocking your baby intensely, in any way, you should keep the following points in mind:
Sleeping on the move is a poor quality sleep. The vestibular apparatus is in constant motion while the stroller or car is in motion and responds to changes in body position in space. The brain constantly monitors the changes and therefore cannot go into a deep sleep phase.
With intense rocking, children do not sink into sleep, but enter a dream-like state. This is a borderline state, similar to sleep in transport. Think of how we adults fall asleep on the road while in traffic. Is it a deep sleep? Does it help you get a good night’s sleep and wake up feeling awake? Probably not. Here, a similar state of “pseudo-sleep” during traffic or constant rocking is experienced by children.
How to get away from rocking?
Some babies start to resist rocking by the time they are 8 months old: they curl up when they are rocked and become fretful. Babies themselves show that they have grown up, and this method of soothing them is not suitable. And here it is important for parents to find a new way. Observe what calms your fidget during the day, and try to transfer this experience to sleep.
But if your baby is more than 3 months old and rocking has established itself as a “bad habit” for falling asleep, we suggest implementing a plan to get away from rocking:
First, determine how long it takes you to rocking. Time it, write it down in a diary.
Gradually reduce the intensity of your movements: slow down, train your baby to go to sleep when the movements are less intense.
Gradually reduce the time of rocking. If you needed 40 minutes for rocking, slow down and stop at 35 minutes. Hold your baby in your arms, watching the clock. The next day, take another 5 minutes off. And so on. Until you come to the point of no rocking at all.