Okay, so I have a secret. It is only recently that I have stopped rocking my daughter to sleep, and she is almost 4! Of course, I rocked her less than when she was a baby, but some days my desire to get her to sleep faster led me to rocking her while sitting on a chair, because all I wanted was some rest. I hear you gasping and yes, there was a time where I dreaded even the thought of bedtime. But thankfully, with some effort and explanations to my toddler, we are finally at a place where she falls asleep alone and stays asleep all night (10 fingers crossed I don’t jinx this). Bottom line, I now know why all the advice on not getting your baby used to being rocked to sleep had to be taken seriously. It is hard for a new parent not to do everything they can to comfort their baby, and rocking them to sleep can be a moment so tender and bond-building that it is hard not to do it.
Research has shown that it is okay to rock your baby to sleep, but that at one point, babies should be taught independence when it comes to sleeping habits. At first, it is quite important to rock them as babies feel safe and secure in their new environment. But when it is starting to drain you and is disrupting your baby or toddler’s sleeping habits at night, then you know it’s time to stop. At approximately 1 or 2 years old, this is when you should start the sleep training process. There are various solutions to solve sleeping habits that are not working for mom and baby, and teach your baby to self-soothe and fall asleep on his own. We will be talking about this here! Read on to know why and how you can stop rocking your baby to sleep.
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At what age should you stop rocking your baby to sleep?
Not everyone agrees that rocking a baby to sleep is an unhealthy habit. It meets a lot of their needs, namely comfort, feeling safe, and good quality sleep. Rocking your baby will calm him and make it easier for him to fall asleep with close contact and rhythmic movement. Research shows that 60% of babies are usually rocked to sleep, making it one of the most common sleeping habits.
Babies usually grow out of the rocking phase alone as their need for independence appears and increases. The real problem with rocking really starts when they become too big or heavy and cannot seem to fall asleep alone when they wake up in the middle of the night.
I remember spending a big portion of my day rocking my baby to sleep, in between nap time, bedtime, and nighttime wakings. It was really exhausting. For these reasons, it is advised to start transitioning from rocking to teaching your child to sleep alone at around one year old.
How do I get my baby to sleep without rocking?
The most common mistake parents make is to hand their baby or toddler the bottle for them to fall asleep. Most parents, to be relieved of rocking duty, rely on the milk bottle for their baby to doze off.
For many reasons, it is not recommended to let your baby sleep with the bottle as it will soon lead to tooth decay because of milk staying in their mouth and on their teeth, and lead to digestive problems as well. There are other ways to transition from rocking to your baby sleeping alone.
Here are some tips to make that transition easier for you and your little one:
- Start by introducing other calming methods that can help put your baby to sleep while you’re still rocking him. For example, use soothing sleep playlists, spray a calming lavender scent in the room, cover your baby with a very soft blanket, read a calm storybook that you can hold with one hand while rocking him with the other. Doing this for 2 weeks minimum while you continue rocking him will help condition him to sleep later on. You can then gradually start diminishing rocking time and try to put your baby in bed when he’s half asleep while still sitting next to the crib or bed. Little by little, he will start sleeping on his own.
- If your baby cries or makes a fuss when you put him down without him being fully asleep, you can try holding him until he sleeps but eliminate the rocking motion. This helps him get used to going to sleep without being rocked, even though he is still being held.
- Teach your baby to self-soothe. If a baby (or toddler) is used to being rocked to sleep, he will ask for it again when he wakes up during the night as he is not used to self-soothing and going back to sleep alone. The idea is to put your baby down in his crib before he completely falls asleep and comfort him to sleep so that when he wakes up again during the night, he falls asleep in the same place as before.
- Even if your baby is in his crib and not sleeping, let him be! If he’s calm and is satisfied by your presence on a chair next to him, he might find other opportunities that will put him to sleep, like staring into a specific object or just relaxing and dozing off.
With time and a bit of patience, I promise you will get there. What I surely learned from the last 4 years is that tips from other parents can work for you most of the time, but sometimes just not be for you. It is all about testing and doing what is right for you and your baby.
FAQs – Some more information
Can I stop rocking my baby to sleep with the cry-it-out technique?
The cry-it-out technique has been debated for a long time. Some parents find it effective for the whole family while others find it difficult and the cause of attachment issues. There are a variety of smooth techniques to try before resorting to the cry-it-out method, like the ones cited above, as research shows that this technique can have an impact on the nervous system and anxiety levels.
How do you settle an overtired baby?
If you are still rocking your baby to sleep and haven’t trained him yet to self-soothe and sleep on his own, then it is a good way to comfort him when he is overtired. But if you have already weaned him off rocking him to sleep and are afraid rocking him when overtired will make you start the process all over again, then take him into his safe environment, turn on that soothing music or other soothing bedtime cues and comfort him in his bed. It should take a few minutes to send him to sleep.
Can rocking a baby cause shaken baby syndrome?
You can be totally certain that shaken baby syndrome is unlikely to happen while rocking a baby to sleep or being playful with him. It is only caused by violently and forcefully shaking a child.
It is important to remember that there are no good and bad sleeping habits, just what works for you and your baby. If you feel exhausted, need your space in bed and time in the evenings and nights, as well as feel tired of rocking your baby to sleep endlessly, then it’s time to follow tips such as self-soothing and a calming bedtime routine for you to get your sanity back.
If you’re fine with rocking your baby to sleep as much as it takes and co-sleeping when necessary, then just let your child determine when this stops. To each his own and there is no right or wrong technique. You got this!