Dear Dr. Bill,
I have an 8-week-old baby who really fights sleep. The only time I can put her down without a struggle is after her 3 AM feeding. Every other time, she fights naps and cries whenever I put her into her crib or bassinet. I am careful to watch for signs of when she’s getting tired, usually about 2 hours after she wakes; then I start to rock her a bit while she cries and she fights going to sleep. I’ve read that I should put her in her crib awake, but her crying quickly escalates to shrieking. What should I do?
Getting a newborn to sleep can be a real challenge. A baby’s sleep cycle is very different from that of an older child or an adult and the crazy hours and constant crying can wreak havoc on new parents.
You mention that you’ve read that you should put your infant in her crib awake. That may be a helpful idea for older babies and toddlers, but it may not be effective with a newborn. There is nothing wrong with rocking or nursing your daughter to sleep and then gently placing her in her crib.
Most infants need to be soothed to sleep, and you and your husband are going to be her primary “soothing mechanism” for the next few months.
Be thankful that she’s also able to fall asleep in her cradle swing. When our daughter Anna was an infant, the ONLY place she would fall asleep was in our arms or in the car, strapped in her car seat.
Let me recommend a book that you’ll find tremendously helpful. It’s called “Healthy Sleep Habits-Happy Child” by pediatrician and sleep expert Dr. Marc Weissbluth. You can find it in most major bookstores and libraries, and it’s one of the best books I’ve found on the subject of babies and sleep.
Thanks for writing Amy. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Culture Connection page.