Time for Gentle Sleep Training – My Baby Cries When I Put Her Down Awake

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  • May 21, 2017
time for gentle sleep training


Hi. I’m Kim West, The Sleep Lady, and in this video I’m going to answer Mary’s question that she posted on my Facebook page:

“When I put my ten-month-old down awake enough, she cries and looks for me and sits up and won’t lay herself down to go back to sleep. She only wants to be held and consoled. I don’t know if it’s teething or a sleep regression. Help!”

What Your Child May Be Saying

Mary, it sounds like your baby is used to you putting her down very sleepy so that when you put her down more awake she cries. She hasn’t learned the skill of putting herself to sleep and she doesn’t quite understand. It’s like she’s saying, “What are you doing? I don’t know how to put myself to sleep! Usually you hold me or console me or rock me to sleep and that’s what I’m used to. I don’t know how to put myself to sleep without that.”

They Eventually Want More and More

I find that it’s common for babies to “outgrow” their sleep crutch or that it stops working. It’s as if they are saying, “Oh, I used to fall asleep nursing to sleep, but then mommy had to nurse me and then start rocking me too. Or walking, rocking or bouncing me.”

It starts to take longer and longer for you to get her to “sleepy enough” so that you can put her down and she’ll stay asleep.

It’s Time To Sleep Coach

Regardless of how you got here, this is where you are! Your baby doesn’t realize it but, in some sense, she’s told you, “Mommy, I need to learn how to go to sleep without you rocking me to sleep.” This means that you have to start sleep coaching her.

Begin Well-Rested

I always recommend that you start sleep coaching at bedtime on a night after a great day of naps.

After a soothing bedtime routine put her down drowsy, but awake in her crib. You really want her to be more awake than drowsy. Think of it more like your baby is fed, dry, warm, loved, “kissed”, and then put her right into the crib.

No Trickery

It is important that you aren’t tricking her or getting her too drowsy. You don’t want to get her halfway to sleep and when you put her in the crib she panics, wakes up, sits up, and cries. Remind yourself that she is learning a new skill, so, of course she’s not going to understand why you would switch this up on her.

Be Present With Her, Reassuring Her

Lots of times when babies are pre-verbal they cry. I want you to stay with her and offer physical and verbal reassurance. Sit down next to her crib so that when she’s sitting up you can see her between the slots of the crib. Stay close enough so that you can pat her in between the slots of the crib and encourage her to lie down.

Teach Her To Lie Down During the Day

At this age she should know how to go from a sitting up position to lying down. If she doesn’t know this skill, then you need to practice that during the day so you don’t get stuck with constantly helping her at night. It never works! You will be lying her down all night long. I really don’t want you to get into a struggle with her over a skill she can learn.

The Shuffle Basics

You can pat, shush intermittently, and encourage her to lie down. Only pick her up to calm her if she gets really hysterical.

The details about my method, The Sleep Lady Shuffle, are outlined in my book. You’re going to do the The Shuffle at bedtime and every time that she wakes up. In about seven to ten nights she will be largely sleeping through the night. Sometimes it can happen faster, but that’s about the average. Sleep coaching for naps with The Sleep Lady Shuffle takes two to three weeks.

Kim West
Kim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 24 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. She is the author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night Sleep Tight, its companion Workbook and 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies. Click here to read more about her.

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