By Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Newborns
Prior to birth, 100 percent of your baby’s sleep occurs in a cozy bed of fluid that sloshes and moves with your every step and motion. You walk, you bounce up stairs, and you may even dance, jog, or bike! Even during the typically disjointed sleep that pregnancy so kindly provides, you likely shift and move throughout the night. That’s why lying on an unmoving, rigid crib surface can be unsettling to your brand new baby, and why babies are naturally attracted to motion for sleep.
In the womb, the fluid sway of movement is a constant, soothing sleep-inducer, but after birth that movement is missing. At birth, your baby is still the same motion-loving person from just a minute before, he doesn’t magically transform into a different life form! That’s the reason that the first three months of life are often referred to as the “Fourth Trimester.” It is a time of transition from womb to earth.
Recreating experiences from the womb
Babies often sleep better when we recreate some of the experiences from the womb. This explains why infants enjoy a sleeping place that is warm, snug, filled with white noise, and gently moving. Being held in a parent’s arms creates the perfect combination of these things–but most busy parents cannot possibly hold a napping baby for the many hours that a newborn sleeps every day. The next best solution: a swing, glider, hammock, or rocking cradle. These are very often a baby’s favored location for napping over a stationary cradle, crib, or bed.
When used properly, these devices are not only safe and helpful–they can be sanity-savers. The biggest risks are the temptation to overuse them, and the possibility that your baby will become so accustomed to them that you’ll be battling a set-in-concrete sleep association six months from now. Which, for some parents of colicky infants, or for those of you who wish for a way to help their infant sleep better, it can be a trade they are willing to make.
It’s all about balance
Clearly having 100 percent of naps occur with motion can lead to dependence, but other than that, every baby benefits from a unique balance of the two–motion sleep and stationary sleep. After the first few weeks of your baby’s life, I recommend that you intentionally balance motion naps with some stationary crib naps. If your baby can fall asleep in several different ways this can give you more flexibility and will likely make it easier if you wish to modify sleep locations down the road.
For tips on what kind of motion device to purchase, the pros and cons, the safety rules, and weaning ideas, check out my website or book, The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Newborns, or watch this column for more upcoming tips.
Elizabeth Pantley is a mother of four, grandmother, and author of the bestselling book, The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Newborns plus 8 other books in the No-Cry Solution series, which helps moms and dads through all key stages of parenting. Visit her at nocrysolution.com