Today’s plush cradle swings often make a perfect sleep environment for newborn infants. Parents can keep their baby close by in a confined environment--and the constant motion often soothes fussy babies to sleep. While swings work miracles for many newborns, babies often outgrow the swing around 4 to 6 months, compelling parents to transition them to a crib. By paying attention to the sleep environment and viewing the transition as a chance to build positive sleep associations and habits, parents can ease their child’s move to the crib.
Wean Her Off the Motion of the Crib
Babies accustomed to falling asleep in swings often crave the constant movement and the confined space. According to Dr. Harvey Karp, author of “The Happiest Baby on the Block,” swings somewhat replicate the baby’s environment in utero. Keep the surroundings the same and eliminate her dependence on the constant motion by turning off the swing while she sleeps. If she reacts unfavorably, take baby steps and start by putting the swing on a slower speed while she settles down. Leave the swing on less and less until she grows accustomed to the lack of motion. Make sure you place the swing in the same room as the crib so she grows accustomed to the sleep environment.
Swaddle Your Baby
Wrapping your baby tightly in a large blanket or a commercial infant swaddler like the Miracle Blanket, might help settle your child down and help him sleep longer and deeper. The swaddling replicates the close environment and womb-like conditions babies love about the swing. In his book, Dr. Karp suggests that the reason swaddling fails to work for some parents is because they fail to wrap babies tightly enough. Place your baby's arms by his side and wrap him tightly so he cannot escape from the swaddle. Put your swaddled child into his crib and pat or rub his back until he settles down.
Establish Consistent Bedtimes and Naptimes
Creating predictable routines and rituals for naptime and bedtime can help your baby enjoy and anticipate going to sleep. Pediatrician and child development expert Dr. William Sears suggests lying down with your child in her room for a nap for about a week at certain times of the day to help her understand the concept of naptime. At night, start a consistent routine involving bath, stories, cuddling and rocking to pleasantly introduce bedtime. All of these routines help build her sleep associations with her crib and room, making her more likely to fall asleep there.
Create the Right Environment
Pay careful attention to the room where your baby sleeps to help maximize the chances of a smooth transition from the swing to crib. Make sure the room is completely dark--try adding black-out curtains if it remains overly bright during the day or early morning. Add low, monotonous “white noise,” from a fan or air conditioner, or from tape-recorded sounds of waterfalls, vacuum cleaners or the ocean, to lull baby to sleep and keep him sleeping peacefully. Aim for a consistent temperature of around 70 degrees F in the room--a temperature that Dr. Sears suggests as optimal for sleep.
- Dr. Sears: 31 Ways to Get Your Baby To Go To Sleep
- Seattle Post-Intelligence: Shhh.... UCLA pediatrician develops the 'Cuddle Cure' to calm colicky infants
- "The Happiest Baby on the Block"; Dr. Harvey Karp; 2003