How to Convince Your Baby It’s Cool to Sleep in a Cot, Not Your Arms

Cute, cuddly, soft and super snuggly, babies are the epitome of adorable.

Except when it’s 2am and they are refusing to sleep anywhere except in your arms.

This little ritual can get old incredibly fast and can lead to a very sleep-deprived and frustrated mumma in no time. Although there is nothing wrong with letting baby snuggle in close, it’s probably a good idea, at some stage, to help bub adjust to a cot.

newborn won't sleep without mother

When and how you do it is entirely up to you. I took the easy route and just co-slept with my kids for the first few months, but you do you.

If you are looking at ways to get your little one settled in a cot, whether in your room or in a nursery, here’s a few things that just might help.

1. Learn the tired signs

Wouldn’t it be great if your little one would just close her eyes and drift to sleep at the end of the day? Some babies do this, or so I’ve been told. But my babies never did. No, instead they would stay awake until they were so overtired and overstimulated that it would be impossible to get them to sleep without a hefty dose of rocking and boob.

Don’t do what I did. I highly advise against it. In fact, do the opposite of what I did.

Don’t leave it too long. Learn the cues that bub is tired, including rubbing the eyes, turning the head to one side and making jerky arm movements. And the obvious one, yawning.

tired baby signs


2. Try before tiredness strikes

Before these tired signs appear, have bub ready for a sleep – fed, cleaned, wrapped. I quickly discovered with my two that there is a very short window between ‘tired’ and ‘overtired’. If you miss this window, it’s hard to get baby to sleep anywhere but your arms. Don’t stress if you keep missing the window. Just try again next nap session.

3. Set the stage for sleep with white noise

Bub is wrapped and in the cot. Try using white noise to help soothe baby into sleep. A ceiling fan works well but you can also use a White Noise app which may include other soothing sounds.

4. Put them down drowsy, but not entirely asleep

There is nothing wrong with letting bub go to sleep in your arms, then putting baby in the cot once fast asleep. This works for many families. But some babies will wake up after a sleep cycle (around 45 minutes) and realise, ‘hey, this isn’t where I fell asleep’ and wake up.

If you get bub into the habit of actually going to sleep in the cot, you have a better chance of them staying asleep in this position.

baby sleep cot

5. Practice your pat and shush 

Many babies need a bit more than just a feed and a ceiling fan to fall asleep. Sit next to the cot and gently pat bub’s back. You may also want to add some “shushes’ to the mix. My jam was “pat, pat, shush, pat, pat, shush,” over and over and over again. See what rhythmic patterns works for your baby.

6. Be ready for that 45 minute startle

Babies have itty bitty sleep cycles (on average, 45 minutes). When this sleep cycle ends, they may stir, open their eyes and return to sleep. Or they may stir, open their eyes, realise you’re not there and cry.

I used to sit by the cot around that 40 minute marker. When my daughter would stir, I would start the pat, pat, shush all over again. Sometimes it would work to settle her back.

Of course you can’t be expected to do this all night, but it might help with those day sleeps.

7.  Consider a sleep aid 

There are plenty of sleeping aids on the market that are designed to help with this exact problem, such as the Lulla Doll (below), babyshusher and The Zaky Hug. Even something as simple as a dummy might be all your baby needs to help suck themselves to sleep.

baby sleep products - Lulla Doll

Reposition the mattress

Another thing that helped my infants sleep was slowly adjusting the mattress so that it was on a slight incline. This is good for babies who do like to sleep slightly upright (on your chest, for example) or colicky bubbas.

Place a couple of rolled up towels underneath the mattress and see if this helps at all.

9. Take turns (and breaks)

The range of emotions you experience when baby refuses to sleep in the cot are pretty intense. You are bound to feel frustrated, angry, guilty and ashamed at some stage. You will probably cry at some point. Possibly contemplate running away or downing a bottle of wine. All normal reactions.

But before you get too worked up (honestly, it’s bound to happen. it happened daily for me), step away. Ask your partner to try or simply hide in the bathroom for five minutes and take a breather.

10. Stick to it 

Your baby isn’t going to sleep in the cot perfectly every day and every night. There will be days where bub is sick, stuffed up and unable to sleep lying down. There will be nights of sleep regressions. And there will be times when you simply miss that sleep window over and over again.

Keep trying. Day after day after day. In time, bubba will get it. On those days when baby does go down (and stays down in the cot for more than two hours at a time), celebrate. Do a little dance. Make a cup of tea. And proclaim your mummyhood awesomeness.

substance p SIDS research breakthrough

Good luck mums! May the baby sleep gods be with you.

Still not having any luck? If bub is old enough, you might want to give controlled crying a go. Here’s how to do it and why this mum had 0 regrets using it.

Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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