Nothing compares to holding your sleeping baby in your arms, but it might not be the best place for him to get the bulk of his rest. You do not have to resist the lure of keeping your infant in your arms all the time, but holding him while he sleeps has drawbacks that can be difficult for both of you. Forming healthy and consistent sleep habits will pay off in the years to come.
Good Sleep Habits
Many babies can sleep anywhere and everywhere in the early months, but once your little one gets older, it can be hard to get her to sleep unless you're holding her. She might be peaceful and content until you place her in the crib, at which point she wakes up crying and only goes back to sleep when you pick her up. This forms the habit of only sleeping in your arms, which cannot last forever. If you do this, she will wake up when you put her down. This interrupts her sleep cycles and can leave her cranky and tired. Forming a sleep routine can help you transition your baby to sleeping in her crib.
Many experts rave about the benefits of co-sleeping, but if you do this, you must observe certain safety guidelines to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. Letting your baby sleep on or near you offers many perks, including making it easier to breastfeed and soothe your baby in the night, according to the Ask Dr. Sears website. However, letting your baby sleep face down on your chest, especially when you are asleep could restrict her airflow and cause her to suffocate. If you choose to let your baby sleep in your arms, do so when you are awake and alert and keep her in a safe crib or co-sleeper at night. Parents need to put babies to sleep on their backs at all times to reduce the risk of SIDS, according to Healthy Child Care America, a program of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Breaking the Habit
As you probably know, breaking a habit can be very difficult. If you worry that your baby isn't getting quality sleep while being held, it's time to create a new sleep routine that will have him sleeping in his own bed in no time. Start putting your baby to bed and down for naps at around the same time each day. Create rituals that alert him that sleep time is coming. For example, rock him in your arms while you sing a song, and then lay him down on his back in the crib. Chances are, your baby will cry, but letting him learn to self-soothe can help him get himself to sleep without you holding him. You do not have to abandon your baby, but let him cry for a short amount of time, then comfort him and leave the room again. Over time, he will figure out how to get himself to sleep and likely get better rest.
You do not have to be rigid about keeping your baby in her crib instead of sleeping in your arms. If she is sick or scared, rocking her back to sleep or letting her snooze on your lap is not going to ruin all your hard work. However, letting her do so for several nights in a row could. If your little one is having trouble with the transition, ease into it by letting her fall asleep while being held, then gently put her in the crib and let her self-soothe if she wakes up. Alternatively, try letting her fall asleep in your arms at naptime, but not at bedtime. Once she gets used to it, she will not need you to hold her while she is sleeping and she will probably be more rested and alert when she is awake.