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How to Help a Baby Who Won’t Sleep Without Motion


Babies have always been cute as buttons, but when they can’t sleep it makes things hard. One of the common sleeping problems that moms often run into is babies not sleeping without motion. This can often be because the babies are used to falling asleep in their rocker swings of being held or bounced, but this can be fixed! Don’t worry!

How do you help a baby who won’t sleep without motion? To help a baby learn to sleep without motion, you will have to slowly wean them off of it. You can do this in a multitude of ways including slowing down the speed of your swing, turning on a massager and setting that in the crib, and even putting the swing inside the crib or giving your baby a luxurious massage.

Babies sometimes need to be weaned out of sleeping with motion and there are plenty of ways you can do it. If you want to learn about these ways of weaning your baby out of motion dependent sleep, keep reading and I can help you learn about many of the ways you can do so.

Methods on How to Wean a Baby Off Their Swing

1. Swing in the Crib:

For this method of weaning your baby out of their swing and into their crib to sleep, you should set your baby’s swing into his or her crib. When it is time for the baby to go to sleep, you will put the baby in the secured swing and turn it on like you normally would with it outside of the crib. Then you will start doing the same thing at a slower speed. Then slower again. After that, you will need to start putting your baby in its swing and leave it turned off and then take the swing out completely and hopefully, your baby will sleep in the crib. You will need to do each step for about a week before moving onto the next. For this method, you will NEED to be present and awake while your baby is in the swing placed in its crib to make sure everything stays fine.

2. Massager on the Mattress

This is more of a secondary, after an initial weaning method. For this method, you would get one of those cheap vibrating back massagers and simply turn this on and set it on the mattress of your baby’s crib while it sleeps. This will imitate the sound of the motor on your babies swing and make it feel like it is in motion while laying stationary in its crib. Once your baby is asleep you can turn off the massager and remove it. Eventually, you will take the massager away completely and your baby will sleep in its crib just fine.

3. Relaxing Massage

Another method you could use is giving your baby a relaxing massage. Just lightly massage their backs about twenty minutes before their nap and once they are relaxed it is clear to put them in their cribs. This method is helpful because it relaxes them so much that they almost get too tired to notice or care that their crib or (swing) isn’t moving. The massage also helps to mimic that movement they would originally have from their swing. When giving your baby a massage, avoid rubbing because your baby may not like it. Instead, focus on giving gentle squeezes. When massaging your baby you will also need to keep the room a dark and relaxing setting with some peaceful white noise or other soothing sounds. After your baby is relaxed from their back massage, before putting him or her into their crib, lay your hands on their back for a few minutes so they still feel that comforting presence and pressure to continue relaxing them.

Tips to Keep Things Running Smooth

1. Keep Things Consistent

By keeping a routine schedule for your baby, they will be much more relaxed because they will know what to expect and they won’t be stressed out by a new schedule all of the time. Keeping a consistent daily schedule for the baby helps to prevent them from getting confused as well. When they don’t follow a consistent schedule, they get confused as to whether they should be sleeping or eating or playing and this confusion causes the baby to get stressed out.

2. White Noise

White noise is another one of my most recommended tips. This noise is relaxing and creates a peaceful presence in the room for your baby. What is white noise though? Well, white noise mimics the noise in the utero. The entire time a baby is growing in a mother’s womb it’s a very LOUD place. You would be surprised! Crying babies with colic also respond well to vacuum cleaners and hair dryers for some reason! They respond by stopping their crying immediately. It’s really remarkable to see a baby stop crying as soon as someone turns on the hairdryer.

This noise is all your baby heard for nine months and hearing it to go to sleep, though it may sound crazy and obnoxious, is super helpful because it is super comfortable. It also will help to drown out any other distracting noise happening outside your baby’s bedroom such as cars, neighbors, or a t.v. show for example. This tip has saved me time and time again and my baby sleeps very well with this method.

3. Keep Everything Familiar

Another thing that will help your baby to relax and go to sleep is to keep their room as a familiar place because change is stressful for them. By keeping it a very familiar place for them, they will be more relaxed and up to sleeping because everything is just right. Without their familiarity, they get confused as to where they are and what they are supposed to be doing. Along with this concept of unfamiliarity, it stresses them out BECAUSE it is so different and confusing for them.

4. Sleep Cues

Another thing that will really help your baby adapt to its new sleeping conditions is establishing sleep cues. These “sleep cues” are simply routine things that your baby can associate with “Oh! Now it’s time for bed!” These cues can be things such as loud white noise, a tight swaddle, a pacifier, a dark room, and even a specific bedtime and reading a story. Routine plays a huge role in sleep cues because your preferred routine is what establishes what those sleep cues are. With sleep cues already establish with your baby, it will make it easier to wean them off of movement sleeping because the only thing you will be changing throughout their entire routine is their bed. They will still have all of their other sleep cues to focus on that will make it easy for them to still notice all the cues and recognize that it means it’s bedtime.

5. Keep the Change Gradual

When you are transitioning your baby’s sleep routine from movement sleeping to still sleeping you should make the transition a gradual process as to not confuse the baby too much. If you try to make changes that are too rapid you will stress the baby out by confusing it from its normal routine which can cause a whole other set of temporary issues. By making the change gradual and making lots of small tweaks that are about a week apart, you give the baby time to adjust to each small change and not have as much trouble with the transition in its nightly bedtime routine.

What to Expect

Like I have stated before, babies love and need routine. Without their routine, they get confused, flustered, and stressed out which leads to a very unhappy baby. Unhappy babies are never fun to deal with either. All we want is for our babies to be comfortable and feel safe and to SLEEP SOUNDLY.

Along with transitioning your cute baby from sleeping in their moving swing, or other movement devices, you will need to be prepared for some temporary discomfort for both you and the baby. When you start changing their routine bit by bit to transition them into their still sleeping style instead of movement sleeping style, they will notice the difference and show signs of discomfort. This is a completely normal reaction. My best advice to you is to make sure your alterations to transition them are small tweaks and only add a tweak to the routine every week. When you do these tweaks your baby will most likely fuss and not be a happy camper but you simply have to wade it out as long as possible and try again until it works. It will take a while for your little one to adjust to, but it will work. You simply have to be there for your baby while still having them wade it out enough to get used to it. If you immediately pick up your baby when they are upset and hold them and bounce them around to settle them down and get them to sleep after they show discomfort, then they will never learn or get used to still movement sleeping.

Related Questions

My baby is having an extra hard time transitioning from motion to still sleep. Could I be doing this too soon? Generally, babies sleep with motion for the first 3-4 months and then after that is when is best to wean them off of sleeping with motion. If your baby is still a little young it is okay to let them sleep with motion longer and the older they are the easier they will transition or grow out of it.

Related Posts

This article will be very helpful to those mothers struggling to help their baby to sleep. Most babies fall asleep quickly when in motion. This can be very tiresome and frustrating at times. I like the alternatives that you mentioned, I am going to save this article for further reference. 

Thank you for sharing.

Interesting, and thanks for these tips. I now have ideas on what to do next time, and maybe I should try that hair dryer suggestion of yours, or anything that can mimic the White Noise that you’ve said. The other methods, the swing, we already have it here, and it really helps.

Thinking about these, I wonder if we parents can do something in advance so that the babies that will be born from us turn out to be “behaving well”. Are these babies inheriting parents’ attitudes and characters? I mean, if we parents are easy-to-anger, can our babies inherit them by genes?

And I have another question…

What about the choice of milk supplements. Can you suggest milk supplement preparations that are known or claiming to influence babies’ attitudes and behavior? I mean, some specific milk supplements that known to help babies become more calm and easy-to-manage?

I am not sure if babies inherit our temperament and overall attitude. I would think its more conditional and depending how how the baby is raised and in what environment.  A baby being raised in a hostile environment might grow up to be angry, or likewise very nervous and apprehensive. A baby raised in a very loving, accepting, open environment may grow up to be confident and self-assured, kind, loving, etc. 

This is why it is important that we nurture and love our babies. Their development depends on us and how we decide to parent them. 

And in regards to milk supplements,  I have never heard of such a thing so I can’t give you an opinion on them. I don’t think honestly we should be giving our babies ANY supplements, especially if they are made to calm babies. Babies are going to cry and make a lot of noise naturally, you do not want to suppress it with supplements. You should take care of a crying baby the natural way. 

This is a wonderful article about a common but under reported issue – helping a baby to sleep at night.

Many infants have difficulty with sleeping at night for various reasons – and this is certainly one of them; they need to have motion to sleep.  But of course, this makes perfect sense because infants were accustomed to motion before they were born, so it is natural to expect they would want motion to help them relax.

Then you offer several well thought-out methods to try to get children to rest at night.  We have used some of these, even using a swing in the crib as was your number one suggestion.  You also mention a very important aspect of getting young children to sleep at night – that of consistency.  It is difficult during the adult’s busy life to keep consistency with one child – especially if you are blessed with many children.

Another suggest of ours which we have tried are sleep cues – associations a baby might develop when it is time to go to sleep at night.  Your suggestions of white noise, pacifier, dark room, and definite time schedule have proven helpful in our experience as well.

You offer an excellent article filled with timely wisdom about a difficult problem in young parents’ lives – that of helping their baby get to sleep at night.

Very good advice on how to help your baby transition to sleeping without movement.  It is a slow and steady process, but the key is to be patient and introduce changes slowly.  Babies sense when you are either stressed out or at ease, and this in turn affects them too.  I learned that real quick with my first baby.  She went through a 2 week period of crying and not sleeping unless I was holding her on my chest.  I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, what to do with her… And then I finally realized that when I was completely frazzled and freaking out, she was too.  But when I relaxed and calmed down, she did too.  So, for 2 weeks I slept in the rocker/recliner with her on my chest 😉  When it was all over it didn’t really seem all that bad…lol:)  

Isn’t it amazing how in tune babies are with us ? I bet those were the best two weeks ever now that you look back on it 🙂 

I am very appreciative that you are sharing such connected and helpful content for Mama and Papa Bears to learn from.  My son is 14 months old now and we have always been very consistent with his sleep routine since he was a newborn so as to harness a space of familiarity, empowerment and love for him.  I adore that you are encouraging helpful and useful practices that nurture and provide loving support for a little being.  I recently absorbed a lot of knowledge about the effects stress has on the body and your recommendations here certainly encompass a vibe that yields a peaceful, secure and non traumatizing approach to a child’s nervous system. Kudos and many thanks!   All the best to you and thank you again for such an engaging and inspiring post!

Your article was a great refresher.  I tried many of the tricks in your article when my children were babies, and now my daughter is trying to train her son, so I had to bring back the memories.  LOL.  I was looking around and found your site, and I’m so glad I did.  I did do the white noise.  That really helps.  You had some other ideas that I can’t wait to share with my daughter.  Just wanted to pop in and say thanks.

Hi Sophia,

this is an interesting read.  We seldom put our children to sleep with motion.  I think it is a matter of convenience and how it works for each child.  There is no magic formula to do things.  Our 2 boys are completely different.  One always had problems falling asleep from the moment he was born, and the other one is the kind of kid that falls asleep at the table while eating.  

Our boys never asked for motion when falling asleep.  But yes, they always want us to lay down with them or sit with them until they sleep.  Our old is adamant about it, and it is our fault.  We try to do it, also because it is great time to connect with each other.  Sometimes I do it, and sometimes my wife, depending who is available.  Our smallest does not care so much about it.  At first, when we weaned him, he was so upset about everything and training was not fun.  

So we came up with an idea.  My wife slept in another room for a few nights, and I (dad) stayed in a room with the little one.  It only took 3 nights crying (not through the night, but a few hours), until he understood that he needed to sleep in his crib without waking and without motion.  Ok, he was already 14 months old.  After that, he as been sleeping so well that he rarely wakes during the night.  It was tough at first, but consistency, like you mention, is key.  Oh, and I also put him to bed in the night, which made him very angry at first.

After we had him trained for night sleep, we started to train nap time as well.  It was a struggle at first too, but it worked pretty much the same way.  We did it during vacations, so I could be there for him.  Although I got so sleep deprived those  weeks, and sometimes very frustrated, it has all paid off.  He is not so against sleeping anymore and he understands when it is time and how the procedure is.

It takes time and practice, and lots of patience.  But it is worth training your child to sleep well.

We did not use any of the things that you mentioned, except for massages here and there.

Great advice though,

Oscar

As a seasoned parent you are already aware that kids come in all sorts of packages. Sleep training takes a lot of patience, especially if you have a very stubborn sleeper. The best thing to remember is be consistent and don’t switch things up or you will make the process a lot more difficult. Thank you for your comment 

Hi Sophia, sleep training can be such a stressful thing for both Mom and baby.  As you mentioned, it is so important for the parents to be patient and kind while their little one makes gradual adjustments.  It can potentially be a frustrating time for all involved.  I struggled greatly with sleep training and had a very hard time guiding my daughter through the steps.  As a result, I spent a lot of time sleeping with her so she would nap.  Fortunately, I was able to do that. 

I think my life would have been a lot easier if I had known about your massager on the mattress idea.  I think it would have worked like a charm!

Hey Tammy, I also spend a lot of time laying down next to my son, pretending to sleep, in order to persuade him to nap, so don’t feel bad.

You are so right when you say that if we go to pick up the baby right away when he or she is upset, they will never gently move on to the new experience we are trying to teach them. But that is often a parent’s first reaction to a baby’s discomfort; to pick them up, rock them and let them know everything’s O.K. But babies are people and people can learn, and will learn. Thank you so much for the helpful tips!

Thank you Sue, we want to foster good sleeping habits in our children. Most of the time the parents have a lot more control over their child’s sleep behavior. You just have to know that crying will not physically harm your baby. It is okay to let them cry a little so they can adjust to sleeping independently.

Sophia, you always provide great, practical and supportive advice for parents. I always found that gentle massages a wonderful way to help babies feel relaxed and ready for sleep. It always provided a very calm environment where babies felt calm and loved. Now as my boys are a bit older sometimes they still ask if I can massage their backs before they go sleep, and they have a good sleep. Thanks Sophia and all the best.

I’m glad I found this article because I’m at this stage with my one year old son. He need that rocking pattern and we tried to not do it with him because we struggle with our daughter; she needed motion until she was almost 4 years old.

I love the tips that you give and how the transition should help. Thank you for creating such a valuable content for parents. A job that nobody is ready enough to do everything right or know it all.

You are right. They don’t give you a parenting manual at the hospital when your baby is born. You really have to take everything is baby steps ( pun intended ) because its overwhelming trying to understand everything about parenting at once.

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