To put baby down drowsy BUT AWAKE? What devilry is that? Most exhausted parents cannot begin to fathom that peculiar (and terrifying) concept and wonder why this seems to be a much lauded tactic to help their babies sleep better. Let’s find out!

In This Article

What does “drowsy but awake” actually mean?

Drowsy but awake means putting your baby down for her sleep before she is actually asleep.

So, parents often ask, “How drowsy? How awake?”. So your baby should be showing some signs of tiredness, ranging from early cues such as losing interest in surrounds, to a reddish forehead and rubbing of eyes. Avoid putting baby down when she is “falling asleep” and most of the time, she will just jerk wide awake the minute her body touches the cot.

“How babies sleep is that they will remember how they fall asleep and in order to stay asleep, the same conditions need to be present throughout.”

The reason for practicing this tactic of putting baby down awake is to give her a chance to self-soothe, either with her fingers, on her sleep sack or even her lovey. If you put her down already asleep, then she will not have the chance to learn this self-soothing skill which will help her to connect her sleep cycles without waking up fully and crying for you to help.

Why is my baby fussing and crying after I put her down?

When you attempt to put your baby down for her nap and night sleep, it is natural to assume that when she is asleep when you put her down, she will stay asleep as you attempt to ease her from your arms or boobs into her cot as stealthily as possible. Unfortunately, many parents have learnt that one too many times, your baby seems to have a in-built anti-cot alert which will trigger the minute she leaves the comfort of your arms and when her body touches the cot.

Your baby fusses and cries after you put her down can be caused by various reasons:-

  1. She has been over-soothed to an extremely drowsy state, either in your arms, on the boob or in a rocker. She is letting go and expecting to fall asleep in those conditions.
  2. She is either over-tired or under-tired when you place her in the cot.
  3. She does not know how to self-soothe and basically does not know what to do after she leaves your arms.

When do I start to prepare to put my baby down?

  1. Keep a keen eye on the clock and also your baby for sleepy cues. By having an idea what wake window to put your baby down and observing her close to the expiration of that wake window will help you to be more attuned to any switches in her behaviour.
  2. Create a strong Bedtime & Nap routine. Ensure nap time and bedtime routines are in place so that baby can be “mentally” prepared for sleep. Nap time routines can just be about 5 minutes and the bedtime routine can be about 15 minutes and must be the same sequentially every time for consistency.
  3. Ensure that baby is not over-soothed to an extremely drowsy state (eyes closed) before put down so that baby gets a chance to self soothe and will not fuss as he is being transferred to the cot from your arms. (Baby was expecting to sleep in your arms!!)
  4. Avoiding feeding just before you plan to put down. Your baby may be expecting to fall asleep while nursing hence using that as a sleep prop. Shift the feed to after nap or at the beginning of the nap or bedtime routine.

What should I do if my baby simply refuses to sleep?

In the realm of parenting, even if you are all lined up for a successful nap, it is not guaranteed that your baby will go down well or may even miss a nap. Do not give up! The art of self-soothing will take practice, just like all the other developmental milestones. If one attempt fails, keep on trying. If your baby is over fussy, please assist guiltlessly. There will always be another nap for her (and you) to practice.

Additional Tips

  1. Keep a sleep log to track the optimal time to put your baby down which yields the best naps and night sleep.
  2. If your baby is not able to self-soothe, do consider gentle sleep learning for her to achieve better sleep and how to prepare for Sleep Training.

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At SleepKraft, we apply sleep methods and scheduling advice that is unique to your baby and your family. If you are struggling to improve your baby and your family's sleep, chat with us today so that we can offer the best possible sleep solutions.