My baby won’t put down and keeps waking up

Baby sleeps and smiles

After a newborn has finally found sleep (for example, thanks to the soothing method for babies described here), many parents face another problem: help! The baby wakes up all the time. No matter how carefully they do it – hardly the baby is put down, promptly it is awake again. Even if the baby can be put down successfully, he or she will still wake up after 20 to 50 minutes and will not be able to get back to sleep, even though he or she is obviously not fully asleep.

That’s because children are evolutionarily programmed that way Are always seeking the protection of adults. In prehistoric times, children who were laid down somewhere and then slept peacefully for a long, deep sleep would quite soon have fallen prey to wild animals. Unfortunately, our little babies do not know that they are now well protected behind thick walls and are safe, so they check continuously to see if they are alone. To be alone means helplessness – thousands of years ago a quasi death sentence – more about this in the great book "Understanding Children" by Herbert Renz-Polster.

Babies sleep in phases of equal length

Babies sleep in stages – these are between 20 and 50 minutes long. Our son’s sleep phase length was exactly 40 minutes – he always slept 40, 80 or 120 minutes at a time during his first year of life. You could really set the clock for it. Our daughter had a cycle of 50 minutes which was just as regular.

In the first two to three months of life, newborns first fall into dream sleep (REM sleep). This type of sleep is very susceptible to disturbances – the child sleeps only "lightly". REM sleep can be recognized, among other things, by movements of the limbs, faster breathing and eye fluttering. It is only after about 20 minutes that the child falls into deep sleep, breathing slowly and regularly and barely moving – sensitive babies would only now become unaware of being put down.

When the deep sleep phase is over, the child dives back into a lighter sleep phase. There it unconsciously checks whether all conditions are still as they were when it fell asleep, because newborns only fall asleep when they feel absolutely safe. A baby feels most secure when moved. That means: there is someone to take care of me! I am safe and not lying around unprotected somewhere, I am protected! If the environmental conditions have changed, it means for the baby that it is essential to check if it is still safe. Therefore it will wake up immediately – if no one is around to calm it down immediately, it will not fall asleep again – even if it is still tired. This also explains why children sleep the longest in carriers, strollers and cars, the movement suggests to them security, the "is-it-all-still-as-it-was"-Exam is quickly finished and the next sleep phase is connected.

My baby will not lie down – what can I do??

It is easiest when the baby falls asleep in his bed without help from the very beginning. During the transition from one sleep phase to the other, the conditions are unchanged, so that it usually glides effortlessly into the next phase. With gentle release, many children eventually manage to fall asleep without help.

The fact that children fall asleep unproblematically alone in their bed is, however, unfortunately rather the exceptional case. For thousands of years, human children have depended on their parents to protect them. Therefore, they usually seek their closeness and feel safe only when they have body contact. Therefore, the normal state is rather a child who only wants to fall asleep in the arms of the parents. One should fulfill this basic need and be aware that this sleep behavior is limited to the first two to three months of life. Later you will be able to put the baby down after a few minutes – until then, unfortunately, the only thing that helps is to wait for the deep sleep phase. It is also useful to put the child in the position in which he fell asleep – changes in position stimulate the sense of balance and signal "danger" to the baby.

Sleeping baby in crib

What can you do when the child still wakes up tired every 30 to 50 minutes?

As already described, newborns check the environment in the transitions of the sleep phases. If everything is as it was when the baby fell asleep, they can carelessly move on to the next phase. If a child wakes up constantly, it makes sense to help him master the transitions between the phases. You quickly get a feel for the length of your own baby’s phases (just keep a log for a few days to see the pattern).

Babies who fall asleep in the crib next to their parents don’t even wake up properly when you lie down next to them again during the transition phase. Children who have a pacifier continue to sleep if the pacifier is put back in their mouth during this phase, should it have fallen out during sleep. If babies are nursed to sleep, offering the breast usually leads to the child continuing to sleep. Some breastfeeding infants tend to wake up at some point at night in these rhythms as well and then want to breastfeed continuously.

My son slept for a long time in the feather cradle during the day, I cradled him to sleep spit up. Since I knew that he wakes up every 40 minutes, I could nudge the feather cradle again after 39 minutes, sit next to it in the same place as when he fell asleep, and when he opened his eyes for his "check" he found exactly the same situation he knew from falling asleep.

Things that "move" children

Many children need compelling movements to sleep, so as soon as their sense of balance reports that they have been put down, they wake up. But many clever inventions provide a remedy!

For example, the Robopax , an electric device on which strollers, baby carriers or even entire beds are placed and which, through its uniform movement, ensures that the child manages the transitions between sleep phases on its own.

Brio Bed Rockers are also attached to the feet of the crib and can be connected to the Lolaloo – a device that vibrates strollers and beds incredibly efficiently. All alone swings the Koglis Baby Schaukelding children’s beds.

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