15 answers

Going from Rocking to Putting Baby down Alone

My husband and I are new parents and have a 16 month old girl. We have been rocking her down for naps and night time sleep since she was born. It is a habit that has proven hard to break. The reason we have continued is we know when we go to put her down she will be asleep in 10 minutes. Usually the transition to the bed is easy. But lately I am having neck and shoulder issues, as well as it is noticeable that she is not as comfortable as she used to. But poor thing she only knows what we trained her and if we put her down sleepy without rocking we feel like it is traumatic for her. She is now 23 pounds and the neck strain is terrible at this point. Help! How do we transition her? I have also enjoyed the closeness with her as well but this has to stop. I could use some advice on how to do so. BTW she has never been a baby who is attached to things. She never took a pacifier and does not have a favorite blanket or stuffed animal. How do I encourage that for self soothing?

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Thank you to you all who have responded. I know I am not in this challenge alone! I have so many great tools to work with now. I forgot to mention in the request that our baby is not breast fed at this point, and we already do a ritual of bathing, soft music, book reading, then we rock. So we already have the right tools in place just need to reduce the rocking when the right time comes. It is most important to allow her to soothe herself for when we have others watching her, as we have only left her a couple times at this point with sitters and family.

I love all of the responses and you are all great Moms. I am sure in about 10 years I will wish I had these rocking moments again. When I see her whisper "Night Night" and wave before she nods off it is all worth it. I believe with a little of your tips and a little of letting her evolve on her own we will do just fine. Thanks again!

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I too rocked my son for bed time and naps when I was home. But about 14 months old there came a point when he just wanted to play and not go to sleep. So if 9pm came and he wasn't asleep from me rocking then I would lie him down in bed. He soon learned that it was bed time when we lied him down.
Good luck!

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I also rocked my children as long as I could because I loved the closeness as much if not more than they did. But they are now 10, 17 and 20, it would be VERY hard to rock them at this age! Lots of people need "wind down" time before going to sleep, including adults. When we made the transition we gave them a choice of options. (They liked having the choice.) We'd get all ready for bed then say "Music, story or rub" (rub meaning a back rub). Each option was done while they were lying in bed. The music option gave them wind down time alone. The story and back rub options gave them the attention of one of the parents. My husband and I would take turns putting them to bed, which worked into another choice they could make by choosing which parent put them to bed. Eventually they developed a favorite. We all love my husband's back rubs and they'd prefer the story time from me. When they wanted to be alone the choice was always music. These options can also build great habits for when they are older. The right music can help people of all ages relax when stressed or upset about something. Reading is always a good, healthy habit. Once they are reading well, they can read their own books before going to sleep. Appropriate personal touch is great bonding for people of all ages. The back rub time also gives them time to share their thoughts and happenings of the day. This builds good communication skills. Not to mention teaches the child at a young age that they can share their feelings, etc, with their parents.

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Hi C.,
Sounds like we are in similar situations. Alyssa is 18 months old, and we are starting the transition from rocking to sleep to teaching her how to fall asleep on her own. We've never let her cry it out. And she also doesn't have any favorite toy to snuggle with. Our plan of action is to make the transition gradual. Alyssa has one nap during the day, so I'm starting with that one. Bedtime, we still rock. Instead of rocking her at naptime, I sit her down on our bed with her cup of milk (I think her comfort is her milk instead of a snuggle toy or blanket or pacifier), and I lay down too. Onces she's done with her milk, she knows it's time to lay her head down. And I let her squirm, kick her legs and chatter away until she falls asleep on her own. She's not fussy about it at all, she just always likes to move. We've done this for just about a week and a half for naptimes and it takes about 15-20 minutes now for her to fall asleep. When we started it took 30 minutes. Once she's asleep, I move her into her crib, and she stays asleep through that transition. Once she gets in this habit, we'll do the same thing at bedtime, and eventually get her to do it in her own crib instead of our bed. That's the plan anyway. Who knows if it will be that simple. Good luck!

I'm guessing from the neck and back strain you are standing to rock her. Could you try sitting in a rocker or even holding her for a while in a regular chair? It would still be close cuddle time but not as physically demanding.

Sounds like you got a ton of great advice and I read everyone of them as we are in the exact situation or time of transition. My daughter did recently attach to a blanket and I think that has really helped. At night, I can hold/rock her until almost asleep and then put her in bed to let her put herself to sleep. Nap time doesn't work so well, but I figure one at a time, right??
Maybe if you can find one thing that she can attach too, even if it is a toy horse or babydoll or teddy bear it might help the transition.
All I keep thinking is that one day, I will wish I had these moments back. I wish you all the luck...

I would gradually implement a new bedtime routine. We have done this with both our 19 month and 8 month old and it's worked well. We'll tell them okay it's time for bed and we'll change diapers, put on pj's, brush teeth (the 19 month olds) and then they each get read to. The 19 month gets to pick out a book or two (at both nap time and bed time) and the 8 month old isn't quite at that stage yet. After the books, lights out. Each has a musical light up toy in their room. The youngest love her Piglet doll that plays lullabies and lights up. Our oldest has adapted to this routine very well and has been going down without any issues since she was about 11 months old (when we finally moved her into her own room). The 8 month old who is really just starting to get it still has evenings where she cries for a few minutes and then falls asleep. If she cries for more than 5 minutes either my husband or I will go in and rub her back or pick her up and sway her until she's almost asleep. Then we put her back in the crib. It's made it easier for me knowing that it's a process and if you're consistent your child will continue to feel safe and loved. Good luck!

When we transitioned our daughter to going to sleep without us nursing or rocking her to sleep we would rock her and cuddle a little while while standing up until she was sleepy then put her in her crib and kept a hand on her until she fell asleep. After she got comfortable with that we slowly reduced the time we spent with our hand on her. It worked well enough for us. She was also a child who had no attachment to toys, just to us. Good luck

I think your daughter is getting old enough that she can understand Mommy has a hurt. Right? I mean when she hurts herself does she come to you crying, does she understand, do you kiss her boo boo, reverse this, you have the hurt and she needs to help? So, you can try to explain as best you can that she needs to be your little helper, and that you can't hold her much or rock her to sleep. Replace you with a stuffed animal or a doll. If she doesn't have a favorite item, then maybe go and have one made, make it special, explain to her that this is the "thing" that you will sleep with and hold on to in place of mommy because she is hurt.
I deal with a terrible back, gave birth to 10lb, 11lb, and 8 lb little boys, so they started out big, and didn't help the back much and by 16 mths you can only imagine how big they were. I had a flare up once, my body went numb and I fell down 6 steps when I was pregnant with the second one, and my son was only 17months, it scared him, but you know what he did? He got his favorite bear and blanket and gave it to me to make me feel better, they understand, they really do. He sat with me for awhile and then I needed him to go get the neighbor and he was even able to understand to go across the street and get my friend, (that was a scary thing to have to do) but he did it. Children are smart and I sense that you both have spent plenty of time with her and she probably would do just fine, if you talk to her like she is a big girl.
As far as wanting the closeness you can deal with that by having your daughter cuddle with you on the couch where you don't have to lift her, use stools so that she can get up by herself, and tell her how happy you are that she is such a big girl and helping you so. When it is time for her nap, you take the stool and put it by her bed, and have her crawl in, again praising her on how much she is helping mommy feel better. She might not like it, but again if you have bought her something special to use to help her, she will get it.
You really need to make her understand how much pain you are in, she will get it. But you need to be consistant. Don't pick her up during the day and walk around with her, make sure to remind her that you can't pick her up because you are hurt, it works, she will get it.
Good luck to you.

Sounds just like my life a month ago. We used to hold our now 15mo old until she fell asleep, but I would get so tired that I could only sit in front of the tv afterward till bedtime. I started a new routine with her of putting on her pj's, brushing her teeth, read a story and in the crib. She also has never been attached to anything material. We play a lullaby cd for her and rub her back for 2 minutes or so then leave the room. She cried and I would let her for 5 minutes and then go in and rub her for a couple minutes and repeat this 2 or three times initially. Within a week she cried 2 minutes before she fell asleep and she still does most of the time. She is now attached to a teddy bear we put in her crib. I now have time and energy to do chores once she goes to bed. I hope this helps. Good Luck.

You did not say if you are breastfeeding her, or whether you read or sing to her while you are rocking her. You also did not say whether you stand/walk to rock her or use a rocking chair.

I understand it can be a challenge to even get a little one to transition from being held while you walk with her to sitting in a chair, but perhaps if you used a nice rocking chair while reading picture books with her. Our family favorite has GOT to be "Goodnight Moon" (probably a thousand times per child) but there are so many absolutely beautiful children's bedtime books that are easy to capture your baby's attention with while you soothingly rock her on your lap in a chair. Let's see, here's a little list: "When the Sun Rose", "Mama Do You Love Me?", "A Fairy Went A Marketing"--these are my all time favorites because I like them, too!

Also, use music. There are some amazingly sleepy and beautiful lullaby albums available through Music for Little People. Put one of them on in her room, gently rock her in a chair with soothing lights (twinkle lights are really nice for above a rocking chair), and show her a book designed to move baby into sleepiness, and it won't be long until THAT becomes the treasured routine--one you can easily both love for many years.

The best thing about that? It will help her when she begins to talk, which is coming very soon if it hasn't already, and it will help her become attached to reading and music.


I too rocked my son for bed time and naps when I was home. But about 14 months old there came a point when he just wanted to play and not go to sleep. So if 9pm came and he wasn't asleep from me rocking then I would lie him down in bed. He soon learned that it was bed time when we lied him down.
Good luck!


My 15 month (25 pounder) old was very similar. We started earlier with her than this, but the principle will be the same. You can rock her, sit and cuddle with her, whatever you would like to do until she's drowsy, then lay her in bed. For my daughter we also play a CD of lullabies while she sleeps. This way she falls asleep, and wakes up in the same place. She had the hardest time if she'd fall asleep on me, then wake up in her bed.

Hope this helps,

have you tried laying down together? are you still nursing? maybe you can introduce, gently, laying down together. maybe you can find a calm song she really loves and lay down together and sing to her. my three year old was a baby who loved being held and i think when she was getting heavier, i started laying down with her to get her to sleep, while nursing. much luck~s

I began by having a simple routine of cuddling with my daughter, then walking her into her bedroom where we would pray together and hug and kiss goodnight. She had a little cassette player and I would allow her to choose a little story cassette to listen to. After a while, she bagan waking up at the end of the cassette, so I began turning on the classical music station for her, and later her sister too, at night. My oldest daughter is coming up on 15 now and still enjoys listening to classical music at night. She has developed a love for classical music, although she also likes the popular music. :) I have been amazed at her knowledge of music just from listening to the radio! Blessings to you all, and I hope this helps!

One of the reasons your daughter doesn't have a "lovie" is because she hasn't needed one. She has had you, which is WONDERFUL. I also rocked and/or nursed my son to sleep, it was such a wonderful part of our day. But it does become impractical as they get bigger.
What we did was to put his crib "sidecar" to our bed, with the rail that slides, totally off. We could cuddle until he was asleep and then just roll apart from each other.
People told me that if I let him sleep with us (although he was in his own crib) that he would NEVER learn to sleep on his own. Well they were wrong! When he was ready he moved into a big boy bed in his own room with no trouble at all. Enjoy this time while you can. Soon enough they will want you to knock before you can come into their room.

HI C.,
Oh the sleep transition issues:) I have had so many of those with my 6 month old daughter and tried a million different things. The funny thing is she always seems to just figure things out on her own. My baby is the same one, not attached to anything either.
I have done a ton of reading on this from rocking them to sleep to crying it out. I finally settled on some combination that I could handle and was willing to try.
I read the book The Baby Whisperer and then logged onto the website (babywhisperer.com) and had a TON of support from moms on how to do their sleep program. I think it's the best one and the best for baby.
The main things I have learned are to be consistent-if you start something keep doing it every night you will see progress. Do a nighttime routine-this worked really well for us. Bath time, reading, nursing then to bed every night and she now goes down without a peep. Babies need to learn to fall asleep on their own, so if you rock her to sleep and she wakes up in the night she needs the same situation to go back to sleep. That is why I liked the baby whisperer method, it helps you help baby learn how to go to sleep without crying it out.
I also found if I tried the routine of how I was going to put her down for naps, I had more energy and patience to make it work. So when we did it at night it was easier. I didn't try to implement a sleep solution at night when I was tired ,because I would just give up or give in.
Remember as soon as you figure it out it can change too, so don't be discouraged..find a sleep solution and routine and just keep doing it, it will pay off.
Good luck:)

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