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  • Michelle Goudy

The Drowsy But Awake Myth

"Put your baby down for sleep drowsy but awake." You've heard it before. I've said it before. In fact, I've said it a lot. The idea is that you're putting your child down for bed while they're on the verge of sleep, but still awake. Sounds like a good plan, right?


Actually, it's not. I've stopped telling families to put their baby to sleep "drowsy but awake." Now I tell families to put their baby down awake. Completely, awake. Why? I have two reasons:

1. Finding the "drowsy but awake" sweet spot is challenging. Are they drowsy enough? Too drowsy? Are they asleep? It's hard to tell. Most of the time, when I instructed families to put their child to bed drowsy but awake, they ended up putting their baby to bed asleep. And when baby is put to bed asleep, they usually wake up within a few minutes and they are mad. The person that was just cuddling them is no one to be found and they're in a different place than where they fell asleep. And if they are put to bed asleep, they are not learning independent sleep. Which brings me to my next reason...


2. When baby is put to bed drowsy or asleep, you're doing all the soothing work for them. They are not learning how to self soothe or learn independent sleep skills. Even if baby really is "drowsy but awake," you're still doing the majority of the work for them. For a baby to sleep well at night, including bedtime and night wakings, they need to learn some self soothing skills.


So how should you put your baby to bed? Awake! You should still do a nice, calming bedtime routine that involves books, pajamas, songs and a cuddle or two. But then put your baby down in their sleep area awake. If they protest, use a sleep training method you are comfortable with. Pretty soon, your baby will learn to find their pacifier or fingers to suck on, roll to a comfortable position, sing to themselves or find one of a variety of ways to put themselves to sleep. And once your baby learns to put themselves to sleep, life gets a lot easier!


Note: Babies usually develop self soothing skills around 4 months. Prior to this, you can still put your baby down for sleep awake, but they will probably need a little more soothing help from you.


Still having trouble getting your child to bed? Contact me! I can help!

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