There is a question "why do children wake up and cry immediately after being put to bed" already on this site, which has answers partly covering my question. But only partly.

How do I put my newborn (or, later on, infant) to bed without waking her? Can anyone recommend moves or other techniques which will give us a better chance of preserving her sleep?

7 Answers 7


When a newborn falls asleep, he or she falls first into a light sleep. If you wait 15-30 minutes (20 minutes is a good guess usually), your newborn will transition to deep sleep. A good test to see if your newborn is in a deep sleep is the floppy arm test. Pick up an arm and see how floppy it is when you gently let go. The arm of a newborn in light sleep is stiffer. The arm of a newborn in deep sleep is floppy. I used this on my daughter into toddlerhood on the occasions when she needed helping to sleep.

Once in deep sleep you can fairly easily transition even the lightest sleeping newborn. Now once that deep sleep phase ends and the newborn transitions back to light sleep, it might be game over. To handle the sleep cycle transition have you tried swaddling and incline sleep (a Fisher Price Rock 'n' Play, for example)?

Around 3-4 months infants fall into deep sleep first, usually over the course of 5-10 minutes. However along with this change comes many other changes to sleep and memory which can cause the process of "helping a child to fall asleep, then placing that child in a crib" to backfire for many kids.

  • 1
    Hey, I thought I was the only one to use the floppy arm test. Commented Oct 9, 2014 at 20:24
  • Interestingly enough, the floppy arm test has been a total fail for my second child after the newborn phase. She is rarely in a deep enough sleep to transfer. I pretty much have to put her down wide awake or hold her until I want her to wake.
    – justkt
    Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 15:40
  • 3
    Could you elaborate (or link to more details) about the "backfire" part?
    – jamesdlin
    Commented Jul 3, 2017 at 20:30

Try to maintain whatever posture or position she's in as you pick her up and put her down. Pay extra special attention to the head and neck -- our most sensitive orientation and motion sensors are in our ears. I've found that for the lighter sleeping sessions it's less likely to wake my own children.

That said, ultimately it depends on the child. My oldest is such a deep sleeper that I could just grab her and throw her into her bed from across the room and she wouldn't twitch.

  • 3
    Also it depends on the mood of the child. I have mastered my "putting sleeping child to bed" move, but in the end it doesn't guarantee me anything. Don't feel bad if it doesn't work.
    – Timmetje
    Commented Dec 6, 2013 at 15:17

I'd suggest one hand around the back of the neck/head and the other under the bum. Keep her close to your body until she's already laid in the cot.

Plan ahead and be sure there's nothing between you and the cot/basket that might get in your way.

Also make sure that the temperature of her bed is fairly warm so she doesn't miss your body heat so much. Sometimes keeping your hand on her a little while after you've put her down may help.


Put a heating pad in the crib beforehand, let it warm up and remove it just before putting in the baby.

Along with the advice about waiting for deep sleep and being gentle, this really helps.

Again, do not leave the heating pad in the crib with the baby.


This is not really a methodology but more of a "move".

Your mileage may vary on this, but I found it best to move along with the newborn. When my baby was still less than a month old, I let her sleep on my left shoulder while carrying her. Once she falls into the "lull" period of her early sleep, I slowly bend over and shift my left forearm under her back and parallel to her spine before straightening myself up again. Basically, my palm is almost at her bottom while her head rests on my upper arm.

Next is the real trick: while my daughter is resting on my forearm, I will smoothly ease into a sitting position on the bed and lie slowly with my left hand palm-down on the bed. My baby usually ends a bit raised on her left side now while a bit squished into my left rib area. I then smoothly and slowly slide my hand outward on the surface of the bed, emulating a sweeping motion, which slowly puts her into the bed.

It might seem like a weird move and a bit difficult to execute, but it's actually pretty easy and can be done in a total of 2-3 seconds. The difficult part is trying to not jerk your arms while moving that quickly. Also, it preserves her posture from her original position when she fell asleep on my shoulder.

I found that my baby reacted to this better than putting her slowly to bed. It's so effective that she's turning two years in a couple of months but she still reacts best to it every single time (she hates being put into bed the "traditional" way, as she always give a quasi-myoclonic jerk as if she was falling).

  • 1
    Either I don't understand you or my joints don't bend the proper way. Any chance of making a movie and posting it?
    – Dariusz
    Commented Dec 6, 2013 at 13:33
  • You are co-sleeping! Now it makes sense. Took me almost a month to understand your post. I could not do that with my daughter sleeping in her crib.
    – Dariusz
    Commented Jan 1, 2014 at 18:18

For us there were two key factors:

  • As mentioned in some other answers, keeping them in the position they were in is very handy if they have fallen asleep on you; so cardling them, supporting their head and moving your body down with them helps them fail to notice what is happening.
  • An even better solution if you can plan it, is to swaddle them quite tightly before they fall asleep, with arms inside the blanket. This then means you can move them anywhere and just concentrate on keeping their head in position. This works really well for newborns - it does become less useful as they get older, but newborns really like that comforting pressure all round them.
  • Our child really hates to sleep with her arms swaddled - if she wakes and can't move her arms she starts screaming. Her usual deep-sleep position is the French style (hands up, surrendering). Thanks for the hints, though.
    – Dariusz
    Commented Dec 6, 2013 at 14:38
  • You could try a swaddle with the arms out. It seems to be rarer, but a lot of people do use this.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Dec 6, 2013 at 14:44

I wanted to add that babies, while they should sleep on their backs, they may be laid down on their side. This too will seem as if they are still being held in cradle position. This of course after you have verified that the baby is on deep sleep or almost there. It works both ways for me and Yes, it does depend on the baby's mood for that night.

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