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Sometimes my infant falls asleep in my arms and I need to transfer him to a more permanent position. When I try to lay him down in his crib, he wakes up and cries. Is there a good way to make the transfer without waking the little one?

  • I have several kids and can tell you: This mainly depends on the child. I've had those you could drop over the mattress and they would curl into a ball in their sleep and snore, and those we had to carry on our bodies for months, because lying down was not an option. – sbi Mar 29 '15 at 13:13
  • My oldest was one of those who would wake at any disturbance. She also required me walking her around the neighborhood for like a mile every night to go to sleep. Getting back inside, up stairs with gates, and into a bed were very much an exercise in patience. I found a way to hold her that would minimize the insanity. I could press on the mattress to build a trench I could slide my arm through. While it may be difficult to describe this to you, my point is that it was all in how I held her. You may have to find that position for you and spend a few weeks mastering it. – Kai Qing Mar 30 '15 at 21:14
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Slowly and carefully.

With my kids the usual points were:

  • Too soon.
    When the baby is not fully asleep, they tend to wake up. Wait for the "ragdoll state", limp arms and legs, deeper breathing and often mouth slightly open.
  • Moro reflex.
    The moro reflex is triggered when the baby has a sensation of "falling", this happens when you place the baby backwards into the crib. Instead lower it slowly sideways to the mattress, then carefully roll her onto her back.
  • Sudden coolness or "looseness".
    Your arms are warm, the crib is cool, some babies wake up due to temperature change. So when you have placed him sideways in the crib, keep your hand/arm on his back for a bit before rolling him backwards. Let him feel "held", even in the crib.
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    Keeping on holding the baby for a couple of minutes even once he/she is in the cot, really helps - IME. – A E Mar 28 '15 at 17:16
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I come from a family whose tradition is Native American. Before cradling the child to put him or her to sleep, we swaddle the babe tightly to contribute to a sense of security. This also cuts down on dramatic temperature or texture change or the feeling of "looseness" which Stephanie describes.

Some children do not respond to this method because they simply do not like the feeling of being restricted. If the practice is begun when they are newborn, it becomes a way to ease anxiety and makes transferring from your arms to a bed feel less noticeable. (It acts a little bit like the "Thunder Shirt" which is marketed in the US for anxious animals.)

For children who do not respond to tight swaddling, you can instead cradle the child with a blanket between you and the infant before you put them to sleep. The blanket will warm to your body temperature and when you make the transfer, the texture and warmth of the blanket should help mask the move. And again, I agree with Stephanie about keeping your hand on the child briefly and then lightly lift away so the change in pressure is gradual.

Upon close listening, the women in my family have noticed that all of our children tend to let out a long, deep sigh which can be a signal they've transitioned to deep, slow-wave non-REM sleep. This has been an indication that the baby is fully asleep and is a good time to try the transfer.

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  • I like this answer, except for the final paragraph, which is not accurate. Some babies do this; others don't. If you edit the last paragraph off, I'll add my upvote. – Rory Alsop Mar 31 '15 at 7:41
  • Thank you for pointing out the correction, Rory. Point well taken. – WoobieTuesday Apr 1 '15 at 12:12
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    Good edit Woobie. And a good answer. Have an upvote:-) – Rory Alsop Apr 1 '15 at 12:30
  • @Rory, this newb thanks you! :0] – WoobieTuesday Apr 1 '15 at 12:34

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