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?
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.
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.