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My son is 6 months old and falls asleep to the movement of his swing. When we put him down to sleep, he gets super cranky and throws a fit (I think).

When my husband tells him no, our son cries hard and my husband says that's my son's way of understanding. I feel our son just gets frightened because of the stern tone in my husband's voice.

What can I do to getting my son to not act this way? Is it to early to be telling him no and teaching him at this age?


Edit: additional information incorporated from various comments:
He will push himself up in his swing to where he nearly is over it even strapped in. The swing is safe, but he's too long for it. I have a crib but my son likes to sleep in his swing. I've tried transitioning him multiple times and it doesn't work. He has slept in his swing since he was 2 weeks old. He falls asleep to the movement of the swing and sleeps to the movement.

When our son starts crying and in my view throwing a fit, we both tell him no or that it's not OK to do that. We don't yell or spank him we just talk to him and tell him no. My husband puts a more stern tone in his voice when telling him no as to when I do it. And I think that's what scares him.

He has multiple toys and activities he does throughout the day. The only time he is in his swing is to sleep. Nothing else. The only time he's constantly in it is at night when he sleeps through the night.

  • May I ask you to please add some detail? I'm not quite sure I understand the situation. It appears you've been letting your baby sleep in his swing (all night?). You want to stop now because when he's cranky, it's unsafe? What is your husband saying "no" to that you believe scares him? I'm just not sure what you're asking. Thanks. – anongoodnurse May 7 '15 at 5:39
  • I've brought most of the information from your comments into the main question and cleaned up the comment threads in a couple places. Hope that the answers and feedback you got will be helpful :) – Acire May 17 '15 at 19:45
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If I understand your question correctly, you are telling him "no" to throwing a fit.

when our son starts crying and in my view throwing a fit, we both tell him no or that it's not ok to do that.

Babies that are are unable to control their emotions. That takes a lot of front-lobe neural activity which isn't developed yet. Around 15 - 18 months, they start to be able to modulate their emotional reactions somewhat, but even up to school age that is very difficult for children to do. You can find a lot of interesting insights to what baby is capable of understanding or not in the book:

What's Going on in There? : How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life by Lise Eliot

At this age, it's better to physically limit any activities are dangerous rather than simply saying "no". Since you say the swing isn't dangerous, it's more about your desire to get him to not swing so high and ideally to fall asleep in his crib without having a strong negative emotional reaction or "throwing a fit".

Getting to sleep in his crib will take time, and will undoubtedly be accompanied by negative emotional reactions since his swing has become a sleep association; just like you probably couldn't fall asleep easily without your pillow and blanket since you are used to having them every time you go to bed.

Try some of the suggestions from Dr. Ferber: Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems: Revised Edition by Richard Ferber

He lays out strategies for breaking sleep association problems. It takes time, isn't easy, and does involve some crying.

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What can I do to as to getting him not to act this way?

As a response to the specific situation, there is nothing you can do to make him not act that way. Not any more than someone can make you not be afraid of gun being pointed in your direction, or make you not be sad when a loved one dies. He's displaying a natural, emotional reaction to a situation.

What you can do, however, is adjust the situation so that it is less emotionally stimulating.

The blog http://www.troublesometots.com was extremely useful for me when my daughter was that age. The author actually advocates for the use of the swing in the early months. However, when it is time to wean from it, she recommends a slow process. First you use the swing at a lower speed. Then even lower. Then to the point where they are in the swing, but it is not moving. Then the swing moves closer and closer to the crib, until the night you finally move baby directly into the crib at bedtime.

This is a good practice for most changes when involving children, actually. Look at where you are, where you want to be, and find some incremental steps you can take to get there.

Is it to early to be telling him no and teaching him at this age?

In the sense that it will be harmful, no. In the sense that it will actually work, yes.

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You're right that a stern tone can have an impact on an infant or a toddler. That doesn't necessarily mean it's wrong to use it; but it largely should be used when it's necessary to get their attention. For me, stern tone comes out (intentionally) when they're doing something unsafe, or hurtful to another; the two times I really want them to pay attention.

An infant who is crying at bedtime is neither unsafe nor hurting another, and moreover is not necessarily capable of understanding what he's doing wrong in this instance. At four or five, it could be a tantrum. At six months, it's certainly not; it's an expression of emotional pain.

One thing you need to be very careful with at any age is acknowledging the feelings of a child are genuine. It's inappropriate to tell someone how they feel (unless they are having trouble parsing their feelings, and want or need your help). If your child says "I'm mad", you don't tell them "You shouldn't be mad". You tell them they should change their behavior, not their feelings.

At six months, this is pretty difficult for them to understand. The crying and fit is an expression of confusion, lack of control, and stress, as well as sadness and anger. What can you do to help this? Some of it is simply time: the more you have them sleep in their crib, the more used to it they'll be. You may need to comfort them more. I still to this day stay with my 2 and 3.5 year old until they fall asleep in bed; I don't doubt that will continue for another year or two. That isn't necessary for everyone - hopefully not for most - but it's not all that uncommon. You can try 'cry it out' or the related Ferber method, or any one of a number of options for "no-cry" sleep training; or simply stay with them like I do. Either way, you need to take an approach appropriate for a six month old who's really unable to control his emotional response.

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What can I do to as to getting him not to act this way?

I think the other answers address this fairly well. You're having an issue transitioning your little one to a new sleeping arrangement. That is an incredibly common issue. Sleeping location changes are a big deal for infants and toddlers. That's why there are so many "methods" out there for dealing with them.

Rest assured, this happens often, to many (if not most) parents. The biggest key here, with whatever method you choose, is going to be consistency. Make a plan with your husband on how to handle this, preferably using a method you've carefully evaluated and clearly understand, and stick with it. Your child will not likely make it easy for you, so you have to be prepared for him to cry, fuss, throw tantrums, maybe even scream. Hopefully, the method (no-cry, Ferber, whatever) you choose already addresses these possibilities.

Is it to early to be telling him no and teaching him at this age?

Absolutely not. We were telling my son (now 2), "No" pretty much from the get-go. The first word he spoke on purpose was, in fact, "No".

I think it's a great word to teach your child. It's something they don't like to hear, but it's sometimes necessary. When he would grab plug-in wires, pull hair too hard, bite, try pulling themselves up on unstable objects. There are a lot of things you don't want a somewhat-mobile little one to be doing, for their safety.

Your tone can impart some meaning in this. If it's more urgent and sudden, it might trigger your child's "danger" response, and cause them to stop more quickly. If it's loud, stern or angry may cause fear, anger, or frustration. If it's too gentle and not commanding, it might simply be ignored.

It may be hard to separate whether your son is responding to the way the word is being delivered or the word itself. So, trying some softer tones and see if the problem persists. I do have a feeling that your 6-month-old understands the meaning behind, "No", and it's simply not what he wants to hear. His reaction is probably, in my opinion, his way of expressing frustration with not getting what he wants.

There are also alternatives to saying, "No", so directly. This Parents.com article list a few. Based on that advice, I would try wording like this:

"Your swing is for swinging. Your bed is for sleeping."

Being so little, your child won't pick up on the meaning of this phrasing right away. But, eventually he should associate the words "bed is for sleeping" with the act of going to his bed.

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I recommend using the swing much less. Once or twice a day, for fun, but not as a way of getting the child to sleep. The child can sleep on a simple bed arrangement set up on the floor or on a low platform if you do not have a crib.

I agree with you, six months is too young for the type of discipline your husband would like to apply. Good discipline is based on a trusting relationship.

We need to recognize that your husband is probably expressing his frustration. His frustration is very understandable. It will be important to acknowledge that with him. His feelings are important and understandable.

Please make sure your baby is getting lots of exercise, fresh air, play time with mother, play time with father, and opportunities to see other children. These are all conducive to good sleeping.


Edit

@user16058, thank you for clarifying! Alice's advice about weaning off the swing sounds good. You might experiment with getting baby to sleep by holding him in your arms, or in a carrier, and swaying, rocking or walking. A wrap-style of carrier is the best for this, in my opinion. Here is a video that shows how to do a "kangaroo pouch" wrap. Once you've got baby in your kangaroo pouch, you should walk around and sing. I used to walk back and forth in my hall. He may cry for a minute or two, but if that baby is tired, he will be asleep within five minutes, max.

You don't want to get him to sleep this way every day. This method is for the days when he's having trouble falling asleep in the usual way. While you're getting out of the swing habit is a good time to use the baby wrap method.

Baby throwing a fit when it's bedtime or naptime could mean you're expecting him to take too many naps. At this age, most babies have settled down to two naps per day. But it could also mean that he's so excited about all the fun stuff that's going on in his life right now, he's resisting falling asleep. Six months is a time when that often happens. There is a wonderful book about baby's first year by William Sears called "Growing Together: A Parent's Guide to Baby's First Year."

I wish your husband's method of reading the child the riot act and ordering him to cooperate, stop resisting, and allow himself to fall asleep WORKED -- but my second baby had a great deal of difficulty winding down to fall asleep, and I can attest that the police chief-bullhorn method is doomed to failure.

  • This comment sparked my curiosity. How do you make sure a 6 month old is getting plenty of exercise? – anongoodnurse May 7 '15 at 5:21
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    @anongoodnurse: For a 6mo, I'd translate exercise as tummy time, encouraging him to kick or grab at toys, holding him in positions that train the core muscles like bent forewards at a 45 degree angle towards something interesting.... Lots of alternatives to being strapped in a swing or stroller. A few minutes at a time will usually be pretty exhausting for the baby. – Stephie May 7 '15 at 5:55
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    @anongoodnurse, we did a lot of "dancing". And babies like to push themselves up from your lap with their legs, while you're holding their hands. You can tell when they've had enough and are getting tired. I also enjoyed playing airplane. I'm lying on my back on the bed, I lift my legs with my knees bent, and put the baby on my calves (baby is face down). I hold his hands and he holds his core strong. I move my legs forward and back, so he's "flying"! It's thrilling. – aparente001 May 7 '15 at 23:40
  • Thanks everyone. I've reread alot of these comments and I lined most of the answers. My son does not like to be rocked or held while he's trying to go to sleep. Since he was 2 weeks old he never liked to be cradled. As well as not sleeping with me. I've weaned him off of that which is why I think he doesn't like to be held when trying to sleep. He doesn't like to lay on his back while sleeping either. So there is more to my situation than posted. – user16058 May 8 '15 at 4:59
  • That is interesting! Maybe your son has a little bit of sensory defensiveness. Maybe a heartbeat sound would help - see sensory-processing-disorder.com/helping-baby-sleep.html Can he fall asleep in a stroller? (Strapped in, of course.) You can experiment with moving the stroller in a variety of ways. It would help if you could post his typical schedule (times of waking and going to sleep). – aparente001 May 8 '15 at 5:23

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