Why my baby won’t lie down for sleep

By Kate, 6th October 2021

To lie down is a skill

Why my baby won’t lie down for sleep? If you’re reading this, you’ve likely got a little one that’s been falling asleep in an awkward position or refusing to lie down. Or you’ve heard that it can be an issue and you’re looking to learn how to deal with it ahead of time.

Your baby has learned to stand up! This is amazing and a wonderful milestone! It’s such an exciting time to be a parent, and this is such a huge step into the world of growth and development.

Having said that, a lot of babies run into a bit of an issue when they first learn to stand up; they haven’t learned to get back down and lie down for sleep.

During the day, this doesn’t present much of an issue. Your little one can spend all day practicing going from a standing position to seated, all while you’re next to them helping them through it.

Night time is a different story

But once night time rolls around, this becomes a whole other issue. On the one hand, you can’t just leave your baby in a situation where they might fall down and hurt themselves, but on the other, if you keep going in and laying them down, they don’t learn how to do it themselves. What’s more, they’ll quickly learn that standing up and making a fuss is a pretty effective way to get mum or dad back into their room and paying attention to them.

So there’s a fine line that we need to walk in order to help baby figure out how to solve this little situation they find themselves in without creating a bad habit that could sabotage their sleep.

As with all things in parenting, patience is essential here. Keep in mind that your baby may not know how to go from a standing position to a sitting one on their own yet, and they may not realise yet that sleep comes a whole lot easier when you lie down. Remind yourself of this when they wake you up for the fifth or sixth time in three hours because they’ve woken up and gotten back on their feet again, fussing because they can’t get back to sleep.

Practice

The quickest way through the first part of the equation is to develop that standing-to-sitting skill, so during the day, practice going from standing
to sitting any chance you get. When baby pulls herself up to a standing position, try putting their favourite toy or comforter on the ground nearby, gently encouraging them to go from a standing position back down to ground level in order to get their reward.

Once they’ve got that skill mastered, however, that second hurdle may still be an issue. They may not realise that sleep is a whole lot easier to achieve when they lie down.

Be patient

It seems like it should be instinctive, I know, but a lot of things seem that way when you’ve been doing them all your life. When you’ve only been around for nine or ten months, it might not seem so intuitive. Patience is key!

Use signals

We don’t want to create a situation where baby starts relying on you to do the work for her, so avoid repeatedly laying her down when she stands up in the crib. Do it a few times at first to show her what’s expected, but once that’s established, switch to a more suggestive approach that doesn’t involve contact. Pat the mattress and use a key phrase, like, “Lay your head down,” or “Come lie down, baby,” and before too long, they should start to connect the dots and realise that lying down is the best way to get to sleep.

Remember, even though it might appear that your little one is fighting sleep sometimes, that’s almost never the case. They want to sleep, but they just lack the skills necessary to get there on their own, so help them figure it out without doing the work for them and they’ll take care of the rest as soon as they develop a little confidence and ability.

Stay consistent

And one last little tip before I leave you! Hats off to all of the single parents out there and the amazing work they do, but if you’re raising baby with a partner, talk this out with them and come up with a plan that both of you can agree on and follow through with. One parent responding with one set of expectations with another responding totally differently is going to confuse baby even further in a situation where they’ve already got a lot to figure out. Both of you will need to respond in the same way in order for your expectation to be clear. You’ll see results a whole lot quicker.

As always, be calm, be patient, and be consistent. The hard work now will pay off a thousand times over when your little one is sleeping soundly through the night and happily going down for naps during the day.

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