How Long Should You Hold a Baby Before Putting Them down to Sleep?

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A challenging part of being a parent is getting your baby to sleep. You might have come across several tips and how-tos to solve the issue. Out of all the options, holding the baby until they’re asleep has got to be the most popular one.

How long should you hold a baby before putting them down to sleep? It depends on your baby’s age and sleeping habits. In the first months, a baby is usually held for about 15 to 20 minutes until they reach deep sleep. Try the floppy-arm test where you lift their arm and check if it drops instantly. If it does, it means they are fast asleep, and you’re good to go.

Realistically, most parents choose to hold their newborn baby all the time, which is completely fine. Satya Narisety, M.D., a Rutgers University Department of Pediatrics assistant professor, stated that it’s okay to hold an infant younger than four months old to put them to sleep the way they need it. Remember that newborn babies have a lot of adjustments to do, and you are there to guide them.

Mother Holding Baby


Once your baby gets to 5 or 6 months old, a routine begins to take shape, and this is where you can start shifting gears. At this stage, you can start putting your baby down to sleep once they feel drowsy. Soothe your little one until sleep is near, put them in the crib and let them sleep on their own. Allowing your baby to sleep on their own is to make sure that even if they do wake up, it is easy for them to go back to sleep without your help. Waiting until your little one is fully asleep might become a struggle in the long run. Expect that this won’t be easy and remember that this phase requires lots of practice. Remember, the goal is to limit further sleeping problems down the line and teach your little one to sleep independently.

How Can I Move My Baby to Sleep?

Mother Holding Baby in Arms

Another question that comes to mind is how we can move the baby to sleep without waking them up. Earlier, I’ve discussed holding the baby to sleep and teaching them to sleep on their own. This time, let me share with you the best ways on how to move the younger babies from arms to the crib without disrupting their sleep.

1. Use a White Noise Machine

White noise is a go-to tool for helping a newborn fall asleep. It is a compilation of sounds that has the same intensities. The audio provides babies with a calming effect by covering up other types of noise in the room. You can turn on the white noise machine once your baby falls asleep to help mask off the sound as you transfer them from your arms to the crib. This machine can also help a baby fall asleep, for it helps create the ideal sleeping environment for the little ones.

If you haven’t purchased one yet, check out Marpac Classic White Noise Machine (view on Amazon).

2. Move Slowly and Carefully

Be reminded that there would be a change in temperature from your warm arms to the cold room; that is why timing and movement matter a lot at this point. Right timing means letting your baby feel the room and allowing a few seconds to pass while holding them over to the crib’s side. Focus on your movement because one wrong move can ruin everything, and then you’ll be back to zero again. Be soft and gentle and try not to make unnecessary movements that can wake your little one up. Minor sounds made by clothing or objects around you can disrupt the baby’s sleep, and that is why white noise and slow movements are a perfect combination.

3. Get into a Good Routine

Establish a bedtime routine that will let the baby know it’s already time for sleep. Bedtime routines help condition the baby’s mind, calm them down, and prepare them for a good night’s sleep. Is there a specific time frame for this? It depends on the baby’s sleeping habits, but the earlier, the better. You can start trying different routines at six weeks and stick to the one that works best for you and the baby. Create a comfortable environment along with the white noise and proper room temperature. It’s also important to remember that clothing is essential; that is why you must learn how to dress the baby for bed appropriately. Check out Gerber 2-Pack Sleep Teddy Newborn (view on Amazon).

4. Wait for Deep Sleep

Do the arm test correctly. Once the baby is in a deep sleep, place them down and try to pull your arms away as gently as you can. Remember that safety is also your top priority, so let the baby sleep on their back and not their stomach or sides. Make it a habit to check on them regularly to make sure they stay in the right sleeping position.

Aside from the usual cribs, bassinets have also gained popularity over the years. They’re the perfect additions to small spaces and for those who would like to move from one room to another.

5. Celebrate!

Congratulate yourself on a job well done. Getting a baby to sleep is hard, so celebrate this little milestone and take that much-needed rest.

Putting a Baby to Bed Awake: Common Mistakes

Crying Baby

Let’s now give the spotlight to babies five months and older. As mentioned earlier, try to teach your baby to sleep on their own during this phase. By doing so, you are establishing good sleeping habits that will benefit you and your little one. Here are things you should avoid doing when putting them to bed awake and a few extra tips for your growing baby.

1. Placing the Baby down Too Soon

Try to move them from your arms to the crib right before they’re fast asleep. This will send a message that aside from your arms, a mattress is a great place to sleep, too. You have to catch all their sleeping cues and put them down just in time before they drift off into a deep sleep. Some common signals are yawning, fussing, rubbing eyes, and looking away. Remember that we are teaching the baby a valuable life skill at this point: sleeping on their own. Cribs, bassinets, and mattresses are your best friends, so remember to choose the best and safest ones for the baby.

Here’s a high-quality and breathable mattress called Graco Premium Foam Crib and Toddler White Mattress (view on Amazon).

2. Not Being Consistent

Following different schedules is a big no. Consistency is vital when it comes to an effective bedtime routine. Even at five months, continue establishing a routine for your little one. Make sure to follow the recommended naps each day to make sure that your baby sleeps well through the night. Exciting activities should be done during the daytime and avoided during the night. Try giving the baby a warm bath before bedtime and snuggle them up with a comfortable pajama to let them know it’s time for bed. You can also read books or sing a lullaby as you tuck your baby to bed when he’s already drowsy. An additional tip is to allow daytime naps as needed for your baby’s age.

3. Keeping the Baby Awake During the Day

Another mistake is keeping the baby awake during the day to make sure one will sleep well through the night. Disrupting a baby’s sleep schedule will make the little one crankier and may also give them sleeping difficulties. That doesn’t sound good, right? Try to look for baby sleep cues and proceed with your sleeping strategies once you’ve noticed them.

4. Not Allowing Them to Sleep on Their Own

One more common scenario is picking the baby up immediately when they wake up and cry. You might experience this during your first tries in putting a baby to bed awake. One suggestion is to wait a few minutes and let the baby cry. Let them settle and observe if they will go to sleep again on their own. If they don’t, try to pat or soothe them until they calm down and stop right before they drift off. If it doesn’t work, you can lift up your baby again and reassure them that they’re in a safe place.

5. Allowing Them to Sleep with Their Bottle

Putting your baby to bed awake while holding a bottle doesn’t sound so good. It comes with risks like cavities, infections, and choking. It’s also a bad habit to surround your baby with distractions and expect them to sleep comfortably without your help.

Conclusion – How Long Should You Hold a Baby Before Putting Them down to Sleep?

Remember that all these strategies are more effective when combined with patience, practice, and persistence. Caring for babies naturally comes with sleepless nights and tired arms, but you can make the experience a lot better by creating a routine that works best for you and your little one. A night of good sleep can make your parent-baby bonding more fun and memorable.

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