It’s not easy to pick one single thing that’s the hardest part about becoming a new parent. (Yes, it is a miracle and all that jazz, but let’s be honest: It’s not all miraculous. Poop is not a miracle. Besides, even if poop is a miracle, it can still be a difficult miracle even in the best of times.) If we had to, though, we’d pinpoint the moment when your baby falls asleep in your arms, then when you go to lay the baby down in their crib so you can finally take a shower—the little bundle of joy immediately wakes up screaming. What is with that?
It turns out that we aren’t the only ones to wonder why this occurs.Ask Dr. Sears. “Help!” While Dr. Sears proceeds to make a few helpful suggestions, he doesn’t really answer the question. “This is a situation that frustrates almost every parent at some time,” he writes instead. “Realize first of all that this is very normal. It is not that you are doing anything wrong, or that something is unusual with your baby. It is very normal for babies to do this.”
Yes, but why? Why is that normal? And how can we change it?
Surely the Baby Center community can help, right? Upon further research, we discovered that user aBabyCentermember asked the very same question in 2002. “My baby will sleep for up to five hours at a time,” the user wrote. “But only if I’m holding her. As soon as I lay her down she snaps wide-awake. Help!” The “best answer” suggests that “ultimately our time with our children is so limited and passes so fast, why not enjoy every minute of it?” Essentially, that means: Hold your baby all night long, every night.
That doesn’t seem like the most practical solution in the world, so we kept searching.
Eventually, we found what sounds like the truth. Sleep consultant Christine Stevens of Sleepy Tots Consulting added her two cents on the parenting site Romper. “Babies usually wake up when they are laid down because of a change of environment,” she said. “They go from being snuggled in a parent’s arms to a cool mattress or surface.” That makes perfect sense, but we can’t very well heat the mattress up to 98.6 every evening. Instead, experts recommend swaddling your infant. This keeps your baby’s startle reflex in check so they can relax even during times of change.
Even better, try establishing a predictable nightly routine and stick to it.
Slowly get your baby ready for bed over the course of half an hour or so. Dim the lights, read a bedtime story, and get your baby in bed while they’re beginning to feel sleepy but before they actually fall asleep. That way, when it’s finally your turn to catch a few ZZZs, you won’t have to shock your infant awake with a sudden change of scenery. Instead, you’ll have a calm, quiet household filled with the lovely sounds of silence. A decent night’s sleep is sure to make the time you spend with your little one tomorrow that much sweeter.