Wednesday 14 March 2012

Rock a Bye Baby - Should You Rock and Snuggle Your Baby to Sleep

One evening whilst Joseph was in hospital I had fed him, winded him, and was snuggling him. He drifted off to sleep. A nurse, who looked 102, came in, waggled a finger at me, and said "don't do that, you must put your child to bed awake or a rod for your own back, you will surely make". I was a bit shocked. I'd never heard of such a thing, as far as I'm aware I was rocked to sleep. Surely once home we'd be breastfeeding to sleep?

But from that day on, I put Joseph to bed awake, as was standard practice on the unit. Nurses didn't have time to snuggle babies to sleep and I couldn't always be there. It all makes total sense, and is probably, aside from allowing mothers to sleep on the unit, as happens in some European NICU, the only solution.

When we got home, I had a ready made self settler. At times Joseph could be a little tricky to get to sleep, he'd be unhappy to be on his own, so I would lie across the foot of the bed and read whilst he fell asleep, and that was it. He'd be asleep within 20 minutes. We did often let Joseph nap on us during the day though. He was a very sleepy baby and often would just drop off whilst sitting on our knees.

Now, looking back, and with a better understanding of what's normal, I feel robbed. I never got to decide how I'd parent. I was given a Gina Ford, bottle fed, self settling baby! It wasn't what I expected, and really, not what I wanted. I guess I should be grateful, but I feel at times we missed out on special time together. I also feel, in a sense, less of a mummy because I didn't get that opportunity to rock him or cuddle him to sleep.

There is so much conflicting advice for parents about what to do, getting your baby to sleep. I have seen this article from Dr Sears linked a lot recently and wanted to share it with you, 31 ways to get your baby to sleep and stay asleep.

I really love this post shared by my friend Claire, it's beautiful, poignant, and still makes me a little sad that that was not my experience. But even for us bottle feeding mamas, the sentiment is true, those still hours of the night/early morning, just you and your baby.

I think it's so important to get to know your baby, what they like, what they dislike, and to be ready to change and develop with your baby. What works today may not work next week. Love and acceptance is so important, we can't make our babies follow a routine if that isn't what they want to do.

I'm not saying that Gina Ford is of the devil, and one shouldn't use sleep training techniques. I think as parents we need to find our stride, and do what works for our family.

Equally, those that rock, that snuggle and cuddle, aren't doing the wrong thing. Babies need closeness, some need movement, and that's ok too.

I just wish I had had the opportunity to choose my parenting style. 


  1. K has always wanted me close to her and I still 'sleep' next to her to settle her to sleep. It's not a bad habit and she enjoys it. I'll do it for as long as she ants me to. Throw away the books, listen to your heart.

  2. I love snuggling Jemima to sleep, she doesn't need it all the time, but it's the best thing, all the maternal health nurses told me I was making life difficult for myself later, but I cherish all the snuggles!

  3. I agree, you should never be made to feel bad for cuddling your sleepy baby / child. My mum said to me, you only get a child that even WANTS to do that for a very short time, they grow all too independent so quickly so enjoy it while you have it. On occasion, if I have a foot attack my head in the night sometimes I think 'Really?' (lol) but for the most part it's the most wonderful time of the day!

  4. I agree with the sentiments about wishing you could have chosen your parenting style. Wriggles was largely self-settling and it took a while after NICU to get used to being "allowed" to offer tactile so it was a little bit after discharge before I could 100% say I revelled in it and gained confidence as a parent to make descions about rocking and soothing (or anything else). Some of my nicest memories is bottlefeeding at 4am; it is such an intimate time that absolutely no-one else intrudes on. I quite liked nightfeeds actually! Even now at 18 months sleepy baby cuddles are brilliant-and far less frequent.

  5. Do what you really love to do with your babies while they are young. You'll never know when they'll grow up and does not need any snuggle or cuddle from you anymore.

  6. I wish I has a self settling baby sometimes, our lad sleeps in our bed, and falls asleep on the boob, in the pushchair or sometimes in the car... You are so lucky!