I get it. You have a routine. You read a story or sing a song and get baby snuggled up in that cozy spot in your arms. You sit down in the rocking chair, ready to rock baby right into a nice, long slumber. Except, all of a sudden, baby doesn’t settle down. Why is it that baby suddenly hates the rocking chair? And what are you going to do without your trusty rocking trick?
If your baby hates the rocking chair then she is probably fighting sleep rather than rocking itself. Instead of relying on a single method to get her to sleep, try creating a calm environment with soft music, a diffuser, or even a lovey. This can be a good opportunity to sleep train baby so she learns how to self-soothe.
Read on as we dive into why baby may be fighting sleep and what you can do to soothe her if rocking isn’t working.
Baby won’t go to sleep while rocking
Sometimes a baby may not enjoy being rocked to sleep.
It’s entirely probable that the reaction has more to do with baby fighting sleep than her fighting the actual rocking. Babies are fickle and may fight sleep either because they’re not tired or they’re too tired – unfortunately, it’s possible that you missed ‘just-right tired.’
Of course, there’s always the possibility that baby is just getting older and doesn’t fit as comfortably in your arms (cue the tears) in the rocking chair like she did when she was smaller. That’s okay. I promise. It may signal that it’s time for your baby to say bye-bye to the rocking chair and begin sleep training.
Why do babies like to be rocked
Most babies enjoy being rocked to sleep.
The rhythmic movement of rocking naturally puts baby at ease and sends them to sleep since it reminds them of being inside their mother’s womb.
Not only is the rocking motion relaxing for babies, but it’s also relaxing for the parent rocking baby.
Baby fights being rocked to sleep
One of the best ways to get a newborn to fall asleep is through rocking, but babies will remember the association as they grow, not always for the better.
Your baby may fight it when you try to rock her to sleep because she has started to associate rocking with sleep time, and, for whatever reason, she doesn’t want to go to sleep.
So what she’s really doing is fighting sleep. If baby is fighting sleep because she is overtired, you can try changing her nap schedule, or focusing on awake windows and sleep cues.
Why does my baby hate being rocked?
There are many reasons why your baby may suddenly fight being rocked to sleep.
Maybe she’s overtired or just not tired enough. Or perhaps baby is a social butterfly and afraid of missing out on the fun! Baby could also be experiencing some separation anxiety and just doesn’t want to go to sleep because she knows that means you will leave the room.
Most babies will go through multiple sleep regressions during their first year.
Sleep regression typically occurs at 4 months, 6 months, between 8 and 10 months, and at 12 months. This means that your sound little sleeper may suddenly start waking up in the middle of the night or have trouble falling asleep to begin with.
Sleep regressions usually last 2 to 4 weeks and can be caused by a developmental milestone, growth spurt, teething, or change in routine.
If your baby is going through a sleep regression, her not wanting to be rocked probably has less to do with the actual rocking and more to do with her just not being comfortable enough to fall asleep.
If baby is overtired, she may not be able to settle down to go to sleep, no matter how much rocking you do.
Here are some signs your baby may be overtired:
- Tends to take short naps
- Unable to handle frustration
- Has meltdowns (in older babies specifically)
- Falling asleep during the day when it’s not nap time
To make sure baby doesn’t get overtired, it’s best to give her the opportunity to get all the rest she needs, including daytime nap(s) and enough sleep at night.
If there is a lot going on in your house right before baby’s bedtime, like lots of bright screens or noisy toys, baby may become overstimulated and unable to fall asleep.
When you go to rock her, she just may not be able to settle down. It’s probably a good idea to avoid stimulating activities the hour leading to baby’s bedtime.
Between 8 and 14 months, most babies start to experience separation anxiety.
The thought of you rocking her and then putting her in the crib without you (gasp) is stressful to baby and will likely result in her fussing and not wanting to be rocked and put to sleep.
Baby’s Not Tired
It’s entirely possible that baby is resistant to being rocked and falling asleep because she simply isn’t tired.
As your baby grows and gets older, she will need a little less sleep at night. Babies typically need 11 to 14 hours of sleep between the ages of 1 and 2, rather than the 12 to 16 hours she was getting before.
Do babies grow out of being rocked to sleep
If you are one of the many parents who rock their baby to sleep, the good news is that you won’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) do it forever!
It’s generally recommended that you start sleep training baby when she is 4 to 6 months old. At this point, baby has likely stopped her night feedings and haven’t associated the rocking with going to sleep yet.
When to stop rocking baby to sleep
How will you know when baby is ready? If she is sleeping at least 5 to 6 hour stretches at night without needing to eat, then that’s a good sign.
How can I soothe my baby without rocking?
Rocking baby to sleep may seem like the only way she actually falls asleep. But, there are some other things you can try.
The overall idea is to create a calming and relaxing environment for baby to fall asleep. Some tips you can try include: playing music, diffusing a scent, using a white noise machine, giving baby a blanket or lovey, or offering a pacifier.
Play relaxing music
Music that is soft and soothing can help create a calm environment for baby that will help put them gently to sleep.
Diffuse a calming scent
Putting a few drops of oil in a diffuser may help create that calm environment that helps baby sleep.
Specifically, chamomile is popular amongst both babies and adults for helping with sleeplessness. When putting an essential oil in a diffuser, it’s important to put just a little bit.
Some essential oils that should not be used for babies include birch (also known as wintergreen), eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary, lemongrass, cinnamon, and sage.
White noise machine
Using white noise may help put baby calmly to sleep since the noise sounds a lot like what baby heard in the womb. Of course, it shouldn’t be played all day long, and once baby drifts to sleep, you can turn it down or completely off.
Soft blanket or lovey
Once baby is old enough, a lovey could bring her the comfort she needs to relax and get some good sleep.
It’s recommended that you wait until baby is at least 1 years old before allowing her to keep a stuffed animal or small blanket lovey in her crib with her. Once she starts bonding with it, it can help her as she learns to self soothe.
Offering baby her pacifier at night time (or nap time) could help your baby relax enough to fall asleep. When babies are sucking on something, it often soothes them, even when they’re fussy.
Is rocking your baby harmful?
While rocking your baby isn’t necessarily harmful, it can definitely have some unwanted effects, like interfering with your baby’s ability to self-soothe and put herself to sleep on her own.
If you rock your baby to sleep for too long, it can create a sleep association, where your baby will become dependent on you rocking her for her to fall asleep, every time. Baby learning to put herself to sleep will really help everyone get a good night’s sleep.