Baby Cries When Put Down? Try These 15 Expert Tips

Baby Cries When Put Down? Try These 15 Expert Tips

Your baby is sleeping soundly against you with a look of absolute tranquility on that angelic face.

Surely this must be an appropriate time to set them to rest?

You move as gently as can be so as not to wake them.

You get to the crib.

You’re inches away from a successful mission.

And then ‒ in the plot twist of the century ‒ your baby cries when put down.

We know.

This isn’t easy.

Whether you have a newborn or a toddler, the frustrations of bedtime can be real.

So why do babies cry when you put them down, and what can we do about it?

In this article: 📝

  • Why does my baby wake up every time I put her down?
  • What should I do if my baby wants to be held all the time?
  • Why does my baby scream when put down?
  • How do I get my baby to stop crying when I put them down?

Why does my baby wake up every time I put her down?

There’s no single answer to why babies cry when being put down.

There are so many factors that come into play ‒ one of the most significant of which is how long they’ve been on the planet.

Newborns spend about 50% of their time in REM ‒ a sleep state that houses dreams and shows similar brain wave patterns to being fully awake.

As they shift from one phase of sleep to another, they might wake up or cry while still asleep.

They can shift between sleep stages multiple times even within one nap.

There are all kinds of theories out there about the “best” time to put your newborn down according to which sleep state they’re in.

Some people have luck holding their baby until they’re in a deeper stage of sleep and then putting them down.

But your baby’s sleep state can be hard to judge, and just when you think baby’s deeply asleep and ready to be put in the crib, they transition back to REM and wake up as soon as they leave your arms.

It’s tough, mama!

What should I do if my baby wants to be held all the time?

Look, you’re one popular person right now.

Your baby wants to be as close to you as possible.

As baby sleep expert, Alicia Dyshon, says “babies aren’t wired for separation”.

And their little instincts on this are good.

In fact, recent studies have shown that being held by you can impact your baby right down to the molecular level.

It may even affect their social interaction in preschool.

But while there are few things sweeter than this, it comes with some interesting challenges.

Separation anxiety is real.

Basically, your baby doesn’t quite know that departures are not permanent.

They really, really want to be near you, and are alert to your presence even while sleeping.

Even a crib beside you, is separation for a tiny baby and night-time sleep represents the ultimate separation, 10-12 hours away from their primary caregiver.

Plus, they’re very sensitive to the smallest changes in temperature, even while they are asleep.

Transitioning from your warm arms to a cold, flat crib can instantly alert them to the fact that mom is putting them down and leaving the room.

Occasionally, warming up the crib with a heating pad (and removing it before putting baby down) can help with this.

And there are even more possibilities that might come into play.

Why does my baby scream when put down?

If your baby was previously easy to put down but is having a rough patch, or you have a baby that screams for hours every day, you might be looking at some different causes, according to Alicia Dyshon:

  • They could be going through a sleep regression.Sleep regressions happen when babies go through growth spurts, separation anxiety and/or progressions in development. Common ages for this to happen are around 4, 6, 8 to 10 and 12 months old.”
  • It could be colic. If baby’s crying a lot, is particularly fussy, and/or difficult to soothe, they could be colicky. “Colic is a red flag of an underlying issue. It’s a symptom that something is bothering them. Whether it’s related to diet, reflux, or a feeding issue, it’s not something to be ignored. If your healthcare professional dismisses it, I recommend getting a second opinion. It’s not normal for a baby to cry for hours during the day.”
  • They could be sick. If your baby has a temperature higher than 102 ℉, is showing signs of dehydration, or displaying any other symptoms you are worried about, check in with your doctor. Those little immune systems are still kicking into gear, making them more prone to infection and illness.
  • They could be teething. “Teething is uncomfortable. And babies will often want to be close to their primary caregivers when they’re not feeling 100%.”

How do I get my baby to stop crying when I put them down?

Knowing that all babies are different, here are some strategies you can take to help make putting them to rest a little easier.

We’ve broken it up by age group ‒ but you may want to do a little mixing and matching depending on your specific circumstances.

What to do when your newborn cries when put down

If your newborn baby cries when put down, here are some options to try:

1. Establish sleep patterns early on

As this long-term study of infant sleep revealed, sleep patterns generally start to set in from about the six-month mark.

It helps to get into some sort of routine before this.

If your baby has a predictable sleep routine, it might be easier to put them down in their crib.

According to Alicia Dyshon, “The sleep routine doesn’t need to be over complicated, it can be 3 simple things that you do in the same order before each sleep. For example: Diaper change, sleep sack, nurse or feed to sleep. Babies thrive off this predictability.”

2. Swaddling for the win

Swaddling can give some babies a sense of comfort and security and prevent them from startling themselves awake as you lay them down on their back in the crib.

3. Rocking to the beat

This study proved something that mamas throughout the ages have been keyed into ‒ rocking your baby to music really helps to soothe them back to sleep.

Add a swaddle to the mix and you’re headed for maximum baby chill.

A more relaxed baby might transition to the crib more easily.

4. Offer the boob or the bottle

Newborns eat as often as every one to three hours, and sometimes they can nurse for almost an hour at a time!

You might think your baby is asleep, but just as you try to detach them from your body and put them in the crib, they start to cry because they’re still slowly finishing their meal.

It might help to tickle your baby’s feet or blow on their face to keep them awake during feeds and make sure they get enough milk so that they’re more ready for a nap.

5. Home baby spas are all the rage

Who doesn’t love a relaxing massage?

As it turns out, your baby might be a fan too.

A baby massage can be a great way to soothe them, and you can do it while they’re in the crib to hopefully coax them into falling asleep and staying asleep there.

6. Transfer them butt- or feet-first to the sleep space

“Once fully asleep, try transferring your baby to their sleep space bum or feet first to avoid startling them awake”, says Alicia Dyshon.

“You can also try transferring them to their side and once settled, carefully shift them to their back for safe sleep.”

7. Wait to transfer them until they are in a deep state of sleep

Patience, mama.

Alicia Dyshon says, “With newborns, this is typically about 20 minutes, and with older babies, it’s closer to 10 minutes.”

But how do you know when to transfer them?

“Do an arm check by lifting their arm and dropping it gently to test if they are fully asleep. Wait until you feel a muscle jerk, this is their muscles relaxing as they get into a deeper state of sleep.”

Now that’s a deep sleep!

8. Make the sleep space smell like you

As Alicia says, “Babies attach and connect through the senses in the first year of life. If they cannot see you, hear you, smell you or touch you, they will signal to ensure you are still there. Babies are not wired for separation, so we need to do our best to help bridge that separation they are feeling in the sleep space.”

One way you can do that?

Your smell.

“You can do this through scent by removing their crib sheets and sleeping with them or wearing them. If you’re breastfeeding, you can spill some breast milk on the sheets. You could place an item of your clothing in the crib prior to transferring them and remove it once they have settled for safe sleep.”

Sounds weird, but we won’t knock it if it works!

What to do when your older baby cries when put down

If your babe is a little older, and they’re still crying when you put them down, or they’ve just started this fun new habit, we’ve got you, mama.

Alicia Dyshon has some extra-special techniques and tricks for you to try.

9. Continue to support them to sleep

There’s a ton of advice in the baby world that encourages you to put your baby down “drowsy but awake”.

But it might not be the best for your babe, according to Alicia: “This is not necessary for good sleep or for connecting sleep cycles nor is it the reason they are waking when you transfer them. If supporting your child to sleep has previously worked well for your child and you enjoy doing it, then you should keep doing it.”

Whatever works for you, mama.

“It’s completely normal for babies (and young children) to need some help falling asleep. You are their safe place, and sleep is a vulnerable state to be in.”

10. Nail down their unique wake windows

Wake windows aren’t a strict schedule for all babies to follow.

Alicia stresses that “It’s important to remember that suggested wake windows are just averages and may not work for your unique child.”

But if your baby’s waking between their normal wake windows, there could be a reason.

“Often, babies will wake when transferred because their wake window prior to falling asleep was ‘off’ and they are either over or under-tired, causing them to stay in a light state of sleep and wake up crying the moment you transfer them.”

Ultimately, you know your babe best: “You need to find the ‘sweet spot’ for their unique needs. You can experiment with wake windows in 15 minute increments to nail down timing for sleep.”

11. Try a floor bed

The floor could be your friend here, mama.

“If your baby wakes the moment you transfer them to the crib, you can try removing their crib mattress and putting it on the floor. This will allow you to support them fully to sleep and roll away once they are in a deep state of sleep eliminating the transfer.”

Just make sure you’re still following the recommended safe sleep guidelines, too: “You will need to take safety into consideration and ensure their room is set up as a crib essentially (no loose blankets, furniture strapped to walls, electrical outlets covered and a video monitor set up).”

12. Reassure them every time you leave the room

What you do during the day can have a bearing on how things play out at night.

“If your baby is going through separation anxiety and was previously fine falling asleep in their crib, the big challenge is letting them know that when you leave, you’re not going for good.”

13. Know that this, too, shall pass

If your baby is going through a sleep regression (which Alicia prefers to call a progression in development), know that this won’t last forever.

“If they’re going through a growth spurt, it may help to offer more feedings so they’re nice and full when you try to put them down.”

14. Help them cut those teeth

Tooth pain might be the reason your baby is crying in their crib instead of falling asleep.

If they’re drooling and biting a bit more than usual, this could be what’s up.

Here are the symptoms to watch out for and what you can do to help them through this.

15. Look after yourself through all of it

You matter.

It’s fine to reach out to others, to get support, and to do this together.

Let’s have the conversation.

Join us on Peanut.

Good luck, mama.

And if you need more support, don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider or your Peanut Community.

You’ve got this!


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