Baby Only Sleeps While in Motion

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  • My son had a short colicky period when he turned 6 weeks and could only be nursed and bounced to sleep. Now he's 8 months and 26 lbs, still needs to be nursed and bounced to sleep and he's starting to kill my back. He's not a self soother at all. Won't take a pacifier, lovely, nothing. So I know most traditional methods of sleep training (such as cry it out) won't work well for his personality type. We also cosleep, because we live in a studio. Eventually, I'd like to get to a point where I can have my husband put him to sleep or maybe my mom. My husband used to be able to bounce him, but now our son just won't sleep with dad. I want to continue cosleeping, but I want him to fall asleep without nursing or bouncing. I don't know how to transition from where we're at. I've read a few sleep training methods and nothing has worked for our situation. Has anyone dealt with this predicament before?

    My son nursed and rocked to sleep until he was almost one year. We were also cosleeping. At that point we transitioned him to his own room and crib. Like your son, he wasn’t interested in a pacifier and did not seem able to self soothe. But we did it. Your situation is a bit different so I don’t have any specific recommendations. What I can say is that you need to have a plan and stick to the plan. Be consistent. Whatever it is. I read the sleep easy solution. Also the group on Facebook, respectful sleep training/learning, was helpful. Good luck. You will get there. 

     I also have an eight-month-old. We tried sleep training around 5 months for a long time, but it just didn’t stick. So I’ve been nursing to sleep, and rock him in the chair I nurse in. Thankfully my back is fine because I am in the chair. The problem is that now between 6 and 10 PM anytime he’s wakes him self he starts screaming for me. It’s been getting pretty bad. What we are going to do is start honly respond during that time. It’s like our version of sleep training. Hopefully it will be an OK transition. After that, we will transition to patting and maybe not responding at all in that timeframe. He has his own room, so that makes it much easier. I generally don’t nurse him in the middle the night either.

    My son was also not a self soother, would not take a pacifier and needed to be nursed/ bounced/rocked or bottle fed to sleep. I envied my friends who had babies that would just lay down and sleep unassisted. We tried sleep training for several weeks (both "gently" and Ferber) and found that our son could scream for hours night after night with no improvement as all the books promised. We concluded that there are some children who just don't respond well to sleep training and it wasn't worth it to us to break his spirit in order to teach him to sleep alone. We continued nursing to sleep and co-sleeping into toddlerhood and it has worked out fine. At 26 lbs you won't be able to bounce to sleep much longer so you'll need to start a new routine. What about nursing laying down, no bouncing?  My son liked rhythmic pats on his back or bottom. Sometimes I would lay him on my chest and gently jostle him up and down while I was laying down in bed. You could also try leaving the house and having your husband bottle feed expressed milk. If you're not available he may be able to develop a new routine with dad. Looking back, this is one of the sweetest parenting predicaments we've dealt with.They grow so quickly.

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11 week old only sleeps/naps when held and jiggled

April 2008

I have an 11 week old son who only sleeps when he is held and jiggled/rocked - sometimes up to 30 minutes! No matter how tired he is or where he is, he must be held and jiggled before he falls asleep or else he cries ( he's had meltdowns in every store in town if he wants a nap - not one to just fall asleep in his car seat or stroller.) He also has been waking up from naps every 5-10 minutes, or waking up early ( after 30 -45 minutes). Sometimes he can be rocked back to sleep, other times he can't. I've heard it is better to put a baby to sleep drowsy, but awake so they learn to fall asleep on their own. However, as my little one cries when he is drowsy unless he is held, how can we use this method to teach him to fall asleep on his own? Ann

I have 2 small children. One has always been a great sleeper, the other one a terrible sleeper. I bounced and marched all over town, while it seemed everyone else's baby slept peacefully in their stroller. By 6 or 8 months old, he didn't need that, but to this day is a light sleeper and resisted sleep til he was three. The other one did everything the way all the books say they will! By then I had thrown away all the books. I tried everything, and you probably should too, just so you know you have! It's nothing you did, some babies just need that extra something to sleep. Parenthood is all about survival and you need your sleep, too! I was never very good at using a sling hands-free, but you may want to try one. keep on jiggling

I have 2 kids 3 1/2 years old & 8 months old. My best suggestion is to just let your baby cry it out. I know this can be hard for some parents but i had to do it with my first and it worked. in the beginning he would cry about 30 minutes than it would taper down over time. But i always put the baby down for a nap awake, so he learns to fall asleep on his own. My second baby always wanted to nap on his stomach. So i would keep him in my family room with me and he would nap on the couch for 2 hours on his stomach. if he was on his back he would nap for 30 minutes. Doctor's don't want babies to sleep on there stomach's- but my baby wanted to . And well our parents put us on our stomach's and we are alive to tell the tale. I suggest you let him cry it out..... hope that helps. anon

Unfortunately, 11 weeks is WAY to young to sleep train (put down drowsy so he can learn to fall asleep). My daughter hated her crib/bassinet at that age and we let her sleep in a side to side swing. Worked like a charm - 2-4 hr naps a few times a day. You could also try a wrap or sling when you're out instead of a stroller. Around 12 weeks, babies start to have a little more consistent nap times so be on the lookout for that. But for now, just rock/jiggle him if he needs it. He's so young, you've got a long way to go. Try the 5 S's as well (Happiest Baby on the Block) to sooth him and don't worry about him falling asleep on his own yet. My daughter is a year old and still doesn't do it on her own all the time yet either. I know it's a lot of work but that's part of the deal. Congrats on your new baby and be patient. Rockin' Mama

8-month-old only naps in stroller or baby carrier

Oct 2007

My 8 month-old has never had a problem sleeping in her crib at night but she has never once taken a nap in her crib (or her bassinet before that.) The only way to get her to take naps is in the stroller or in a baby carrier. (She used to nap in the swing but now she is just too big!) I don't get a break all day because I have to hit the pavement for her two nap times. I am just exhausted. We have let her ''cry it out'' at night but we just can't do that consistently during the day because grandma takes care of her in the mornings and just doesn't have the heart to hear her grandbaby scream. It just isn't fair to ask grandma to do that. Does anyone out there have any other suggestions? desperate for nap breaks

Oh, I could have written your question 6 months ago! We had the exact same problem with our son - nighttime was fine, but he would only nap in the stroller or the car, never in his crib. It was tough, but we finally resolved this by letting him cry it out for his naps when he was 7 months old. The first day, he cried for 8 minutes, and then he napped for 2-1/2 hours! so we realized that he was more than ready to make this change.

The key to making this work is consistency: everyone who took care of our son knows the system and sticks to it. If the grandma can't handle crying it out, that's going to make it harder. Could you start the sleep training on a weekend, so that you'd get a few days under your belt by the time your daughter stays with her grandma again? The grandma would probably be happy to see the end of all those long walks herself.

I also had (and still have) a hard time listening to my son cry while I'm trying to get him to sleep. This is my technique for getting through it: when I put him down and he starts to cry, I set the kitchen timer for 10 minutes. Then I do a chore like dishes or laundry, so that I'm not hovering outside his room feeling worse and worse about his crying. If he hasn't started winding down after 10 minutes, I go get him, and we try the nap again in an hour. Would your mother be willing to try this?

Anyway, hope this helps, and good luck! Kristine

Neither of my girls were crib girls for naps until about 9-months. I would lie down with them, take a nap, and then at some point get up -- the girls would finish naps while I sat across the room working on the computer, folding laundry, etc. At some point they just started sleeping in the crib for naps without fuss. Can't tell you why, but they did. They are two and four now. The younger still naps wonderfully. -been there

2-month-old only naps while in motion

August 2006

My two-month old son sleeps very well at night (in a co-sleeper or our bed), but will only sleep during the day while in motion (Ergo, stroller or, grudgingly, the swing). The moment the motion stops, he wakes up. Even if I'm holding him, if I sit down, he starts crying. I'm grateful for the nightly rest, but it's hard to get anything done during the day. Does anyone have any suggestions for getting a young child to sleep while still? Is that realistic at this age? anon

Oh, you are not the only one. Isn't it hard to believe that some babies fall asleep all by themselves when set down in their cribs? My son has never done that. He used to sleep pretty well at night in the co-sleeper, but during the day he would not stay asleep if he was set down. So for the first five months during naps we either held him in our laps or wore him in the sling. Finally I felt like I was ready to make a change and I began setting him down in his crib after he had fallen asleep nursing. At first he woke up almost every time, but gradually he got used to it. It was a slow process; it probably took six weeks, until he was seven months old, before I had a 75% success rate. (I wasn't rigid about it; on days when I felt like he really needed a nap, I'd keep holding him so he could get the sleep.)

You asked if it's realistic for a two-month-old to sleep without motion, and I think the answer is yes -- you can train your child to do anything, but it takes time, patience, and persistence. I sometimes wished I had started setting my son down sooner than five months old, but now I do cherish the memory of him napping milk- drunk in my lap during those early months. Also Nap Challenged

this is a really tough age - i feel for you as i will be experiencing it again soon myself! they just aren't in great nap patterns at this age and it is extremely frustrating. we ended up letting him nap on his tummy (the only way we could get him to relax). but he wasn't a big motion sleeper. one recommendation i have for you, the book ''healthy sleep habits, happy child.'' i felt like reading even the other parents stories in it helped me cope with this age. my son is a great sleeper for following the book and ever since his naps were well established (7 months) things have been really easy with sleep. but, it also has hints on how to handle stuff like this by a guy who really knows his stuff anon

Two months is so young, itUs totally normal for your baby to need motion (re-create the womb and all that). My boy was like that, and IUd just rock/bounce/walk him to sleep then gently lie him down while still jiggling him. IUd keep my hands on him for a little pressure. A lot of times heUd still wake back up and then IUd try again a few times. Even if it worked one-third of the time, it was worth it! I waited until between four and five months to sleep-train him because I felt he was ready. He wasnUt sleeping well because he relied on motion and couldnUt put himself back to sleep when heUd wake up from a nap and at night. It took some crying at first, but he got it and now sleeps REALLY well. Good boy! anon

my only advise is this, if your baby will only sleep while in motion then let him sleep while in motion. he/she is only 2 months old it won't last forever. do what works! what ever it takes really. our now 6 month old would only sleep in his vibrating chair and now he sleeps fine on the bed. they change so much and really who cares he/she will be fine sleeping in the swing. good luck friend

Have you tried The No Cry Sleep Solution? (author Elizabeth Pantley) She helps set up a routine for naps as well as nighttime sleep and after about a month's concerted effort, my 6 month old now takes pretty regular naps. She would not nap at all during the day before that unless she was in my arms or on my nipple. Good luck! Jenny

Our daughter also had a hard time falling asleep without motion. What ended up working was playing a white noise CD (she liked ocean sounds) while she was sleeping. We used that for naps until about 4months, which was when she started sleeping easier (this is what the book, ''Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child,'' said would happen). I recommend this book - it's a good reference to have around.

I also bought a crib vibrator from, but ended up returning it since she started sleeping with the CD, and also because we use the Angel Care monitor that detects movement. But that might be an option for you Alex

Use a swing with the highest setting and don't feel guilty about it. They will grow out of it eventually. Until then, there's nothing you can do to put them to sleep without the constant motion. My now 4&1/2 month old still nap in the swing but now she can do it without the motion (she just like the cradle seat of the swing). grateful mom

[Editor] see also: Baby sleeping on stomach