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Ask Dr. Karp is a monthly Q & A series with world-renowned pediatrician Dr. Each month, he will join us on the our site Blog to to answer questions from our fans.
Q: I have a 2-month old who will only nap if she's in the swing. I have tried swaddling her and rocking her in my arms and then laying her down and if I do that, she only sleeps briefly. What can I do to break her from the swing habit? I should note that she sleeps fine at night in a bassinet (she just has to be rocked in the swing first.)
- Laura Langan Spoerl (submitted via the our site Facebook page)
Ahhh…sleep! It's so elusive for new parents. A recent our site survey found that 51% of new moms are sleeping less than six hours a night. No wonder exhaustion is the #1 complaint of new parents! Sleep deprivation feels like torture. And it literally can lead to marital distress, depression, car accidents … even obesity. The good news is that there's a lot we can do to help babies sleep better.
Most babies, like your 2-month-old, have trouble sleeping in a quiet, still room. They doze much better when surrounded by some of the soothing sensations. These sensations work so well because they turn on a calming reflex – an off-switch for crying and on-switch for sleep that all babies are born with.
I want to make sure that, before using a swing for sleep, you're swaddling your daughter snugly (so her arms can't pop out) and using a rumbly, rough white noise CD (about as loud as a shower) for all naps and nights. Most babies can get to sleep with just those two cues to help them, but if those don't seem to be enough, you can use the swing, as long as you use it properly. For example, make sure that in the swing, your baby always sleeps reclined or flat (never sitting up), is kept away from dogs, and is safely buckled in. Also get her doctor's approval.
I bet you'll be able to wean her from rocking within a week or two of starting the right type of sound. But if not, don't worry! You will be able to gradually wean her from the swing within a few months. Good luck.
For more info on swings and sleep, check out the The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep.
Three of America’s most popular parenting DVDs/books The Happiest Baby On The Block, The Happiest Toddler On The Block and The Happiest Baby Guide To Great Sleep: Birth to 5 Years were created by Dr. Learn more of his landmark baby, toddler and sleep tips at www.happiestbaby.com and follow @HappiestBaby and @DrHarveyKarp on twitter and like us on Facebook.
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.