Why won’t my 3 week old sleep in the cot?

Well, the cot is a long way from being anything like the lovely place she had prior to the last 3 weeks.

Well, compared to the wonderfully safe and warm place she was curled up in three weeks ago, the cot is a cold and scary thing. She was tightly contained in the womb, and now she's expected to sleep flat on her back, in a cot without your warmth, movement and comforting sounds.

So, I think the question is, "How do I help my baby adjust to sleeping out of the womb?" The answer is...

Little by little

Offer small and supported experiences in the cot to start. Try lying your baby in her cot with your hands over her and with very gentle rocking. Some quiet white noise in the background might help as well.

Don’t expect your baby to be skilled at sleeping in a cot straight away. Most likely, she will only go down in the cot when she's fast asleep.  You can then progress to putting her down when drowsy, and eventually you'll be able to put her into the cot while still awake.

It will all take time, so be realistic because this is something new for her. So offer opportunities to settle in the cot, but be ready for them not to work. If she becomes distressed, pick your baby up for a cuddle, calm her and try again. Only try two or three times at first, and do each sleep for several days to you give your baby time to adjust to the new experience.

Don't let them cry it out

If someone tells you to let them cry so they learn, just remember your baby has a very limited ability to soothe and calm down alone, so leaving het to cry may well end in quiet, and even sleep, buy not because your baby has adjusted and learned how. Rather, if your baby sleeps after 'crying it out', it's because she has fallen asleep exhausted.

Get more baby sleep tips, including step-by-step guides for settling your baby and getting them off to sleep in Helen's book.


Author: Helen Stevens. RN. RM. MCHN. Manager of Clinical Services, Education and Research. Parent Infant Consultants. 0411880720.


Should I let my baby cry to sleep?

"Some say I should just let my baby cry to sleep because it’s good for him and helps him learn to sleep. They say all this cuddling and doing everything for him will not help him learn."

You would be so surprised at the number of people who say that.

What the research says

The research is very clear. A baby who has their physical and emotional needs met will learn self regulation over time. If you look at your baby and see they are struggling, the best thing you can do is reassure them that you're there to help. 

You can start with a comforting word to let them know you're near by. If that doesn’t calm them, then you offer more, maybe some gentle patting. And if more is needed, a cuddle or a feed... Whatever it takes to help calm them.

You won't spoil them

This approach is definitely not spoiling your baby. This is called 'synchronous care', and we know it's what helps babies develop a sense of the world as a safe place. This is best gift you can give your little baby. Once they feel safe and confident, they won’t need to stress every time they have a bubble of wind. And you will start to get more sleep overnight. 

Be kind to your baby, and kind to yourself. Do what feels right for you both.

When is the right time to start a routine?

Babies develop patterns quite naturally as they grow, but their internal regulation system is not fully developed, so regular patterns are impossible for them early in life. This makes a routine very difficult for a baby, and can cause a lot of stress for parents and babies alike.

Sometimes babies may have regular and predictable feeding and sleeping patterns for the first few weeks of life, but that naturally changes as they grow and irregular patterns develop. This can be a rude shock at a time when you're feeling like you have a handle on the situation.

In terms of development of self regulation, babies are really very immature at birth, and it's completely natural for them to have irregular feeding, waking and sleep patterns.

Please don't rush your baby into a strict pattern because it will be awfully stressful for you and baby. If you expect the first 3 months to be filled with changes and a lack of predictability, then there will be no surprises or disappointments.

Don't push your baby into something that isn't natural, especially in the first 3 months. 

Got more questions? Book an appointment to speak with one of our baby specialists.


Author: Helen Stevens. RN. RM. MCHN. Manager of Clinical Services, Education and Research. Parent Infant Consultants. 0411880720.