You've just come to the end of another long, fulfilling day of parenthood with your little one - but for them, it's time to start making some noise! It can be frustrating if your baby cries when put down, but there's a lot you can do to solve this issue.
As every parent can tell you, babies cry all throughout the day for a myriad of reasons, and it tends to be pretty helpful in terms of helping you know when to feed them, change their diapers, or fulfill other needs before they can verbally communicate.
However, when your baby's crying as soon as they're put to bed, it can feel demoralizing - especially when all you want to do is fall asleep yourself!
So, why does my baby cry when I put him down? And what should I do if my newborn cries when put down? You’ve come to the right place.
We’ll go over the main cause of why your baby cries when put down along with a few different routes you can take to get your baby to stop crying when put to bed.
Why does my baby cry when I put him down?
The Root Cause: Separation Anxiety
To begin, it's important to remember that your baby feeling some separation anxiety isn't just normal, but a good sign that they're developing healthily. Most babies start to experience separation anxiety as they're approaching their first birthday, and sometimes as early as four or five months, as this is also the period when they start to develop object permanence.
This is the ability to understand that people and objects still exist even when we can't sense them - for older babies, this can cause distress, as they aren't sure where you are and are starting to consciously miss you at night! Here's what American Academy of Pediatrics member Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson has to say on the topic:
Separation anxiety develops after a child gains an understanding of object permanence. Once your infant realizes you’re really gone (when you are), it may leave them unsettled.
Although some babies display object permanence and separation anxiety as early as 4 to 5 months of age, most develop more robust separation anxiety at around 9 months.
The leave- taking can be worse if your infant is hungry, tired, or not feeling well. Keep transitions short and routine if it’s a tough day.
So, if your baby starts to get upset when they're being put down into their bed, buggy, or baby carrier, don't be too concerned - many babies go through this phase, and it's totally normal!
Why does my baby cry when put down besides separation anxiety?
There are some other less common factors that can explain why your newborn cries when put down. It's important to identify that your little one isn't fussy at night for a health-related reason.
For instance, excessive crying and screaming all day and night without obvious medical symptoms can be a sign of colic, while crying and reaching for one side of their head might suggest an ear infection.
You know your baby best - if it seems like your baby crying could be a sign that they aren't feeling quite right, then you should speak to your pediatrician for advice.
What to do if your newborn cries when put down
So, you're because your newborn cries when put down. It’s typically because they feel unsettled without you being there with them. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to handle this problem that don't have to involve having your baby strapped to you for the rest of your life!
Is it ok to put a crying baby down?
It can feel difficult when a newborn cries when put down - after all, no parent wants to feel like they aren't supporting their child's needs.
But if you're already sure that they're fed and changed, and that they aren't crying because of an illness or injury, putting them down to sleep while they're still crying is completely safe, and won't harm your baby.
Despite this, if you find it distressing or unhelpful to use a less gentle sleep training method that requires you to leave your baby to cry it out, you can try a different method such as the pick-up put-down technique that doesn't involve as much crying.
Should I pick my baby up every time he cries?
Deciding whether or not to pick up and cuddle your baby at night when they cry is tricky, and entirely up to you and your style of parenting. While some prefer to let their baby cry it out to teach them independence, others prefer a gentler approach and continue to comfort them when they start getting fussy at night.
Whichever method you decide on, the important part is sticking to it - changing a sleep training method midway through can seriously disrupt the routines you've previously set in place, and many take a long time to show results, so stick at it as long as you can!
Establish consistent sleep patterns
When it comes to taking care of babies, consistency is key, particularly when it comes to sleep and combating separation anxiety. After all, your baby's main worry when they're falling asleep is that they won't see you again - which is flattering, but not too helpful when you're trying to help them snooze!
If you make sure that your baby is falling asleep and waking up at the same times every day, they start to make associations and understand not just that it's time to go to bed, but that you'll be there for them again in the morning when they wake up.
If you want to know how much sleep your baby should be getting each day and see an example of a typical sleep routine for babies of all ages, check out our blogs on setting up a newborn sleep schedule or newborn nap schedule!
Create a soothing bedtime routine
In the same way that adults like to unwind before they go to bed, many babies need a little time to relax and calm down before they fall asleep. If you’re just rushing your child into their crib or bassinet don’t be surprised if your baby cries when put down.
Not only does this help to reinforce their sleep schedule, but it can also make your baby feel more safe and secure, a feeling which they will then (hopefully) start to associate with being put down to sleep independently.
Lots of parents find that a soothing warm bath before bed can help to settle their little one, especially if it's followed by a short bedtime story and a quick cuddle and kiss before they're left to snooze.
Others might have special songs they like to sing or little private rituals - it's all unique to your family, so choose the routine that suits your baby best.
Start sleep training
Once your baby is over four months old, you can start using a sleep training method of your choice to help your little one learn how to self-soothe and stay asleep through the night. This is a great approach when your baby cries when put down.
There are lots of sleep training techniques out there that vary in the 'gentleness' of their approach, so it's up to you to pick one that suits your family best.
The word 'gentle' here usually refers to whether or not you're using a no-cry or cry-it-out method - while the techniques themselves vary, these are the two main categories.
For instance, you could try the less gentle Ferber method, which involves leaving your baby at night for increasingly long stretches of time, or something like the pick up put down method, where you put your baby down once they've fallen asleep and pick them back up when they wake again.
Here's Dr. Wendy Nash speaking to the Child Mind Institute about the importance of choosing a sleep training method that works for your family:
Once you’ve decided to go the sleep training route, it can be a challenge to parse all the different methods out there. In general, they all offer ways to modify your child’s sleep behavior to ensure that the child gets a healthy amount of sleep—and the parents stay sane.
And, as Dr. Nash points out, what method you decide on will depend on a host of factors, including age, personal beliefs, and the child’s patterns.
“I would highly recommend that parents evaluate any sleep advice with their own feelings and intuition,” she says. “I think it’s when parents go against their intuition that they become stressed, angry, frustrated with the child.”
In addition, “what worked in one developmental phase may not and is almost unlikely to work in another one,” Dr. Nash warns.
Take care of yourself
It can be a difficult experience when your newborn won't sleep, especially if it leads to you and your family members experiencing sleep deprivation. It can start to take a serious toll on you and others in your household if your newborn cries when put down.
In fact, a recent study has shown that new mothers are sleep-deprived for an average of six years after having a child, and as well as impacting their ability to care for their children, it can take an enormous toll on their mental and physical wellbeing.
Occupational therapist Ashley Patek from Generation Mindful discusses her own experience of being a sleep-deprived mom below:
At times I have felt like an empty shell, a mom-zombie walking around reacting to the people I love most, and then feeling guilty about it, not understanding why I am so triggered by things that wouldn’t normally tip me off. But there it was, sleep deprivation. It’s hard, no matter how it’s served.
Up every two hours ...
Having little ones slipping into your room two … three … four times a night …
It may all feel hard.
Feeling that anxiety settle in when you’re scared to close your eyes, knowing that when you do, you’ll be woken again … yea, that feels hard, too.
I have realized that sleep is a need. And not having it is a trigger for me. When it’s lacking, I find it harder to pause before I react to my children’s behavior … harder to validate emotions … harder to be the parent I want to be.
But here’s where something special happens … the realization that part of parenting is releasing perfection. When I am sleep-deprived, I am truly doing the best I can at the moment. And I have an opportunity to share my feelings, set boundaries, ask for help, delegate, and, if needed, model to my children how to repair when I have exploded.
If you're struggling to feel yourself, make sure to reach out for help from those around you, whether that means having a friend watch your baby while you take a nap or having a relative move in to help carry some of the burden of new parenthood.
Most importantly, if you need help, don't see it as a sign of weakness - you've got this, and your baby will eventually start snoozing through the night. If your baby cries when put down, just know that this won’t last forever!
Try Zen Sleepwear
We know that the most common reason your baby cries when put down is separation anxiety. Thus, the main skill that your baby needs to develop to overcome their separation anxiety is through baby self-soothing - and our Zen Sack can give them a helping hand!
With gently weighted Cuddle Pads placed strategically to mimic your soothing touch, this sleep sack is perfect for babies who have outgrown swaddling but who still need a little extra comfort when falling asleep.
Here's what Zen Mom Elisa R. has to say about her experience with the Zen Sack:
I bought this at a desperate moment around 3:30 in the morning when our six month old wasn’t sleeping well. The reviews are spot on.
As soon as this bad boy arrived, we wrapped our little one up and we’ve been on consistent sleep since then!
The weight is just right and she loves the freedom of the space. I now need to buy another one for back up. You can learn more about the swaddle types, why swaddle baby, should I swaddle my newborn at night, the best transition swaddle, making the swaddle transition, choosing between a sleep sack vs swaddle, and more in our blog.
Or, invest in the weighted sleepwear your child deserves at Nested Bean today. Whether you’re looking for a weighted sleep sack and weighted swaddle, we have the perfect sleepwear waiting for you. Browse our bamboo sleep sacks, winter sleep sacks, zipper swaddle, bamboo swaddle, or transitional swaddle. That being said, it’s time to wrap up our conversation on why your baby cries when put down.
Final Thoughts on Why Your Baby Cries When Put Down
We’re all too familiar with the frustration that comes when your newborn cries when put down. You just want to get a good night’s sleep and you want the same for your baby. But at this age, they can’t tell you what’s wrong - you have to use your parental intuition to figure it out.
After reading this guide you should have a better understanding of why babies cry when put down - from separation anxiety to more serious issues. And, we’ve shared insights on how to overcome this challenge and get your baby calm.
Our blog has resources on topics like the various baby cries meaning, how to help baby sleep through the night, infant sleep aid, pros and cons of co sleeping, swaddle with arms up, baby won't sleep unless held, how to hold a newborn, and more.
The best way to prevent issues like this is to learn how to swaddle with a weighted Nested Bean Swaddle. This mimics your comforting touch and will help fight off separation anxiety. So, set yourself up for parental success by shopping our selection today!