Why your baby screams when you put him in his cot

by | May 3, 2019 | Sleep Consultant

Why your baby screams when you put him in his cot

The reason why your baby screams bloody murder when you put him in his cot can vary depending on age and stage. If this has happened to you, take heed you’re not alone! But it can be be daunting nevertheless and make us parents think that he really hates his cot! But I’m here to tell you there’s typically an underlying theme when a baby cries when put down, and it’s not because he hates the cot.

The three main reasons your baby will scream when being put down are:

  1. He has no idea what you want him to do in there
  2. He thinks he knows what you want him to do, but he doesn’t believe he can do it
  3. He knows what you want him to do, and he might even believe it’s possible, but it feels like too much hard work

Let’s look at these three things:

Number 1 : he has no idea what you want him to do in there

This is likely going to happen when you first try and put him down in the cot or if he’s been sleeping somewhere else for a good amount of time. If he’s never slept in there before, or put another way, never actually fallen asleep in there, then he’s wondering just what you want him to do.

Temperament and personality play a big part in how vocal your baby is about this, especially if this is a change from the norm, or a new environment. Most humans are creatures of habit and we don’t appreciate change. The older and more alert baby is (and the more set in other ways), the bigger this change will be, and potentially the bigger the protest.

If it’s not a new environment, and he has previously fallen asleep in the cot, think about what he’s already experienced here. Have you been consistent in how the cot is used? If lots of different ways of falling asleep have happened lately, then this can be a sign of confusion too.

Number 2: he thinks he knows what you want him to do, but he doesn’t believe he can do it

This screaming is more of a confidence thing. He might know what you want him to do, but he just hasn’t had enough practice falling asleep independently in the cot to be confident about it all yet.

Chances are he knows it’s sleep time. But he’s not sure he can do it. If you have recently started introducing the cot, or independent sleep in the cot, then more practice should see you right here. But guidance can certainly help – because like number 1 – you want to make sure confusion doesn’t get in the way. Consistency in how you respond is key.

Number 3: He knows what you want him to do, and he might even believe it’s possible, but it feels like too much hard work to do it

Screaming is much more likely to occur if your baby or toddler is overtired or it’s a tough time of day to sleep (early mornings and naps are typically harder). He might be able to fall asleep in his cot without your help when it’s easy. But when it’s hard, that’s a different story. While night sleeps may go well, there might be lots of crying during the day simply because day sleeps are much harder than night sleeps.

What about crying when he wakes up?

If a child wakes without being fully refreshed from a nap, you’re likely to get crying. He’s still tired. Ideally, he wakes relaxed and happy to chill out in his own space. It’s a great time to contemplate the universe after all.

And if you’re putting him down in the cot already asleep and he stays asleep for the transfer, then he cries when he wakes, it’s also not because he hates the cot.  The reason he wakes after a short time when put down asleep is because when he surfaces to a light stage of sleep his brain checks in on the environment (we all do this periodically as we sleep). Then when his brain realises he is no longer where he was when he fell asleep, the warning bells start. His brain starts announcing the discrepancy as a warning. “WARNING, WARNING WAKE-UP, THERE MAY BE A PROBLEM”. So, he wakes up, he is somewhere new, the warm arms are gone, and he has no recollection of going into the cot. Panic time.

No wonder he’s crying!

So, what can you do about it?

Help him learn that his cot is for sleep and that with practice, sleeping is just as easy as learning to eat and walk. You know those things don’t often happen overnight; and yes, sleeping well can be compared to physical skills. Skills take time and practice to master. But rest assured his confidence will grow as he gets use to the environment and learns what to do in there. More practice makes it easier and easier. And it doesn’t mean you need to leave him to cry-it-out either. You can help him settle, but resist the urge to continually help too much, as otherwise you may not get very far in the process…

And if you’re wondering if your child really needs a safe space for independent sleep, think again. A lot of this does depend on your babies temperament and your personal situation.However, be aware that babies and children need a lot more rejuvenating sleep than adults and it’s not always possible to be there with them every single sleep (if you want to shower, eat or attend to anything else that is). And the older the child, the harder it can be to adjust to a change in environment (although it’s never impossible).

If you’re not sure quite how to get started or you want to get past the crying in the cot stage, how about booking in for a free initial call to learn more about my sleep plans. You can do this HERE.  And I’d love you to follow me on Facebook and Instagram if you’re not already.

Because everyone needs a good night and nap sleep!