Bedtime routines and settling your baby with patting

There are a few great versions of this patting technique online, all of which seem to yield great sleepy time results for parents struggling to get their tiny ones to settle. The main thing that each version of the ‘patting to sleep’ methods seem to share, is that the rhythmic motion, along with the presence of a primary caregiver is calming and relaxing for baby, as they try to drift off to sleep.

This is a great method for settling young babies into their cot for the night, just be sure to always gently roll baby onto their back before you leave them to sleep.

Settling and patting steps:

  • Place your baby on their side (facing away from you).
  • Gently hold baby steady, a hand on their shoulder.
  • Cup your free hand and gently pat the bottom or thigh, enough so baby can sense the movement through blankets, nappies and clothing.
  • This must now take on a steady rhythmic motion, as if rocking baby rather than cradle. You can sing gentle lullabies, hum, count or ‘shush’ to keep in time.
  • Hopefully baby will soon start to settle and relax, now you can begin to slow the rocking/patting motion.
  • Once baby is quiet/sleeping gradually stop altogether, but leave your hand on baby for a few minutes. No sudden movements…
  • Now quietly leave the room when you are ready, by now baby is hopefully asleep or relaxed and falling asleep.

Babies grow so quickly and if your little sleeper is more than a few months old they might like a more robust sleepy time motion…

Two-handed or double patting:

  • This method is similar to before, but now pat with your supporting hand on the shoulder too.
  • Alternate the pats to the rhythm of your lullaby, humming, counting or ‘shushing’ to keep in time.
  • As with the previous method slow the rocking/patting motion as baby starts to settle.

There are of course plenty of tried and tested traditional methods for settling your baby too.

  • You can rock or jiggle the cot, again best done rhythmically.
  • Gently stroke baby’s forehead.
  • Pat or rock your baby’s mattress to create a calming motion.
  • Calming vocals (tone more important than remembering the words)
  • Pacifiers – until your baby drifts off

Remember most of all that all babies are different and what works for one certainly may not work for all. Some babies prefer to be wrapped in lightweight cloth, some hate it. Some will tend to rely on comforters and dummies to settle, while others will push them away. Some babies even need to reach a terrifying peak of night-time crying for a while, before they will relax and settle.

Ultimately, you will get to know your baby, and in time you will adapt your routines to work for you both.

If you are enrolling with an early earning and childcare centre, and you have already started to establish some good sleepy time habits, be sure to let your centre supervisor know. Most good childcare centres will be more than happy to adhere to and strengthen your own routines, including breastfeeding.