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The Key To 'Drowsy but Awake'

Updated: Dec 17, 2020

What's the big deal, anyways?

Putting your baby down drowsy but awake means you're soothing him enough to get him 90% of the way to dreamland, but putting him down before he is completely asleep. Turns out, this is an essential component of teaching a child how to settle and sleep independently early on. Piece of cake, right?


Almost nothing about baby sleep is a piece of cake, let's be real. So don't be so hard on yourself if this whole drowsy but awake thing just doesn't seem to work for you. I hear parents complain all the time that drowsy but awake just isn't achievable or is bunch of garbage.

Exhibit A: The Mom who tenderly places her 2 month old down for a nap in her crib after 20 minutes of walking, rocking, shushing, and patting, but baby wakes up with a blood curdling scream the instant mom's grip is released. Been there! It can be a real gut punch.

Start practicing right away. And keep practicing.

What parents need to know is that attempting to put your child down in a sleepy state but still awake is an art. Seriously. It isn't always successful every time. The key to putting your child down drowsy but awake is practicing this skill early on and not giving up if you fail. Because you will. Not every situation caters to drifting off to sleep seamlessly. Factors such as timing, the environment, and your child's temperament all play a roll in the ability to settle.

Practicing will help you feel more comfortable with the whole baby sleep process, because it can subconsciously reinforce prioritizing health sleep habits right away. It can also assure parents that their baby is capable of understanding cues and being content in their own space. When parents successfully implement the drowsy but awake method for the first time, they often realize that they totally got this. You got this, too!

Begin your soothing routine early.

Young babies shouldn't have wake periods of longer than 45-90 minutes. Starting your routine at the optimal time will help to avoid putting him down when he's already overtired. Trying to place an overtired baby alone in a crib will not go very well. If you realize that this has happened, then scratch it and try again next time!

Cue in to your own vibe.

Check yourself. Are you anxious or nervous about how things will go? Naps and bedtime can bring about a lot of anxiety. Our babies have a crazy way of feeling that energy and emulating it. I often recommend that parents put on headphones during the soothing routine to help maintain a calm and happy ambience and can also help rock the little one into a nice drowsy state with some sweet dance moves!

You got this!

Consider this: Mastering the art of putting your baby down drowsy but awake (even just some of the time) so that he can learn self-settling skills is a precursor to you down the road being one of those parents who simply puts baby in crib and struts out of the room like a boss--with little to no fuss, fight, or crying. That can be you! #goals #worthit

This tactic can be practiced very early on, and should be. The drive to sleep is much stronger in babies 0-3 months old. From 3 months on, it can be challenging to 'pull the wool over' their little, engaged, adorable, and curious eyes. By 5 to 6 months, their little brains have developed enough that you can't trick them into a sleepy state as easily. They want to play!

So, don't even try pulling the drowsy but awake stunt on a 1 year old. Aint' nobody got time for that. And they'll just look at you like...

If you have a young babe, keep practicing! The earlier the better. If you have an older child and you think you've missed this boat, no worries. It happens. The good news is, other sleep training methods can help with self-settling. Book a consult with me here!

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