Settling baby: patting settling steps
Rhythmic, gentle patting is a hands-on technique that can help settle young babies into sleep. Here’s how to do it:
- Face your baby away from you, lying on their side.
- Place your hand gently on your baby’s shoulder.
- Cup your other hand and pat your baby gently and slowly on the bottom or thigh.
- Make the patting as rhythmic as possible – for example, about the same rate as your heartbeat.
- Sing a quiet, soothing song to help you find a rhythm. If you think singing might disturb your baby, sing or count in your head to keep your patting steady. Or try saying ‘shhh’ on each pat.
The safest sleeping position for your baby is on their back. After settling, always gently roll your baby onto their back before you leave the room.
Other hands-on options for settling baby
If patting doesn’t seem to work with your baby, there are a few other hands-on settling options that you can try. These options all start with your baby in the cot:
- Put one hand firmly but gently on your baby’s hip, the other on baby’s shoulder. As you feel your baby relax, roll baby onto their back and leave the room.
- Hold your baby firmly at shoulder and hip, and gently rock baby back and forth.
- Gently stroke your baby’s forehead.
- Pat the mattress beside your baby.
- Jiggle the cot slightly.
Tips to get patting and other hands-on techniques to work for you
If your baby settles better when wrapped, you can try wrapping your baby in a lightweight cotton or muslin wrap before you use the patting settling technique or the other hands-on options above.
Remember: wrapping isn’t safe for babies who can roll. Don’t wrap your baby if baby shows signs of trying to roll.
If sucking on a dummy soothes your baby, you can use one when you’re settling your baby. Gently hold it in place if you need to.
If your baby is crying, you can still try patting. Sometimes babies will seem to reach a crying ‘peak’ before eventually settling off to sleep. If your baby is very upset, it’s OK to stop and give them a cuddle.
Experiment and see what works for your baby, but note that it might take baby several nights to phase out old sleep habits and get used to new ways of settling.
After settling, always make sure your baby is lying on their back for sleep.
Patting should be gentle and reassuring. If you start to feel angry or upset, don’t use this technique – you might pat your baby too hard or too fast. If nothing seems to be working, it’s best to walk away and take a moment to calm yourself.