I remember the first few months after my son was born. There were continuous fights between me and my mum on the universal controversy, 'to rock or not to rock'. My mum was all in for the age-old method of quieting fussy infants; she would put him in her lap and, cooing and singing, rock him to sleep.
My son loved it as I am sure did my mum. But for me, this was a continuous source of irritation. Every baby book that I found advocated letting children sleep on their, warning that rocking them during infancy could lead to a habit, which would continue till quite a late age.
My son's almost 2 now and has been sleeping peacefully ALL BY HIMSELF for the last 1.5 years. Based on my personal experience, I would say that for the first few months of your child's life, there is no such thing as too much human contact, too much cuddling, too much roaming around in mummy's arms. A child just out of the warm cocoon of his mother's womb is bound to be a little fussy when exposed to the open new world. There's nothing wrong in giving them the warmth of your arms for the first few months of their lives till they are better adjusted to their new surroundings. This is the time when children are getting to know the people around them. The more you interact with them the better they will flourish.
So go ahead rock your baby to your heart's desire. It is no way going to impede his adjusting to his new independent state. It might make the process a whole lot easier and fun though!
Here's my advice for changing the sleeping pattern based on your baby's age:
- 1-3 months - It is perfectly fine to rock your child to sleep. This does not lead to any habit-forming.
- 3-6 months - This is the time when transition from lap to bed should begin. Put him to sleep in your bed, be around for him to cuddle whenever he wants to. Talk to him or sing to him softly if that helps him feel secure. He should be out in a jiffy with his mum nearby to hold onto and chase the night time demons away.
If you have a separate bed for the baby then go ahead and transfer him to it once he has slept peacefully.
- After 6 months - This is the hard time; this is when children start developing a sense of routine. Any method that you apply now is probably going to last for the next couple of years of his life. So be careful in what you choose; if you are OK with the cuddle routine and can help him get to sleep by being around him always for the first couple of years of his life, then carry on with what you have been doing so far.
In my opinion, this is the best time to start getting them to sleep independently. Help him into a new routine: brush, bath, changing to pajamas, story time or something similar. This suits you better.
After this nightly ritual, the infant would be relaxed and that's a good time to put him in his bed with some kind of a security blanket (could be a favorite toy) and with a soft good night and a quick kiss, leave him to sleep on his own.
The first few nights there are bound to be some objections raised for this new approach, but be patient -- the crying phase should pass in a few days and then you will have a big boy sleeping all by himself.