Baby Sleep Training - How to Mimic the Feeling of the Womb


By Naomi Knight  | Submitted On January 20


For the entire beginning of their lives, babies are accustomed to one environment: the womb. It can be very jarring to come into a new world with so much new stimuli, and it can cause a feeling of insecurity in baby. The best way to help baby sleep more soundly, make the transition, and feel safe is to mimic some of the feelings of the womb.

Characteristics of The Womb

So what does the womb have that your house doesn't? Let's think about the environment baby is familiar with:

Lots of white noise - he's used to a very loud environment, what with the outside noises mixing with the sounds of the body's machinery

  • Cramped quarters - he's used to existing in a very small space, where everything is close together

  • Feeling supported - he's used to being touched and supported on the sides and bottom of the womb, which creates a sense of comfort from being touched

  • Fetal position - he's accustomed to laying in the fetal position, with the arms and legs drawn up and close to the body

As you read this, birth might seem to come as a relief. To us, the womb doesn't seem very comfortable, but to baby, it's home. You can ease the transition and help baby sleep by mimicking some of these qualities.

Why Does This Feeling Help Baby Sleep? We've already talked about this, but it's important enough to say again. Babies, even in the womb, are extremely sensitive to emotions and feelings. Just like you, baby doesn't sleep well if she's not relaxed and feeling safe.

It comes as a domino effect: if baby is anxious or in some other way emotionally upset, she can't relax. When she can't relax, and you put her to bed and leave, she gets more upset, which makes it take even longer to relax. Until she relaxes, she can't fall asleep, and crying ensues.

Swaddle baby

Swaddling baby can help her relax and settle down because it mimics the close quarters of the womb. Babies can be unsettled by the free use of their arms and legs after birth, a feeling they didn't have in the womb. Additionally, babies tend to jerk a bit upon falling asleep and can wake themselves up or become startled by these natural movements.

Swaddling baby all the time is fine for the first month of life; after that, baby needs access to her arms and legs to develop properly. However, you can still swaddle baby for naps and nighttime to help her sleep.

So what is swaddling?

Swaddling is wrapping baby tightly in a blanket to mimic the feeling of the womb. Swaddling reminds baby of the safety and compact feeling of the womb.

How to swaddle baby

  • Lay a baby blanket on the floor and fold one corner into the center about 6 inches

    Lay baby on her back on the blanket, with her head at the folded-down corner. The head should be off the blanket so it's free

  • Take the corner near baby's left hand and pull it across baby to the right, securing it underneath baby

  • Fold up the bottom of the blanket towards baby's chin, enclosing baby's feet

  • Take the corner near baby's right hand and pull it across baby to the left, securing it underneath baby

Important tips

  • Swaddle baby when she is full, clean, and dry. Swaddling is meant to be a comfortable, comforting experience for baby, and if she is in some way unsettled, she will associate bad memories with swaddling.

  • Don't swaddle baby when it is very hot. Keep baby from overheating by not swaddling when it is very hot outside or when baby is in a warm room. This is especially important when baby is going to sleep, as overheating is a risk factor for SIDS.

  • Listen to baby so you know when she wants out. Baby will kick or squirm when she wants to be free, so pay attention for these actions. Let baby out if you know she is uncomfortable, or the feeling can cause distress and keep baby from relaxing.

  • Don't swaddle baby constantly after the age of one month. She needs access to her limbs in order to develop correctly.

Action Items:

  • Find or buy a baby blanket

  • Practice swaddling a doll before attempting it on your live, squirming baby

  • Pay attention to baby's reaction to being swaddled and adjust if necessary

Strategies for Mimicking the Womb Bathe baby in a bucket

There are a host of products available that offer an alternative to a mini-adult-like bath. Baths can be a pivotal relaxation tool each day to help baby sleep, mostly because being immersed in water reminds them of being in the womb.

Naturally, you can see that how you bathe baby becomes an important part of helping baby calm down and fall asleep. Babies feel most comfortable in the fetal position, and a bucket provides this capability. It supports baby's weight and allows her to be touched on the sides and the bottom of the bucket, again reminding her of the womb.

A bucket is a natural choice for a bath because it almost forces baby into the fetal position. This combined with warm water and the tightness of baby touching the sides and bottom of the bucket work together to recreate the feeling of the womb. As opposed to a bucket, a mini-adult-like bath gives baby the feeling of swimming, like in the womb, but makes her feel a bit lost, with nothing to control her arms and legs from floating around.

I know, it seems almost cruel to put your baby in a bucket, right? Think outside the box! It only seems strange because not many people do the United States, that is. Bathing baby in a bucket is a popular form of baby care in Europe and is accepted as helping to calm and reassure babies in this big new world.

Quick tip: there's no need to go buy an expensive baby bathing bucket, though you certainly can. Use what you have at home, but be sure to choose a bucket you have not used with harsh chemicals. Think of a bucket used to build sand castles, perhaps. If possible, find a bucket with flexible sides, so that baby is supported softly and without any sharp edges or seams. - Register Today to Save 5%.

Action Items:

  • Find a baby-sized bucket in the house and thoroughly clean it, or purchase a new one

  • Confirm that the bucket is flexible, smooth, and won't tip over when baby is inside

  • Test a bath to see if baby likes the feeling of a bucket better than a traditional baby bath

Sway and Shush Your Baby To Sleep

When a mother moves around doing daily tasks, a baby in the womb is naturally swung gently from side to side. This swaying motion becomes familiar and comforting, so parents can try using this as a means of calming baby before sleep. Remember, this isn't the kind of thing that you want to do every time that baby wakes up, or you will have to repeatedly get up in the middle of the night.

Instead, this is what you want to do to help settle baby down so that she can fall asleep on her own. When swaying baby, be gentle and consistent. She should fall into a sort of rhythm that helps calm her. Swaying shouldn't be fast or exciting, as it's meant to relax baby. Sway her too fast and she'll think it's playtime instead!

Shushing is another technique that mimics the womb. This is similar to the sounds that baby hears in the womb and can also be quieting. As with swaying, shushing should be gentle and rhythmic. It should be smooth and mimic the pattern of baby's breathing - one "shush" per exhale.

Shushing should be soft, not harsh; avoid the sound a teacher makes when quieting her classroom. Instead, use shushing as a sort of white noise, meant to calm baby without her ever even realizing it.

Action Items:

  • Sing a song in your head while you sway or shush to help create a slow rhythm

  • Try different speeds and voice levels to find out what quiets baby best

  • Wear Baby

    Another solution that feels similar to the womb is wearing baby in a sling, wrap, or pouch. This has benefits for you, because it allows you to be close to baby while keeping your hands free, and it makes baby feel protected, safe, and comfortable.

    Wearing baby helps keep baby warm, lets her hear your heartbeat, and builds a close relationship that is fostered through personal contact. Listed here are a few options for wearing baby, but it's up to you to decide which solution is best and most comfortable for you and baby:

  • Wrap - wraps are long pieces of fabric tied to the wearer in various positions. Baby folds up inside it and it is very versatile. This is best for small babies; larger children will have trouble fitting, and it could be uncomfortable for the wearer.

  • Mei Tai - an Asian-inspired carrier with more structure than a wrap. It can be worn on the front, back, or hip, depending on comfort and baby's size. This is a viable option for larger or older babies.

  • Adjustable pouch - a pouch is a circle of fabric tied onto the wearer's front that holds the baby into the wearer's chest. It is similar to a Mei Tai and is also good for babies of all sizes.

Action Items:

  • Evaluate your needs and baby's size to determine which style is right for you

  • Practice tying on a wrap, sling or pouch with a doll prior to working with baby

  • Adjust the fit as necessary - if baby seems uncomfortable, evaluate her fit to see if anything is rubbing or pinching. Try putting baby in while sitting down to see if this helps

  • Consider different options as baby grows and your activities change. Some ways to wear baby are more appropriate for some types of activities than others


The Breastfed Baby That Won't Take a Bottle


By Katie Madden  | Submitted On November 04


Every now and then I get an email or a phone call from a mom whose breastfed baby won't take a bottle. Perhaps she is going back to work in a few short days or perhaps she just wants a few hours to herself to go somewhere or do anything that doesn't involve having her baby, whom she loves dearly, hanging off her boob. A baby who won't take a bottle is a scary thing. Suddenly you are looking down the barrel of months of feeling "trapped." You are plagued with the question:

What if my baby never takes a bottle?

Whenever I am presented with this question, I immediately spiral into PTSD. My baby never took a bottle. I can't remember the exact details because, well, I was a crazy, exhausted, emotional, overwhelmed new mother myself.

What I do remember is buying every bottle available on the market that claimed to be "just like the breast," including a bottle that was literally shaped like a breast. It leaked all over me. I can't remember when I started offering, but I do know that when I went back to work when Lucy was 12-16 weeks (I can't remember when, okay?!), she wasn't taking a bottle. I remember my husband calling me in a panic and driving her 30 minutes to the hospital in Philly where I worked so I could come down and nurse her.

I remember my mother thickening my breastmilk with cereal (yes, cereal, people) and attempting to feed her my thickened milk with a spoon.

I remember offering her a no-spill sippy cup full of my breastmilk, but I removed the part that made it no spill. Then I helped her tip it back so she could pour it all over herself.

Do you want to know what happened in the end? I quit my job. At the time, it felt like everything in my body was telling me that my baby just wanted me to stay at home with her, so I did. In retrospect, it was not a good choice. I don't regret it, because I don't regret anything in my life, but I do think that this was the tipping point of a series of events that eventually led to the demise of my marriage.


And, now that I know Lucy at age eight, I know she absolutely was telling me to quit my job and I absolutely succumbed to her will. I continued to do that for the first three years of her life until at one point, in the heat of a throw-down with my terror of a three year old, I literally said to her, "YOU'RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME!" Now, most of the time, I will not be bullied by her. She is just like her mother, mind you. She will have her way if there is nobody to stand up to her (she does it to her father multiple times a day). So, I am not surprised that she bullied me when she was only a few months old.

Needless to say, I am a breastfeeding expert... not a bottle-feeding expert.

But, I have noticed something throughout the years of working with other panicky moms of non-bottle-accepting breastfed babies. There are two major components to bottle refusal:

  1. Reverse Nipple Confusion (baby doesn't understand how to suck on an artificial nipple)

  2. Stubbornness (Baby knows damn well how to suck on a bottle and won't because she is smart enough to know that a bottle means mama won't be around)

My daughter suffered from a deadly combination of the two.

Component One: Avoid reverse nipple confusion altogether by starting early 

Around four to six weeks, practice bottle-feeding-even if you are scared and even if you don't want to, do it. You don't have to replace a breastfeeding session entirely to practice this. You could just offer about one ounce, then finish up with breastfeeding. The idea here is to make sure your baby understands how to do it.

This is a really important window to teach a baby to how to suck on something other than a boob. If you miss this window, things are going to be a lot harder.

I also have this theory that babies that take a pacifier have an easier time taking a bottle. Now, I happen to be one of the only Lactation Consultants in the world who seems to think that pacifiers are fine to use as long as you aren't using them in the first two weeks to avoid breastfeeding when the baby is clearly hungry. So, if you want to be safe, wait two to four weeks after birth to avoid the pacifier. A breastfed baby who sucks a pacifier can switch from breast sucking to artificial nipple sucking, an important skill that she must have if she is going to understand how to take a bottle.

It doesn't matter who offers the bottle at this stage.

A one- or two-month-old simply isn't smart enough to know the difference. A baby three months old or older, however, is. That is when she may only accept the bottle from mom ornever accept the bottle from mom or only accept the bottle when mom is out of the house or after not eating for 4 hours or only when she is just waking up. Understand? Once they hit around three months old, they become finicky. So, start early.

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Now, once you have determined that your baby can and will take a bottle, don't make the silly mistake of thinking you can now stop practicing. Just because you baby has taken a bottle in the past, does not mean that your baby will continue to take the bottle in the future. Babies are like goldfish: very short memories.

Phase 2: Offer consistently & persistently 

If you know your baby can take a bottle, great! Now be sure to offer the bottle a few times a week to make sure she doesn't forget the skill. If you have a baby who loves her pacifier, then you can probably get away with doing this one time a week. If you have a baby who isn't a strong pacifier sucker, do this three times a week.

Again, you do not have to replace an entire breastfeeding with a bottle if you don't want to; you can just offer about one ounce in a bottle, then finish with the breast.

But, I do challenge you to take this bottle-feeding time as an opportunity for self-care. Do something for yourself! Go to the gym, go shopping, get your hair done, sit in the car by yourself in silence. Take a nap. Give daddy some space and time to get to know your child in a new way.

If you baby does not take a bottle, offer in place of breastfeeding consistently and persistently. That means practically everyday. That means, allow baby to get hungry enough to need the bottle. That means, don't give in as soon as things get tough. You are up against either a confused baby or a stubborn baby-or both.

How to know whether your baby is confused or stubborn: 

A confused baby mouths around the bottle nipple happily, but doesn't suck. If milk dribbles out of the nipple, it may either pour out the side of her mouth or startle and choke her, causing her to cry and get upset. The confused baby will tolerate mouthing the lovely flavored chew toy for a few minutes before fussing to ask you to please get that thing out of her mouth.

This baby needs consistency, but a leaky bottle could be part of the problem. You would think that this baby just needs to understand that there is milk in the bottle and then she would drink, but actually, this baby needs to understand that she is supposed to suck on the bottle.

My advice for this kid:

Try a no-drip bottle that only releases milk when baby properly sucks. This will prevent her from having milk-choke when she is not ready and will reinforce good behavior by giving her a tasty treat when she does suck properly.

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A stubborn baby knows how to suck a nipple. You have seen her do it. She may even regularly suck a pacifier. But, every time the bottle comes at her, she freaks out. If she is put in a situation where she is very hungry and offered a bottle, she may stubbornly drink only enough to take the edge off her hunger (further proving she can in fact drink from a bottle), but then stop and scream without finishing the rest of it.

My advice for this kid:

Consistency, persistence, and experimentation. Something is bothering her. Is it who is feeding her? Sometimes this baby will only accept a bottle from her mother because she has learned that is where food comes from. Is it from her father or another non-mother person because she has learned that she only nurses from mom, not takes a bottle? Do you have to offer it when she is very hungry? Just starting to become hungry? Upon waking from a nap? After just falling asleep? While walking in a sling? In the nursing position? In a position completely opposite from the nursing positing, such as in a bouncy chair or faced away from you? When the milk is just the same temperature as breastfeeding? When the milk is cold so it is different from breastfeeding?

Get my drift? Something will work. You just have to figure out what it is. Unfortunately, your baby can't talk, so you are going to have to try a bunch of things.

There are a lot of "tricks" out there on the Googles as well to make your baby take a bottle. Most of these involve buying stuff or tricking your baby into thinking mom is there with a stinky shirt or something. Don't insult your baby's intelligence, especially if she is three months or older. I know I called the one- to two-month-old a goldfish, but once they hit three months, they are very deeply connected to their mothers. They know her by heart, by smell, and by touch. No smelly shirt is going to trick them into thinking Old Spice-smelling daddy man is life-sustaining booby woman.

A note about buying nipples: So, some people have had luck with finding the one bottle that their kid accepts, usually after spending $300 on each and every type of bottle. I have found that oftentimes this is the most frequently attempted trick and the least likely to work. The times I have seen it work is because the texture of the nipple is different, for example using a latex nipple. There aren't many left on the market as they are all silicone now, but I have seen a bottle refuser accept a latex nipple, probably because of the color and the increased flexibility of the nipple.

If you have a confused and stubborn bottle refuser, may the force be with you. If you really need your baby to accept a bottle because you are going back to work, then be consistent and persistent. If you don't have a strict deadline, know this:

Around six months, your baby will start eating solids and drinking water from a sippy cup, albeit poorly. By the time your baby is nine to 12 months, you will most likely be able to hold your baby off from breastfeeding for a few hours with solid foods. By 12+ months, you can offer full fat dairy foods in place of breastfeeding.

So, there is hope. At 14 months, I did go back to work. My mom primarily watched Lucy while I was gone. She ate food all evening long while I worked and may have even drunk some cow's milk out of a cup (I don't remember). Otherwise, it was just her and me, nursing 'round the clock. By that time, I was a single mom and Joe deeply respected our nursing relationship, so he didn't take her from me overnight or for weekends practically until she was weaned.

Sure, it sounds like a death sentence to have a baby that never takes a bottle, but it is heartbreakingly temporary to have a baby that needs you every few hours in order to stay alive. In the blink of an eye, your little baby will be heading off to full-day kindergarten, spending the night at a friend's house, going to sleep-away camp.

So, if you are like me and you have a strong-willed baby who refuses a bottle and just wants you to stay home and you can, know that I look back at that time of my life with so much fondness and gratitude. I don't remember it all, but I know without a doubt I was there for every feeding. At a time when life was falling apart all around us, breastfeeding was our constant. Perhaps God knew that we would need that; what seemed at the time like our greatest challenge turned out to be our greatest gift.