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Drowsy But Awake is BS: Here’s Why

exhausted mom leaning over crib with baby crying

“Put your baby down drowsy but awake,” said Baby Experts everywhere. 

“Just do X every Y minutes until Z”. I mean, he’s a pediatrician, so he must know, right?

Sit by the door. Pick up, put down. Don’t pick up. Pat and shush. Swaddle, don’t swaddle. Be consistent, do the Shuffle™, the Gentle™, Cry it out™, No Cry,™ don’t do, should do . . . 

Sound familiar?

Parents, friends: pull up a chair, grab a drink, and come sit with me for a minute. I have an important message that I really want you to hear. I’ve been mustering the courage to share this for 15+ years. You deserve to know the truth. 

Read on for some secrets the Baby Sleep Expert industry doesn’t want you to know. I hope that it serves you well.

Oh but wait, I forgot, I’m a Baby Sleep Expert. I should probably give some context about that. Yes, it’s true, that’s what they say, and you’ll find many versions of that title on this website because that’s what the SEO Experts wrote so that you could find your way here. 

The truth is, I can’t even say that title out loud without gagging. 

If you know me, you know I don’t BS or sugar coat, nor do I consider myself an Expert of anything. I’m a mom and a teacher, partner and mentor (also cook, cleaner and bread winner). But I’m also a humbled-by-life student. 

If you’re anything like me, you’re a Type-A, organized, smart, and a responsible achiever. You learned early on that the secret to success was in hard work, persistence, and doing your best. And you probably followed a formula that goes like this: Study + Practice + Hard Work = Achievement. 

Do you see where I’m going with this?

OK so now let’s fast forward and turn the focus back onto you. Let’s look through the files and flip to the day that you came home from the hospital with a baby you knew nothing about. 

Then let’s zoom into to that moment you panicked and thought, “Oh Sh*t, I can’t do this, I think we made a terrible mistake.” With bleeding nipples and OMG — why didn’t anyone tell me that my vagina would bleed for a month too?! 

And maybe your thoughts went a bit darker to guilt and shame and sounded something like the soundtrack in my head:

“You’re useless. What made you think you could do this? You’re the worst mom ever. Who doesn’t love being a mother? Assholes, that’s who. Look at you, you’re pathetic and selfish. People have babies all the time and you can’t even take a shower.”

 It was the first time as a grown up that I recall feeling so helpless. 

If you’re anything like me, you did the research. You read all the books and blogs and had all the right products ready in place for this day you had dreamed of for so long. 

In panic and fear, great parents like you and like me went back to the books looking for answers to our zillions of questions.

From The Experts

From people like me (sigh).

But here’s what I want you to know: The Experts™ don’t have The Answers™. 

Well they have plenty of answers, but most of them sound something like this:

Sit by the door. Pick up, put down. Don’t pick up. Pat and shush. Swaddle, don’t swaddle. Be consistent, do the Shuffle™, the Gentle™, Cry it out™, No Cry,™ don’t do, should do . . . 


Now, I talk to parents like you every day, and I hear stories like this:

“My baby goes down really well, but she wakes up screaming.” 

“We’ve been following the (fill in the blank) method but she’s been crying for weeks, and it’s just getting worse. What are we doing wrong?”

“We tried (fill in the blank) but she cried so hard she threw up!”

You can’t imagine the sleep training horror stories I hear. And you know what? It makes my blood boil because I know why. It’s the Experts who peddle products and sell one-sized-fits-all solutions for babies who aren’t mathematical equations.

So today is the day that the last straw was pulled, and I can’t stay silent even one more minute.

It’s too much for today so stay tuned for more real-talk that I’ve learned from my greatest teachers of all – my kids and all of the babies I know from parents like you.

So I’ll leave you with one hopefully useful tip:


Hit the mute button. Power down. Stop listening to the noise – especially the Baby Sleep soundtrack’s greatest (WORST!) hits:

“Put your baby down drowsy but awake.”

These seven words – don’t get me started I could go on and on for hours. The baby puke stories, all of them come from this mixed with the Methods and Solutions from here to Timbuktu.

The answers my friends isn’t in books or in blogs, from MDs or PhDs or in any alphabetic letters.

There is only one answer, and it’s not where you think.

But look around for that small human in your home, that little person has all the answers.


Ready to hear where your baby is hiding the answers?

Let’s Talk




Why does a newborn cry when put down?

Newborns cry when put down often because they’re not in a deep sleep cycle and the motion of putting them down wakes them up. It’s like their way of saying that they’re still tired and want to sleep longer! Newborns often fall asleep during feeds or while cozied up in your arms, and they become accustomed to contact sleep while still in the newborn stage. The underlying reason a newborn cries when put down is because they haven’t yet learned how to self-soothe and sleep independently. After they’re sleep trained, crying will subside and your newborn will make much cuter sounds when falling asleep!


How do you make drowsy but awake work?

How you make drowsy but awake “work” is an impossible endeavor because the word drowsy is subjective. For example, I think of drowsy as yawning and ready for bed, but parents often interpret drowsy as half-asleep. The only way to make drowsy but awake work is to consider everything you’ve learned about drowsy but awake, and simply delete the word drowsy. Example: After a newborn has been awake for an hour, they’re probably ready to sleep again shortly. From there, bring your baby to the nursery wide awake, go through a mini 5-minute bedtime routine (change, dim lights, curtains, white noise, etc.), and put your baby down wide awake. Don’t try to achieve “drowsy” by rocking your baby to half sleep. Do create a soothing routine, say good night, put your baby down, and then go do something for you!


How do I teach my baby to self-settle?

How babies learn to self-settle starts with you giving your baby space to lie down in their crib without props, and ideally without caregivers hovering over the crib. You must pull away and observe from a distance (a video monitor is recommended) so that your baby can find their hands to suck and move around to find a comfortable position. 


What is the best age to sleep train?

The best age to sleep train babies is very personal but we prefer sleep training babies between 3-5 months before the majority of teething and major developmental leaps begin. 


What sleep training method should I use?

We recommend sleep training with the Mommywise Method, with a Mommywise Coach in your home. The Mommywise Method is tailored for your baby in real time with you by an expert Mommywise Coach who stays with you in your home for 3-6 days and nights. We only recommend our method because we know from experience that most other methods you find online and in books can be unsafe, lead to unnecessary crying, and don’t lead to sustainable results. 


Is in-home sleep training worth it?

In-home sleep training is worth it if you choose the right service. Based on client reviews, in-home sleep training with Mommywise was worth the investment because their babies were sleep trained faster and easier than other services. There are thousands of baby sleep consultants online, so if you’re going to pay for in-home sleep training, invest in a leading sleep training service that exclusively offers in-home sleep training. Having pioneered in-home sleep training, Mommywise has the most experienced Team in the industry. 


Can you help us with sleep training?

We can help you with sleep training if your baby is healthy and over 11 weeks old. We can help you with sleep training if both parents are aligned about sleep training, and you’re ready for your baby to sleep in their own sleep environment.


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