Baby / Pre-K / toddler

The Back Pat – a foolproof way to get littles to sleep

My most successful nanny trick is the back pat technique. I learned it from a mom who used it to put her baby down for his naps. He’d become so relaxed that he’d start singing softly and drift off to sleep. It was incredible, and I’ve used it on every child I’ve cared for since.

The back pat has successfully soothed fussy babies, toddlers and preschoolers. I’ve used the back pat technique in midst of meltdowns, tantrums and whining, and it almost always works.

All that’s required for the back pat are your hands and access to the little one’s back. For older babies and children, have them lie on their stomach. For young babies, either lay them across your lap or have them sit on your lap facing you.

Once your child is secure, firmly and quickly pat their back with both hands. I find it works best if I alternate hands. Let one hand pat their lower back and the other pat their upper back. Be careful not to pat so hard that you’ll hurt them, but you should pat with authority.

Give them fast, sturdy pats for about a minute before beginning to slowly tapper off. Spend the next 5-10 minutes easing and slowing your pats. You’ll feel them relaxing deeper and deeper. Eventually, you’ll slow down to a feather light pat with one hand.

As you pat, take note of their body language. If they were fussing, ensure that they quiet down completely before finishing the back pat. Most of the time, you’ll see their body relax and their eyes get heavy and close. Some babies will even sing a little.

Just before you stop patting them, hover your hand slightly above their back for a few moments, so that they can still feel your presence. At this point, your child look sleepy or already be sleeping.

Give this technique at least three tries before giving up on it. Typically, the first time I do this, the little one is confused and tenses up. That’s ok. It’s new to them.

To alleviate confusion, make a point of trying the back pat when they aren’t fussing, so that it doesn’t scare or confuse them. After the second or third time, littles start to relax quicker because they are more used to it.

I hope this helps you and your little one have a less fuss and more restful nap time! Please share the back pat technique with others.

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