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Moms, you’ll know this feeling—you’re exhausted, baby is exhausted, but they don’t want to go down in their crib. After an hour of crying (maybe by both of you), you fall asleep together in your bed.
Although this is fine for a while and works for some parents—it only leads to less sleep for both of you!
Figuring out how to get your baby to sleep in a crib as opposed to in your arms can be tough, so I’m covering some basics today that will hopefully help you have a better rest tonight.
Why Won’t My Baby Sleep in the Crib?
Your baby has become used to sleeping in your arms or in your bed, with their parents close. They feel safe, secure, and loved! When it comes time to lay them down for a sleep in the crib, there are two things that may happen in your baby’s little mind:
- They don’t associate the crib with sleep.
- They’re insecure because mom isn’t there!
Some of the most common reasons for your baby not wanting to sleep in the crib are:
Your little one may suddenly feel abandoned or fearful that they’re all alone. Separation anxiety is a real thing. Babies who are used to spending all their waking time with other people may feel uncomfortable if put down for a nap or for the night all alone.
This is more common at around eight or nine months when babies develop a sudden clinginess—even if they’ve been sleeping in the crib already. But it can happen with younger babies too when you’re trying to get them to fall asleep in the crib for the first time—after all, they are little humans with feelings!
Transitioning out of the bed and into a crib could mean a change of temperature that your baby is uncomfortable with. While they may be swaddled or nestled in a sleep sack, the American Association of Pediatrics recommends that your baby sleep in a bare crib—that is, with no blankets, pillows, or fluffy toys.
This bare environment may feel colder than usual to your little one, despite their cozy swaddle. If the room the crib is in gets late afternoon sun and the bedroom doesn’t, it may even feel warmer than usual.
Babies are more sensitive to subtle changes than we are, so if your little one is fussy about being in the crib, this could be a reason.
The Environment Is Not Right
Apart from temperature, the room could be:
- Too light.
- Too noisy.
These things are all subtle environmental shifts, but to your little baby, they’re bigger changes.
How to Get Your Baby to Sleep in a Crib
If you’re looking for some tips on how to get your baby to sleep in a crib, you’re in luck (and hopefully in for a better sleep tonight)!
This should be a transition for your little one, as with any significant change at this stage of their life. Keep in mind that it may take a few weeks for them to adjust! Patience is key, and consistency is half of the puzzle.
Start With Naps
Instead of leaping straight into overnighting in the crib, start with one nap a day. Ease them in! Once they’re used to their one crib-nap a day, you can start increasing the number of naps in the crib.
Have a Naptime/Bedtime Routine
A routine can be amazing. Despite being tiny and still developing, baby’s brain knows that when you start doing certain actions, it means sleep time is coming. Their body will begin to prepare for a rest, so they’re getting into prime sleep mode.
Transition From Rocking to the Crib
If your little one insists on falling asleep in your arms, you’ll have to put them down in the crib once they’re asleep. This could cause them to wake up, though, because you’ll need to get your hands out from under them.
If you can’t swing this one, it may be a good idea to let them fall asleep in your arms, and when they wake up as you put them down, lay your hand gently on their tummy so they can still feel you close. This could work well, as they’ll be sleepy and may just drop off to sleep like that.
It’s also been suggested that it could be helpful if babies fall asleep and wake up in the same place. An adult would be somewhat confused if they fell asleep in the living room and woke up in bed, and the same is true for a baby!
Make Sure the Environment Is Right
There are three environmental factors you should look at when setting up the crib area.
As we spoke about above, your bundle of joy may be getting too hot or cold in their crib. The material of the swaddle they’re in, and the crib sheet you’re using could play a role. Try to keep the room between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
It may take some experimenting to get the room to a level that’s comfortable for your little one, but bear in mind that if it’s cool for you, it’s most likely cold for your baby. If it’s warm for you, it could be hot for your baby. Neutral is ideal.
Even from a young age, too much light can mess with our circadian rhythm. Make sure the room is dark, and I would recommend not using a bright night lamp. Something that provides a patterned light or a star-effect may help to keep your little one soothed and distracted, but not disrupt their sleep pattern.
Those little ears are sensitive! Even a vague drone could be enough to disrupt sleep and make your babe want to go sleep somewhere else. Things like dogs barking, planes flying over, and that sort of thing are out of your control to a degree. But if you know that the neighbor’s pup is noisy, you’ll need to figure out a way to prevent it from interrupting baby’s sleep.
To combat the noise issue, you could:
- Soundproof/dampen the room.
- Play a white noise track.
- Play quiet, soothing music or nature sounds.
If you continually deal with loud noise in your area, soundproofing the entire room may be the best option in the long run.
Increase Their Comfort
If your child feels nervous or anxious being away from you or in an unfamiliar sleeping environment, leave them with something to comfort them. Be mindful of the AAP’s recommendation not to leave anything in the crib with your little one, though!
You could leave a toy nearby that plays soft sounds, or radio with quiet chatter. Some sources suggest leaving your baby with something that smells like you. While I find this quite a good idea, it’s hard to do without leaving a potentially dangerous blanket or item of clothing in the crib.
You could spray some of your perfume—just a touch, on the opposite end of the crib mattress to the baby’s head—so your scent lingers. You could hold your child’s swaddle while they’re not in it, so it gets a you-smell.
For young babies, a rocking crib could be a great help. A simple motion similar to mom’s rocking could soothe them right to sleep. If you’re going to go this route, it’s essential that you choose a crib that’s sturdy and won’t pose a risk if baby gets restless.
My Baby Was Sleeping In the Crib But Now Refuses To
Yes—this can happen! It often becomes a thing around the age of eight or nine months. This is called sleep regression—but despite the scary-sounding name, it’s no cause for concern.
You may panic and feel as though all your hard work has been undone. But don’t worry—this is a natural developmental step and should right itself within six weeks.
Around this age, your little adventurer is learning so many new things that their brain doesn’t calm down as easily as it used to. This can cause sleep disturbances, and when they wake up, of course, they want mom, who’s not there.
This can lead to your bundle of joy refusing to fall asleep in his or her crib, and here we are again. The same principles apply as the first time, though. Be patient, be consistent, and before you know it, their sleeping habits will be back to normal.
Figuring out how to get your baby to sleep in a crib can feel incredibly daunting at first. As parents, we want the best for our little ones, and our hearts break when they cry. But this process is natural and necessary, and not nearly as hard as you may be worried it is.
As long as you’re patient, consistent, and give your little babe plenty of love in between sleeps, the process should pass by without any hassles.
You’ve got this!