How to Get Your Baby to Sleep in the Crib
It happens all of a sudden.
You’re the proud parent of a sweet little newborn and for months you’ve been enjoying those warm cozy cuddles as your newborn falls asleep during feeding, holding or rocking. You enjoy some bonding time before easing her into the crib or bassinet and then try to get some sleep yourself. She still wakes every few hours for feedings but getting her back to sleep and back in the bassinet or crib doesn’t seem to be a problem.
Then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, everything changes. The methods that you have been using no longer work and you don’t know how to get your baby to sleep in the crib. You rock, nurse or hold your baby until you think she’s asleep, say a little prayer, carefully try to lay her in the crib and… “Wahhhhhhhh!”
Now you have to start all over. You’re exhausted and your baby is too.
Your baby has decided that the crib is the scariest, most uncomfortable place on the planet and she is NOT going in there. This leaves parents desperately wondering, “how do I get my baby to sleep in the crib?”
Difficulty with getting babies to sleep in the crib tends to happen between 3 and 4 months of age, when babies are coming to the end of the newborn stage. This is when babies are becoming aware of the world around them and beginning to practice their first milestones, such as rolling over. They have probably also developed a preference for sleeping in the warm, protective arms of a parent. This means that even if you are able to transfer your baby to the crib, it is difficult to get her to sleep in the crib for a restful amount of time. You may find she wakes up after as little as 15 minutes, crying and wanting to be back in your arms.
If you are looking for tips on how to get your baby to sleep in the crib, you have come to the right place. In addition to tips, I will offer an explanation as to why this is happening because there is a central reason why your baby won’t sleep in the crib. The reason is simple: your baby won’t sleep in the crib because she doesn’t want to. To her, it is scary and uncomfortable and she would rather sleep in your arms.
Now… hear me out. I promise if you keep reading you will get an answer to the question – “how do I get my baby to sleep in the crib?” Although you may not like it.
Busting the Tips
Decoding the search results – “How to get baby to sleep in the crib.”
As a new exhausted mother, I also turned to the internet, and desperately searched: “how to get baby to sleep in crib” after trying to transfer my daughter to her crib only to have her freak out and start shrieking, time and time again.
After going through my own experiences and helping countless families through their children’s sleep issues, I can say that most of the tips you find online are low key telling you to sleep train. In other words, they are indirectly telling you that if you want your baby to sleep in the crib, she will need to fall asleep independently, which will involve some crying. However, that kind of straight talk is often missing.
If your goal is to have your baby sleep in a separate space because you don’t want to bedshare, co-sleep or assist your baby to sleep for every nap and bedtime, sleep training will help you achieve that goal. As long as your baby is over 4 months of age and you have spoken with your healthcare provider, sleep training is an option to explore if you want to get your baby to sleep in the crib.
Busting Tip Number 1
“Make the crib more like your arms”
This tip implies that if you use a water bottle or heating pad to warm the crib before placing your baby in it, you will successfully get your baby to sleep in the crib. In my experience, this doesn’t work for a few reasons. Firstly, a slightly warmed crib will not simulate a parent’s arms and I have yet to find an invention that does. Also, the warmth from a water bottle or heating pad will quickly cool down and you have a crying baby again. The key is to make sure the room is a good temperature for sleeping (68°F to 70°F or 20°C to 21°C) and that your baby is wearing something warm and comfortable. A swaddle is ideal for babies under 3 months who have not started rolling yet, and a sleep sack is ideal for older babies. However, a comfortable room does not guarantee that you will get your baby to sleep in the crib. In order for her to sleep in the crib, she must be able to fall asleep in the crib, independently. She has to get used to it and gain the understanding that her crib is for sleeping. This is where a good sleep program is useful.
Busting Tip Number 2
“Create a good bedtime routine”
Routine is important. There is no doubt about that. I totally agree that babies thrive on a good routine and I am a firm believer that routine helps children and parents alike. However, I feel this tip is not contextualized appropriately when a parent searches for tips on how to get a baby to sleep in the crib.
Imagine that you are an exhausted, frustrated new parent. (Not too much of a stretch right?) You are desperately searching the internet at 3am. You’re looking for tips on how to get your baby to sleep in the crib and the internet tells you – “make sure you have a good routine in place.”
This tip implies that if you follow wake windows and have a consistent bedtime routine, your baby will magically get past her fear of sleeping alone and float effortlessly into the crib every time. Obviously this is not true and independent sleep is still the most important component. The baby will still need time to get used to the crib and this may involve some crying. I feel this tip must be contextualized as being part of an overall sleep plan, meaning that if you have a good routine in place, and are following age appropriate wake windows, it is easier for your baby to settle on her own when it is time for sleep.
Busting Tip Number 3
“Put your baby in the crib when she’s drowsy but awake”
The suggestion to put your baby in the crib when she’s “drowsy but awake” is a classic sleep training recommendation. This is also a phrase that confuses and enrages tired parents. What are you supposed to do after you put your “drowsy but awake” baby in the crib and she starts having a meltdown?
Once again, this tip often lacks context, which is why it is so baffling to struggling parents. If this tip is not part of a holistic sleep plan you will soon realize that a drowsy baby quickly becomes a crying, wide awake baby. If you are not mentally prepared for her crying, and have no plan in place, the “drowsy but awake” suggestion will not work.
Busting Tip Number 4 – Sensory Tips – Hunger, Noise, Light
When you search for tips on getting your baby to sleep in the crib, you will no doubt find recommendations that refer to sensory perception, specifically hunger, noise and light.
If you’re trying to get your baby to sleep in the crib, she should have a comfortably full tummy. A milk feeding should be incorporated into the bedtime routine. If your baby is younger than roughly 8 months, you should be prepared to give her at least one night feed until you and your healthcare provider decide that she is ready to sleep through the night without one.
The room should be as dark as possible and most pediatric sleep consultants recommend the use of blackout curtains. This helps the baby to settle and eliminates distractions when the baby is trying to fall asleep.
Noise machines are often recommended if your household is somewhat noisy. A white or pink noise machine helps to sooth babies, but more importantly, it absorbs noises that could wake up your baby. They will not help put your baby to sleep in the crib but they will help stop her from waking up due to noise.
All of these recommendations are important and I agree with all of them. However, when you find these tips on the internet, what is often missing is the most important point – That your baby should fall asleep on her own. These tips should be incorporated into a complete sleep plan that emphasizes routine, play and stimulation balanced with rest and most importantly – independent sleep. They fail to mention that these tips will not work long term if you have to assist your baby to sleep, especially if you want to get your baby to sleep in the crib rather than bedshare or co-sleep.
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