There can be nothing more frustrating than a newborn that will only sleep on you or in their car seat and balks at the idea of sleeping in their crib.
We’ve all been there. You’re definitely not the first person to Google “baby won’t sleep in crib” after a rough night.
Having a good night’s sleep is just as important for babies as it is for adults.
Age-appropriate naps and overnight sleep can make all the difference between a cranky baby and a happy and contented little peanut.
So what’s the secret for how to get baby to sleep in crib? Let’s take a look.
In this article: 📝
- So why can baby sleep be such an issue?
- When should baby start sleeping in crib?
- How do I get my baby to sleep in her crib without crying it out?
- How to get my baby to sleep in his crib
- How do I get my baby to sleep without being held?
- What should I do if my baby only sleeps when held?
- How to get baby to sleep in crib after co-sleeping?
So why can baby sleep be such an issue?
There are loads of sleep coaches and “sleep training” methods, but what will work for one family may be the opposite of helpful for another.
It can be super confusing, but remember that every baby is different, and every parent has a different level of tolerance when it comes to sleep deprivation.
And just when you think you’ve #nailedit, your baby changes again, and all those long naps and unbroken nights are a thing of the past. Why?
Sleep disruptions can be down to anything from a growth spurt, teething, learning new skills (yes, that’s your baby standing up in their crib), illness, or sleep regressions.
While these kinds of disruptions can play havoc with your sleep routine for a few days or weeks, once babies have mastered the skill of falling asleep independently, it generally doesn’t have to be re-taught, just adjusted to be age-appropriate.
In simple terms, it’s our job as parents to provide a safe and calm sleeping space, and it’s their job to fall asleep. Sounds so simple, but we know it can be anything but.
Here’s our guide to how to get a baby to sleep in a crib.
When should baby start sleeping in crib?
What’s a realistic expectation?
Well, technically, your baby can start sleeping in their crib from day one, but many parents rely on a bassinet or co-sleeper for the first couple of months at least, to keep baby close by and make those night wakings slightly easier.
Whether in a bassinet, cosleeper, or crib, it’s recommended to keep your baby in your bedroom overnight for at least the first six months to reduce the chance of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Make sure to move your baby to a bigger crib once they outgrow the weight or age limits of their bassinet.
How do I get my baby to sleep in her crib without crying it out?
“Crying it out” is one of the most well-known sleep training methods, but many parents are hesitant to use such a strict method.
It can be distressing, but it can also work. If it’s not for you and your family, there are gentler ways to encourage your baby to sleep in their crib.
How to get my baby to sleep in his crib
Once your baby is around three or four months old, they may be old enough to start learning some good sleep habits.
By getting the basics in place, you should be able to navigate the inevitable bumps along the road.
You can help your baby to sleep in their crib by following these steps:
Make sure the room they’re sleeping in is a comfortable temperature and they’re appropriately dressed. The room can be darkened, and you might want to use white noise to block out household sounds.
Swaddle younger babies to help reduce their startle reflex and keep them feeling as snug as if they’re in your arms. A swaddle should be replaced by a sleep sack with their arms out before they can roll, so they don’t get stuck on their tummy. Babies should always be placed on their backs to sleep.
Provide a consistent routine so they know you’re expecting them to go to sleep. Check their diaper, pop them in a swaddle or sleepsuit. Choose a certain storybook to read, a lullaby to sing, or a sleepy phrase to say before placing them down.
For overnight feeds, keep everything as dark and as quiet as possible.
If your baby is too young to settle themselves, you can rock them to sleep in your arms and transfer them to their crib after about five minutes, when they will have entered a deeper sleep. Placing them into their crib bottom first, followed by their legs then their head last, can help reduce the startle reflex.
If you want to encourage your baby to fall asleep independently, place them in their crib when they are drowsy but awake. Then you can do some “hands-on settling” – rub their tummy, stroke their head, or gently pat the mattress near their head to help relax them. As time goes on, the amount of rubbing, stroking, or patting can be reduced until they don’t need it.
If you notice your baby making sounds or cries, give them a minute before rushing to assist them. Babies can be very active in their sleep, so they may not actually be awake and might be able to settle themselves into a quiet sleep again.
How do I get my baby to sleep without being held?
Contrary to what you might have heard, holding your young baby while they sleep isn’t spoiling them!
It’s normal for very young babies to need the comfort of being close to you to fall asleep, so it’s really not that unusual or “wrong” if your baby won’t sleep in a crib.
Newborn sleep cycles are short and can be very active, so they can easily become unsettled.
The sound of your heartbeat, warmth, and smell of your skin is extremely comforting to them.
And if they fall asleep in your arms, only to wake a short while later in their crib, it can be upsetting for them and throw the whole nap off. It’s totally normal.
What should I do if my baby only sleeps when held?
If you can’t, or don’t want to, hold your baby while they sleep, you have some options.
You can try putting them down gently after they’ve been asleep in your arms for about five minutes.
You can also experiment with putting them down drowsy-but-awake. (See steps 5 and 6, above.)
You can start with just overnight sleep and one nap a day in their crib, using lots of hands-on settling techniques.
As they become used to sleeping in their crib, you can gradually increase the number of naps they take in their crib over several weeks.
How to get baby to sleep in crib after co-sleeping?
This can be a tough transition, so a gradual approach is usually best.
Try sleeping with the crib sheet in your bed for a night or two, so when you put the sheet on the crib mattress, it smells of you.
This can comfort your baby in their new environment.
The exact steps you take will vary depending on the age of your baby.
You may want to introduce the crib as a safe space for naps before expecting them to sleep there overnight.
You may need to use some hands-on settling techniques to help your baby relax and feel safe in their new crib.
Or if your child is older, you can do some role play by putting a doll to sleep in the crib to help them understand where they will be sleeping now.
As ever, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, so an element of trial and error is to be expected.
Whatever stage you’re at, know that there really is no “normal,” so don’t feel pressured to change a sleep situation before you’re ready.
You can do this, mama!
😴 More on baby sleep from The 411:
How Much Do Newborns Sleep? A Rough Guide
5 Things I Wish I Knew About Baby Sleep as a First-Time Mama
5 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Blame for Bad Baby Sleep
How to Get Babies to Nap Longer: The Ultimate Guide
Baby Sleep Training 101
Is White Noise for a Baby Good?
Babies Waking Up Too Early: What to do
How Safe Is Co-Sleeping?
When Do Kids Stop Taking Naps?
Bassinet vs Crib: What to Know