Have you been wondering how to get your baby to sleep in a crib recently? Whether your infant has never been a good crib sleeper, or if they used to cope just fine but are now refusing to settle down smoothly, this is a problem many parents face when their little ones are still developing sleep skills.
We explore a few ways you can increase the chances of your baby embracing the all-important crib — a fundamental step in their journey towards becoming completely independent sleepers.
The Quick Answer
A combination of bedtime routines, suitable baby clothing, a sleep-conducive bedroom atmosphere and a consistent approach to sleep training is the best way to get your baby to sleep in a crib!
What’s So Difficult About Sleeping In a Crib?
It’s not necessarily the crib itself that your baby doesn’t like. One of the major reasons you’ll find your little one protesting is that they still crave security and comfort from their parents. And even if the crib is in your room and close to your own bed (as health organizations such as the AAP recommend), they can feel too far away from their caregivers and desire for more attention.
Babies are incredibly sensitive to things like their parent’s touch, to the extent that they won’t settle down properly unless one of their parents is the one to put them to bed. Putting them all alone in a new environment can be too much for them sometimes and they’ll scream out for someone to pick them up.
Putting them all alone in a new environment can be too much for them sometimes and they’ll scream out for someone to pick them up.
Weaning Babies Off Other Sleeping Positions
It’s not uncommon for parents to find that their baby is only happy going to sleep when they are being held or carried in a baby carrier — strapped to the chest of their caregiver. The warmth, attention and familiarity of this has been known to induce sleep for infants around the world.
However, getting too used to certain positions like this can prevent them from being comfortable alone in their cribs.
Similarly, some babies love the car seat and parents find that this is, frustratingly, the only place they can guarantee they will sleep well. This can be due to the soothing nature of constant motion and white noise from outside that helps them sleep. But again, you can’t drive your baby around everytime you want them to nod off and transporting them from their seats to the crib without them waking is often an unsuccessful venture.
We’re not saying you shouldn't take the opportunity to let your baby enjoy other positions now and then (as long as they’re safe), but the danger comes when they become too dependent.
The Importance of Cribs
In short, cribs are the best place for your baby to sleep. They are the only safe space for a baby when they’re infants and should be the default option for all babies, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The Dangers of Bed Sharing
Bed-sharing is advised against for all babies, due to the dangers it presents. However, the risks of bed-sharing are even greater in the following situations, according to the AAP.
- Your baby was born prematurely
- The surface of the bed is soft — which is considered an unstable and dangerous surface
- Your baby is younger than 4 months old.
- The parent is a smoker or a drinker
- The parent is currently on medication or drugs
- There is soft bedding such as sheets, quilts and pillows — that might entangle or suffocate your baby
Create the Perfect Crib Set-up
Parents should opt for cribs that conform to certain standards. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued mandatory standards for full-size and non-full-size baby cribs, which all baby cribs will adhere to. However, they also recommend the following safety rules to caregivers:
- Follow the instructions provided and make sure that every part is installed correctly.
- Check where your crib was made as some countries won’t have the same safety requirements for baby products.
- Never place pillows or thick quilts in a baby's sleep environment.
- Make sure there are no gaps larger than two fingers between the sides of the crib and the mattress.
- Do not use broken or modified cribs and if building your own crib from scratch, base your design on approved measurements. This is especially important with the size of gaps between bars — where babies can get their heads trapped if they are too wide.
- Only use the mattress provided with the crib
- Avoid placing a crib near a window or hanging objects like cords and cables that can catch around your baby’s head or limbs
The quality of the crib is another important factor. As well as being fire-safe, they should be fastened and strengthened with the right equipment to ensure long-term stability.
Choose Suitable Clothing for Sleep
Babies love close and restrictive comfort in their early months. When they have too much space around them, they may feel “lost” and out of place. However, it’s dangerous to add pillows, soft toys and blankets to their crib in order to create a more contained nest for them — so what’s the solution?
The swaddle is the perfect way to give your little one a kind of womb-like environment that keeps their bodies tightly contained and cozy. This is a great idea if you’re trying to get your baby to sleep in the crib for the first time.
However, it’s not advised to swaddle your baby past the age of 2 months due to the increased risks of SIDS when you do. If you’re at the stage where you need to remove the swaddle, it’s worth considering various swaddle transition products that can help to offer a similar kind of comfort but in a completely safe way.
Our Zipadee-Zip, for example, is designed specially to soothe babies and keep them healthy and comfortable while transitioning away from the swaddle.
Adjust the Bedroom Environment
When you put your baby into a crib, there will also be a drop in temperature in most cases. And as babies are sensitive to things like this, it can cause them to feel distressed — even if you’ve dressed them in appropriate clothes.
One thing that can help is adjusting your thermostat or air conditioner slightly so that they’re not too cold when you put them down into the crib. Just bear in mind that overheating is just as much of a problem as being too cold, so careful consideration about this is important, rather than a spontaneous fiddling with the heat dial.
Another thing to consider is how bright or dark your child's room is. Babies are best left to sleep in completely dark rooms, so avoid the temptation of leaving the shades or door open to let some light in. Too much light can prevent your little one from getting to bed in the first place, and even once they do, can stop their sleep from being as full and long as it could be.
The same concept works with noise, meaning the less the better. Try to keep things quiet and calm when your little one goes to sleep and try to cut out any outside distractions as best as you can. If it’s not possible to control what others are doing (neighbors, cars, siblings etc.) consider adding some white noise to your child’s room to block out additional sounds.
Finally, make sure you remove all electronics from the vicinity. Phones, laptops and other gadgets can distract your baby more than you realize!
Consider Your Approach to Sleep Training
Having a specific approach to sleep training can help give you something to fall back on when trying to figure out how to get your baby to sleep in a crib. With a general idea of the steps you want to take and the estimated timeline for this to work, you won’t need to panic every time you hear your little one crying when you put them down.
There are many different types of sleep training, but all involve the process of teaching your baby that they're capable of sleeping independently, with very little (or no) intervention from adults.
Having a specific approach to sleep training can help give you something to fall back on when trying to figure out how to get your baby to sleep in a crib.
You don’t need to choose a method that seems harsh or over the top if you don’t want — such as letting your baby “cry it out” each night until they sleep. The idea is simply to have a controlled and considered way to give your baby what they need to soothe themselves, whether that means gradually weaning them off parent comforts like nursing and rocking, or gradually distancing yourself from them at night (aka the chair method).
Feeding times and napping times can also play a large part in your overall approach to sleep training.
Optimize the Bedtime Routine
Bedtime routines are such a powerful tool when trying to overcome baby sleep problems, such as getting them to sleep in a crib. They don’t need to be overly complicated. The most important thing is consistency, so that your baby learns when it’s time to wind down each night and relax into a restful sleep.
A few recommended activities to include in a bedtime routine are:
- Start by dimming the lights 1 hour before bedtime, as well as turning off or removing any distractions (phones, TVs, appliances etc.).
- Wash your baby and put them in a distinct set of clothes for sleeping, such as a swaddle or sleepsuit.
- Spend some soothing time with them just before bed, either cuddling, reading, or singing a lullaby – when they’re drowsy enough, you’ll be able to leave them to it.
For more ideas, you might be interested in our guide: How to Help My Baby Sleep — The Perfect Evening Routine
Be PatientNewborns will always find it difficult to sleep alone at some point in their lives. Knowing this can help you to avoid some of the biggest fears and worries that something is wrong. If you’re concerned about how to get your baby to sleep in their crib, rest assured that this is something that millions of parents have gone through around the world.
Final Tips for Getting Your Baby to Sleep In a Crib
Below are a few final ideas and suggestions to consider when trying to get your little own to embrace the crib.
- Introduce the crib early so that they don’t get too used to other ways of sleeping, such as sleeping in your arms or in a carrier. This can mean starting off with short naps in the crib.
- Don’t always rush in if your child is crying or looks distressed. Give it a short time to see if they can calm themselves down — this is great practice for sleep independence so they will eventually be able to soothe themselves to sleep by themselves.