When an expecting mom is pregnant, the discomforts and anxieties that sometimes arise can make sleep elusive. But complain about the lack of sleep and that mama is sure to hear some form of, “Just wait until the baby’s here!” As annoying as it may be, those well-meaning friends and family members who’ve been there are probably right. There’s just no other tired that quite compares to new-mom tired. So as much as you love those newborn snuggles, by the time the first couple of months are over, you’re probably ready to get your little one sleeping in her own crib…and both of you sleeping through the night.
But, getting a baby to sleep in a crib can be a lot more challenging than it might seem. So, how do you get a baby to sleep in a crib? Lots of new parents use bassinets, swings, bedside cosleepers, or even their own bed to help baby sleep in the beginning. But whether you lay baby down in his own crib from day one or you take a slower approach, these are some great tips to get him adjusted to his crib and off to dreamland.
How to create a Safe Crib for Sleeping
When it comes to taking care of our children, keeping them safe is usually number one. Preparing your little one’s transition to a crib means first creating the safest space for them to sleep.
A crib is the safest place to lay your baby down for sleeping. All she needs is a firm mattress and a tight-fitting sheet. It may not look comfortable to you, but a child under one doesn’t need (and shouldn’t have) pillows or stuffed animals for sound sleep. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the safest way for baby to sleep is placed on their back in a bare crib.
And it doesn’t have to be a fancy crib either. Pack ‘n Plays are a perfectly suitable and safe option for baby sleep.
How to establish a Routine for Getting Your Baby to Sleep in a Crib
Once you have your baby’s crib ready for safe sleep, it’s time to start setting up their sleep routine. This will be the biggest step in getting your baby to:
- fall asleep on their own, and
- sleep through the night.
- Calming bath 45 minutes – 1 hour before bedtime
- Infant massage
- Diaper, jammies, and place your baby in a sleep sack or swaddle. We recommend the Dreamland Weighted Swaddle for helping your newborn stay relaxed as they prepare to drift off to sleep.
- Turn off the lights and turn on calming music or nature sounds
- Nursing or feeding
- Rocking baby, snuggling and singing your favorite lullaby until she shows signs of sleepiness. If she takes a pacifier, be sure she has it.
- Lay baby down on her back – still awake, but clearly drowsy
If you’re starting the transition to a crib with an older infant, you probably already have a bedtime routine in place. If that’s been working so far, there should be minimal changes made to the rest of baby’s routine.
The Crib Sleep Adjustment Period
Even with the very best nighttime routine, it’s unlikely that your little one will go down without any pushback at all. (Though you may be part of the lucky few!)
Naturally, change for a baby will come as a bit of a shock – remember that they are humans, too! Change is hard, and your baby has likely gotten quite comfortable in the sleep space you’ve created for him thus far. A short adjustment period is to be expected. But, with a little willpower, your baby will be sleeping soundly in their crib very soon.
With taking your baby’s age into account, here are a few options to make the transition go as smoothly as possible.
- Option 1: With a baby younger than 3-4 months, you both might do best with a "soothe and put back down" approach. This means you'll pick your baby up if she’s fussing, calm her down, and immediately put her back down in her crib. This may need to be repeated several times.
- Option 2: Staying close by your baby while they remain in their crib is another option. This could start with you keeping a hand on their chest as they relax, with each night creating a little bit more distance. Sometimes the comfort of your presence is all baby will need to relax and fall asleep. A weighted sleep sack that mimics this closeness will also help. Eventually, they’ll adjust to falling asleep in the crib alone.
- Option 3: A baby 3-4 months in age or older may be ready for more distance from the get-go. Or maybe you’ve tried the other techniques and they're not working. At this point, you’ll leave the baby alone in her crib. It’s important to remember that some fussing and crying is completely normal as your child undergoes this stage. Give your baby 5 – 10 minutes to adjust because it’s very likely they will fall asleep independently in that amount of time. One minute of crying can seem like an eternity, but you also have to remember that you’re giving both yourself and your baby the gift of a good night’s sleep.
But what if my baby cries?!
A crying infant is often a signal to parents that he is suffering in some way. No parent likes to hear their baby cry, which is why this baby stage can be such a difficult transition. First, make sure your baby is fed, changed, comfortable, and truly tired. If they are, you are not harming your baby by letting them cry some as they learn to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own in the safe space of a crib. It often only takes 2-3 nights of crying for your baby to be comfortable in her new routine where she is able to fall asleep without a peep.
Even though those first couple of nights might be terrible for you, they’re really not for your baby.
With that said, you know your baby and their needs better than anyone. Choose the option that works best for you and your baby as he transitions to crib sleep.
Make a Commitment to Your Baby’s Crib Sleep
No matter how you decide to work through the crib sleep transition, it’s important to stay committed to the choice you make. This will most likely be the toughest part of getting your baby to sleep in a crib. Once you decide crib sleep is the best choice, be all in. Avoid reverting to previous sleep habits!
Even throwing in the towel just once sends a message to your very intelligent baby that they are in charge. To get through this, remind yourself how important sleep is for your baby's health and growth. The snuggles will be extra special when baby wakes up and you are both happy and fully rested.
Remember that every baby eventually learns to fall asleep in their crib on their own. Your pursuit of creating a well-slept household will take strength and persistence, but the reward will be well worth it for everyone.