Parents devote a lot of time to select the perfect crib for the nursery. You even spent an entire afternoon or a weekend to assemble it. You assume that’s where the baby will spend most of the night, once they start sleeping through it.
Then comes the first time you put the baby in the crib. Cue the crying and screaming. You pick them back up, safe in your arms once more. It might seem adorable and even comforting at first. But few parents have the luxury of holding the baby for 45 minutes while they fall asleep. You have other things to do like cleaning the house or taking care of the other kids. So what can you do?
Why Babies Don’t Sleep in the Crib
There is a reason babies like to fall asleep in the arms of a parent. Even a very young baby knows when they are being held by a stranger. They become familiar with your touch and smell. So the transition from the warmth of your arms to cold sheets can be jarring.
But that doesn’t mean they won’t make the transition. It’s a good idea to start crib sleeping when the baby is four to five months of age. Some babies take longer than others to sleep without a parent around but it’s a good time to start. Doctors recommend you keep the crib or bassinet in your room for the first 6 months at least, even if they’re sleeping well on their own.
It Takes Time and Patience
Remember that getting your baby to sleep alone will take time and patience. It may not work at first, it’s almost a guarantee that the first few times will be loud. Some babies take a few days, others may take weeks. But you will get there eventually and it’s definitely worth the effort. Finally, both parents and babies can get a good night’s sleep!
How to Start Crib Sleeping
Prepare the space
Prepare the room where the baby will sleep. Whether the crib is in the nursery or your bedroom doesn’t matter. Make sure the room is cool, dark, and quiet. Many adults cannot sleep with the lights on and neither can babies.
How does the baby know when to sleep? Let them know it’s time for bed by gradually winding down. Don’t play with them or stimulate them just before sleeping. Turn off the TV or any music that you might have going. It’s common advice for adults who have trouble falling asleep and it works for babies too!
Establish nighttime routines
Babies are creatures of habit. So establishing a bedtime routine is often helpful. Try to do the same things in the same order before putting them to sleep. Feeding, a bath and/or reading a book are great activities for bedtime routines. Make sure not to keep food towards the end, you don’t want them to associate food and sleep.
Feet first, head last
Many parents put the head down first but this motion is often disturbing for babies. They get the same feeling as you would when falling backward. So gently lower your child into the crib feet first. Lay their head down last.
For some babies, this is all you have to do for a smooth transition to the crib. But it doesn’t always work because every baby has their own personality. Some may need extra time or help to start sleeping on their own. So, here are a few tips you can try if your baby is having difficulty adjusting to the new routine.
A Few More Tips
Keep them active during the day
Many babies find it hard to fall asleep because they’re simply not tired. If your child seems eager to play at night, this might be the issue. Keep them active during the day, so they’re tired enough to sleep at bedtime.
But keep in mind there’s a fine line between tired and exhausted, especially for young babies. An exhausted baby is more likely to demand your time and attention to fall asleep. Keep an eye on them close to bedtime. Your baby should be tired and ready to sleep. Not exhausted, hungry and cranky!
Familiarize them with the crib and the room
Some babies can’t sleep in the crib because it’s unfamiliar. They associate sleep with your arms or the living room because that’s where they spend most of their time. It’s a good idea to spend some time in the nursery so they start thinking of it as a safe space to sleep. Play with them or feed them there instead of your room.
Try white noise
A white noise machine can soothe fussy babies. It’s way better than having to stand near their crib, talking or singing until they fall asleep! Play it at a low volume and stop using it if your baby doesn’t like it.
Sleep in the same room as your baby
For some families, this means moving the crib to the master bedroom. Other parents may find it easier to sleep in the nursery. It can ease the transition for your baby when you’re within reach while they sleep.
Another option is to swaddle them or use a sleep sack. This mimics the warmth and comfort of the womb. If your baby is too old to swaddle or just doesn’t like it, try standing near the crib. Don’t pick them up but a soft belly rub or a soothing lullaby can work wonders. They’ll fall asleep easier with your familiar smell and touch.
It can be hard to stick to a consistent routine with a baby. Even more so if you have other children. But keep at it. Travel plans or visiting grandparents can throw off the schedule. Just try to get back on track when you return home. It will take a while but soon, the entire family will be sleeping in their own beds through the night!