Whether you were co-sleeping or bed-sharing or your baby was in a bassinet or Arms Reach Co-sleeper type of sleep space, you may now be wondering how to get baby to sleep in a crib. Let’s break it down:
- Sleep on the crib sheets so your scent is transferred.
- Spend awake time and playtime in the crib.
- Create a consistent bedtime routine that you can follow.
- Start with just one sleep period.
- Put your baby down awake in the crib.
- Soothe your baby crib-side until he or she falls asleep.
- Work your way up to more sleep periods over days/weeks.
Some of these steps are relatively simple and self-explanatory, but let’s dig deeper on some of these.
1. Sleep on the Crib Sheets
This isn’t going to be magic or anything, but some babies find comfort in their parents’ scent and sleeping on the crib sheets could transfer your scent to them. Alternatively, you can put the sheet in your shirt while you walk around for the day. You would do this for 1-2 days or nights before you start working on sleeping in the crib.
2. Awake Time in the Crib
Imagine you were going to sleep in a hotel, but it looks “weird” or different. You may be a bit apprehensive. If you haven’t been spending any time in your baby’s room or crib, the crib is a foreign place and some babies aren’t too keen to sleep in a new place. So, spend some awake time and play time in the room and in the crib. What might start as just 1-2 minutes can gradually increase in duration. Try to play peek-a-boo, read a book, play upbeat music, etc. while your baby is in the crib. You can also turn on the mobile so there’s something interesting to look at. You don’t want to do this any time close to a sleep period, but rather when your baby is alert.
Some say to only use the crib for sleep and, of course, we don’t want the crib to be a playground, but who wants to sleep in a place that is not comforting? We need to associate good memories in the crib before we expect a baby who has been apprehensive to sleep in it!
3. Consistent Bedtime Routine
You’ve probably read this before because everyone talks about a bedtime routine. But, what’s important about the bedtime routine when it comes to getting your baby to sleep in the crib is that the routine can be done no matter the sleep space. That means if you do side-lying breastfeeding, that won’t work very well during this particular transition. If you put your baby in the stroller at nap time in the living room, that’s not the best routine, either. Try to make up a routine that can be done in your baby’s room so, eventually, he will go into the crib at the end. Always end your routine with the same song or key phrase, too.
4. Start with one Sleep Period
Yes, of course, being consistent 24×7 is ideal, but ideal isn’t always the best and easiest path when it comes to getting your baby to sleep. Sometimes it’s actually faster and easier to gradually work your way up to 24×7. So, choose one sleep period (either the first nap of the day or bedtime is my preference) and work on just that sleep period for at least a couple of days.
5. Put down your baby awake
Ideally, your baby would KNOW he’s being put in the crib. We aren’t trying to trick babies here, but rather, helping them learn new sleep habits and expectations. Some parents do start with putting their baby down already asleep just to get them used to the crib and that’s a fine “baby step” sure. But, eventually, it’s best to put baby down awake. This is because sooooo many people say that when they go to put baby down in the crib, she wakes up immediately. We really want to teach babies to accept the crib, not trick them into it.
Need to know more about putting baby down awake? Read our article here about what drowsy, but awake means.
6. Soothe your baby crib-side
Your baby may not like the crib at first and that’s to be expected. You’re making a change and your baby may not see a need to make a change. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to go smoothly the first time or even the fifth time, but it WILL gradually (or not so gradually) get easier the more times you do it. So, be hands-on in the beginning and then you can do less and less “work” over time.
Need more help with sleep coaching? Read our 5 Steps to Gentle Sleep Coaching (Members Only)
7. Add more sleep periods
When you feel ready, add on another sleep period, even if it’s not going perfectly. Keep adding on sleep periods until you’re consistently using the crib for all sleep periods. Some days may go smoother than others, but give your baby 1-2 weeks to adjust to the crib. And, you’re done!