Having a baby and raising them is quite the journey, full of challenges and some bumps along the road that make the experience that much more enjoyable.
One of those challenges is getting your baby to sleep in the crib. It sounds simple enough, but the truth is that it’s everything but simple. Your baby spent nine months feeling cozy, warm, and snug inside your womb, and now that it’s outside, everything is new and a little overwhelming.
Also, babies are like blank canvases, and they need to learn all the basic skills. And it’s the job of the parents to teach them those skills so they can be fully functional individuals in the future.
Getting your baby to fall asleep in the crib by themselves is a significant milestone that many parents find hard to manage, and some give up and end up using the dreaded co-sleeping. Continue reading to learn exactly how to get babies to sleep in crib.
What is Co-sleeping?
Co-sleeping is when you let your little one sleep with you in your bed, and it has a lot of benefits, especially for the baby’s sense of worth and protection. However, this is not sustainable in the long run, and sooner or later, you’ll need to teach them how to sleep on their own. The more time passes, the harder it may get to sleep-train them.
There’s a lot that’s been said about sleep training, and over the years, what once was considered normal, has been seen as something negative because it’s believed you’ll need to let your baby cry until they understand that you’re not picking them out. Many have said that this leads to a sense of abandonment and trust issues, but things are normally not black and white. Parents have used it for years and years, and not everyone has those issues.
Besides, sleep training is more than letting your baby cry out for hours; it may not even involve tears.
So let’s see why it is so hard, or takes so much time, to teach your baby to sleep in a crib.
My newborn wont sleep in a bassinet
For about nine whole months, or 40 weeks, a baby lives in a dark place, surrounded by white noise and muted sounds, feeling warm and rocked because of the motions around them. Also, they were always well fed and never had to ask for food or fight a feeling of cold.
And then they’re born.
Thrown into a world full of stimulation, sounds, lights, people, smells, and weird sensations. Then we want them to be perfectly content sleeping on a stable surface with a lot of free space around them and let us know when they need to eat or are not feeling content.
It’s a lot to ask for a baby, so understanding their context goes a long way. They’re slowly getting used to their environment, and while they do this, they need some reassurance.
You’ll find that it’s easier for your baby to fall asleep while being rocked, carried around, held in a baby carrier, or even with some vibration (some bassinets come with this feature).
It’s also common for a baby to fall asleep very quickly when riding in a car or while in their stroller. It’s because the motions resemble those felt in the womb and soothe them to sleep.
However, there will come a time when you won’t be able to rely on those crutches to get your baby to sleep, and they will need to learn how to get to sleep, and if they wake up, go back to sleep again by themselves. And that’s why sleep training is necessary, and routine, plus persistence is key.
How to get your baby to sleep in a crib
There are many things parents can try to get an infant baby to fall asleep by themselves. It requires sticking to a set of guidelines and being consistent, and you’ll see results with time.
Keep in mind that your baby may not be developmentally ready to be sleep trained during the newborn stage because they require more feedings throughout the day, and everything is too new for them at that stage. So you’ll want to wait until your baby is around four months old before you attempt sleep training.
This doesn’t mean you don’t start establishing a routine until they’re four months old. It’s recommended that you establish a routine as soon as your baby is born to allow them to get used to it and understand the cues and what comes next.
Here are some steps on how to get your baby to sleep in a crib:
1. Be consistent
A bedtime routine shouldn’t only be applied at nighttime but for naps too. Because for a baby, sleep is sleep, no matter the time of day. If you use a crutch such as rocking or carrying them for naps because you consider naps not as important, you will be sending them mixed signals about what sleeping means, and they will have negative sleep associations for nighttime.
So try to replicate your bedtime routine throughout the day every time you want them to sleep, so they start associating every sleep with relaxation and resting. Maybe you don’t want to bathe them before napping because babies should only be bathed once a day or every other day, but you can use a white noise machine or read them a book before falling asleep.
2. Make them feel comfortable in the crib
No one wants to sleep where they don’t feel comfortable or associate with distress. And during those first stages of sleep training, if your baby is not used to being inside their crib, they may think of the crib as a place where there’s no fun. So to prevent that while they’re awake, you could let them play inside the crib with some toys, listen to some soothing music, and interact with the baby while they lay there to give them a positive experience of being inside the crib.
Remember that everything must be suitable for the baby’s age and that it needs to be removed from the crib at sleep time for safety reasons.
3. Provide the optimal sleep environment
Remember what we said before about where the baby was for nine months and how different it is from the outside world. With that in mind, it’s important to prepare your baby’s room to help them fall asleep. You should darken the room, but it does not need to be pitch black.
The temperature should be comfortable, not too hot or too cold, because babies can’t regulate their body temperatures, and the wrong temperature may cause distress and wake them up. If you can’t manage the room’s temperature or need extra help for those cold days, you could try using a sleep suit or long sleeves sleepers, even for a nap.
White noise machines are also helpful tools to set up a soothing bedtime routine, and if you leave them on the whole time, it may actually help your baby stay asleep or help them self-soothe if they wake up.
Another thing to be consistent about is that you always do the bedtime routine, no matter if it’s for a nap, in the same room, and not in different areas of the house. This may become challenging if you’re traveling or visiting some other place, but you’ll want to be consistent about where they sleep. That’s why babies should have their own space.
4. Swaddles and sleep sacks
To help your infant sleep, it’s a good idea to use a swaddle for nighttime or nap, as it keeps them held snuggly and warm during those first months. However, as soon as your baby starts rolling around and turning by themselves, around the 2nd-month mark, you’ll need to transition out of a swaddle for security reasons and prevent accidental suffocation. That’s when the sleep sack comes to play. There are many sleep sack styles, but the idea is to keep the baby warm and snug without any loose fabric, and some even are a little weighted to resemble the slight pressure of your hand on their chests or back.
5. Don’t run to pick them out
There’s a difference between letting babies cry themselves out and allowing them some time to self-soothe. Babies don’t have any other way to communicate their feelings besides crying, so just because they’re crying a little doesn’t mean they’re distressed.
With time you’ll learn to differentiate why your baby is crying and identify if it’s just to get your attention or if something more is happening.
With this in mind, if every time your baby wakes and opens their eyes, you rush to the baby’s crib and pick them up, you are not giving them the chance to learn. Younger babies will wake up multiple times at night, but if they feel comfortable and safe, they will fall asleep again, and that’s called sleep training because, in time, they will be trained to go back to sleep.
6. Let your baby fall asleep in the crib
This might sound unattainable, and during the first few nights, it might be challenging, but with persistence and consistency, many babies achieve this in no time. The idea is not to wait until the baby falls asleep before putting them in the crib but rather wait until they’re drowsy and put them in the crib awake.
At first, you would stay in the room and place a gentle hand on their chest or keep it behind their head to reassure them that they’re not alone but that it’s time to sleep. Your child might fuss a little at first and wake up a few times, but you’ll get them to sleep in a crib in time.
Good sleep habits make an infant and child thrive because sleep is a vital part of life. Sleep research has shown that the number of hours a child sleeps and the sleep cycles will determine the milestones they achieve and how they evolve as they grow up.
There are many parenting tips around how to get better sleep with an infant or newborn, especially at night but for a nap as well, and what signs determine that behavioral interventions are needed.
Falling asleep might seem like an obvious task for many, but remember that for babies, nothing is obvious. So buckle up, be patient and trust the process, and be confident your baby will learn to sleep in a crib.