When you’re expecting your first baby, you spend hours preparing for their arrival. You lovingly create a Pinterest-worthy nursery and invest in a beautiful crib; before sourcing soft and comfortable bed linen, color coordinated sheets and cozy blankets. You hang up the moon and stars mobile, position the nursing chair and patiently wait for your baby to arrive, safe in the knowledge that you have created the perfect setting for them to get a good night’s sleep.
Fast forward a few months and your newborn has arrived safe and sound. The crib on the other hand, has sat, completely empty and untouched. No matter how hard you try, your baby will NOT sleep in the crib.
Here are some reasons why your baby wont sleep in their crib and what you can do to fix it.
One of the main reasons why babies will resist sleeping in the crib is because it is unfamiliar. If your baby falls asleep content and safe in your arms or on your chest, (or even in a baby sling, stroller or car seat) waking up in strange surroundings or rousing during ‘the transfer’ can be quite distressing for your baby. As soon as they realize that they aren’t in the same place, they can get upset and cry. With baby’s sleep cycles being relatively short, even if you do make the transition successfully, the success may be short lived.
How to get your baby to sleep in the crib
Allow your baby to self settle – One of the best recommendations to improve your baby’s sleep is to allow your child to self settle and not rely upon you as a crux to help them. Putting your baby in the crib when they are already asleep means they will need you again when they wake – which they will after a relatively short period of time. Instead, you should aim to put your child in the crib when they are drowsy but not fully asleep. This way, your baby is aware of their surroundings as they drift off and won’t be shocked when they wake up. Self settling also avoids the risky transition from chest to crib, a move which can wake and disturb your child.
Don’t rush in – If you do put your baby in the crib and they start to grizzle or whine, try not to rush straight in and pick them up. Part of these noises and movements may be their settling process and rush in too quickly, you may actually wake or rouse them more fully. If they’re not crying, give them time.
Consider a swaddle – A large crib can feel like quite a big open space for a baby if they aren’t used to it and may leave them feeling vulnerable or unprotected, particularly if they have been moved from the secure safety of their Mom’s chest or arms. Swaddling can really help babies adjust to a crib by mimicking the feeling of being held and keeping their arms close to their chest. Swaddles can also prevent the incredibly common newborn Moro reflex from jolting your baby awake.
Create a calm space – It’s easy to forget this, but your baby has been used to the dark, warm environment of your womb for the last 9 months, so if the nursery or the room with the crib is too bright, noisy or cool it can also impact their willingness to lie in the crib. Bedsheets can also feel cold against their skin and with them being less able to regulate their temperature, a cool blanket can be enough to wake them. You may also want to consider white noise and soothing sounds to help calm them whilst they settle to sleep.
Gradual retreat – Babies like being close to their caregivers, so a gradual retreat can help, slowly moving the crib further away from you until eventually, they are in their own room. Side sleeper cribs are a great option for this, providing the comfort and reassurance that Mom is close by, whilst also offering the versatility to be used as a stand-alone crib.
Be consistent – Overall, it’s quite common for babies to resist the cot. After all, given the choice, why would you not choose to have someone comfort you to sleep and stay with you and keep you safe? As with most things parenting, practice makes perfect. Be consistent and keep trying. Whilst it can be tempting to give up if your baby starts to cry, in the long term, the more exposure they have to the crib, the more familiar it will become.