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how to get your baby to sleep in a crib

How To Get A Baby To Sleep In Their Crib

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Struggling with how to get your baby to sleep in the crib? Learn sleep strategies to help when your baby won’t sleep in the crib.

One of the most common struggles for new parents is not getting their babies to sleep, but getting their babies to sleep on their own, in their own cribs. If you have a little one that seems to be able to sleep just about anywhere except where they’re supposed to, you are not alone. 

There are a number of reasons why a baby won’t sleep in a crib. The good news is that when it comes to figuring out how to get your baby to sleep in a crib, there are also a number of things you can do to help make sure both you and your little one can finally get the sleep you both need. 

Maybe you have a newborn who only sleeps when held or an older baby that prefers to sleep in their stroller or car seat. You may be struggling with a baby that won’t nap in the crib, or has just recently started to refuse the crib. 

No matter what age or stage you find yourself in, continue reading to learn how to get your baby to sleep in the crib

Struggling with your baby’s sleep? Sign up for Dr. Rebecca Spencer’s Masterclass about Baby & Toddler Sleep to learn how to get your baby to actually sleep like a baby.

Reasons Why A Baby Won’t Sleep In A Crib

When it comes to struggling with a baby that won’t sleep in their crib, there are two scenarios parents face. The first is a baby who has never slept successfully in a crib, and the other is a baby who has suddenly stopped sleeping successfully in the crib. 

Each of these scenarios has their own unique causes that are important to understand when trying to learn how to get a baby to sleep in their crib

If A Baby Has Never Slept Successfully In A Crib:

If your newborn baby is not sleeping in their crib or bassinet, some of the most common reasons include:

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  • Startle Reflex Babies are born with this natural response that is triggered when something sudden or unexpected happens, and most often occurs while they are sleeping. 
  • Discomfort- If your little one has gas, is overtired, or isn’t properly burped, they may not be able to sleep soundly in their crib. Additionally, swaddling can help soothe and increase your baby’s sense of security and safety when sleeping alone. 
  • A Learned Habit- If your baby has a particular place they often sleep, whether it is only sleeping when held, or perhaps when in a carrier, it is often a learned behavior and association. Your baby may have gotten used to falling asleep while being rocked, held, or worn, and now associates these cues with sleep. 

If A Baby Has Suddenly Stopped Sleeping Successfully In A Crib

If your little one was recently sleeping in their crib without issue, and seemingly overnight has started protesting and resisting, there are a number of reasons your baby won’t sleep in the crib anymore. Some of the temporary changes that can interrupt your little one’s sleep include:

  • They’re Growing- You can expect your baby to experience a growth spurt at different times during their development. Most commonly, you will notice an increase in appetite and a change in their behavior around 3 weeks, 6 weeks and 3 months.
  • They’re Teething- You might be surprised to learn that your little one may begin to experience symptoms of teething at around  3 or 4 months old. Gum soreness and discomfort appear months before you may see their first tooth emerge at around 6 months old.
  • They’re Sick-  Any of the common early childhood illnesses, like colds, ear infections, rashes, can cause your baby to need extra comfort and attention. When your baby isn’t feeling well, they’ll likely resist being put down to sleep in their crib. 
  • They’re Reaching New Milestones Your baby is learning and growing every day. With each new month, they are learning and practicing new skills. Once your little one starts rolling over, sitting up, babbling, or pulling to stand, you may discover they are more interested in testing out their new abilities than sleeping.  
  • They’re In A Sleep Regression Sleep regressions are a common occurrence during a baby’s development. Each sleep regression is attributed to different stages of development. You can expect these brief disruptions in your baby’s sleep at the ages of 4 months, 6 months, between 8 and 10 months, and 12 months.

Prepare for sleep challenges with your baby – sign up for Dr. Rebecca Spencer’s Masterclass to learn effective strategies to help your baby sleep.

How To Get A Baby To Sleep In The Crib

Once you have ruled out or tended to any discomfort, pain, illness, or hunger, there are  some strategies that will help you with how to get your baby to sleep in the crib.

Remember that it takes time and patience, and every baby is different.

The first and most important thing to be sure of is that your baby and their crib are set up for safe sleep. In addition to a correctly assembled crib, your baby needs to sleep on a firm mattress with no blankets, pillows, or loose items. Your baby should always be put to sleep on their backs.

For at least the first 6 months and up to the first year, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that your baby sleep in a crib in the same room as you.  

Once you have secured a safe sleeping arrangement for your baby, try these strategies for when your baby won’t sleep in the crib:

  • Lie Them Down Before They Are Asleep-  Having your baby fall asleep in your arms is a magical feeling. However, overtime, it can cause your baby to not want to sleep anywhere else. While holding, or rocking your baby, try laying them down on their back in the crib when they start to become drowsy so they can start falling asleep in the crib. 
  • Give Them Some Time- Babies do not sleep very soundly. They are restless sleepers. When you lay your baby down for sleep in the crib and they fuss or cry, or they wake up and begin to cry a bit, try waiting just a few minutes before going to them. You may find that they are able to put themselves back to sleep on their own.
  • Be Consistent- Introducing a regular bedtime routine and trying to get your baby to sleep in their crib doesn’t happen overnight. It is important that you stay calm and patient during the process, and most of all consistent. Even though skipping your routine one night may not seem like a big deal, it can instantly set back weeks of progress. 
  • Play More-  If your baby is spending time in the crib working on their new milestones instead of sleeping, try making ample time throughout the day focused on age-appropriate activities that will allow them to practice and utilize their new skills so they can get more rest at night. 
  • Leaving Your Scent-  Your baby recognizes your scent and associates it with comfort, familiarity, and safety. Try smell sleeping with their crib sheet, sleep sack, or swaddle blanket for a night before using them with your baby. Having your scent close to them may help make sleeping in their crib much easier.
  • Get A Noise Machine- While your baby was in the womb, they heard a constant stream of sounds. A sound machine produces sounds like white noise, rain sounds, or waves, that mimic what they heard in the womb. Noise machines also help babies transition through their different sleep cycles.  
  • Swaddle-  A safe and correct swaddle is easily one of the best ways to help newborn baby get better sleep. Swaddling does take some practice, but if your baby won’t sleep in a crib or bassinet, it will be worth the time and effort.
  • Set The Temperature- Experts say the ideal temperature for sleep is between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Making sure your baby is not too warm or too cool can have a major impact on getting them to sleep. 

It can be frustrating when your baby won’t sleep in their crib. Don’t feel discouraged. Remember that all sleep struggles can be addressed and worked through with time, patience, and a little help from the experts. 

For more expert sleep advice, be sure to sign up for Dr. Rebecca Spencer’s Masterclass about Baby & Toddler Sleep to learn how to get your baby to actually sleep like a baby.

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