You spent hours decorating your little one’s nursery. You selected the best crib with a plush bed. But, when the moment finally arrives, your baby just won’t sleep in the crib and prefers to sleep in your arms, or anywhere except the crib.
If your baby has been habituated to sleep in your arms or a place other than the crib, then they may find it difficult to fall asleep in a crib. Read this post as we share reasons for why some babies won’t sleep in a crib and tips on how to get a baby to sleep in the crib.
Before going through the reasons, let’s first see if cribs are safe for newborns.
How Safe Are Cribs For Newborns?
According to The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), cribs are the safest place for babies to sleep (1). Many experts recommend placing a baby in a crib for naps and nighttime sleep. The following are the general reasons why cribs tend to be a safe place for babies to sleep.
- Cribs provide an isolated place for a baby to sleep. Since no one uses the crib except the baby, it reduces the risk of injury that may arise while bed-sharing with an adult.
- The high guard-rails of a crib can prevent the baby from rolling over or toppling over even when standing inside the crib.
- The slats on the sides of the crib facilitate constant ventilation. It also keeps the baby visible to the parent and vice versa.
Not all cribs are safe for a baby, and only those that meet CPSC standards can be considered safe (2). Research indicates that an infant’s sleep safety depends on the sleep setting and environmental factors (3). Therefore, cribs can be a safe place for a baby only when the following factors are met (4)(5).
- The baby should sleep alone in the crib.
- Prefer swaddling the baby or dressing them in warm clothes instead of using a blanket.
- If you are using a blanket, make sure it is tucked in and covers the baby up to the chest.
- The crib mattress must be firm and not sagging.
- The crib sheets should be tucked tightly under the mattress.
- There should be no pillows, stuffed animal toys, or bumper pads in the crib.
- There should be a tiny gap between the mattress and the crib’s slats to prevent the baby’s head from rolling into the gap.
- The baby’s weight should be within the weight limit of the crib.
Next, let us look at a few of the possible reasons why some babies won’t sleep in the crib.
Why Do Some Babies Refuse To Sleep In The Crib?
Here are a few possible reasons why your baby won’t sleep in the crib.
- Not comfortable enough.If your baby has been used to sleeping in your arms or co-sleeping, the crib may not come across as the comfiest place to sleep.
- Separation anxiety. If your baby is habituated to sleep in your arms, they might refuse to sleep alone as they will miss your touch and proximity (6). This anxiety might ease up by the time they are two years old.
- Gastrointestinal reflux (GER). It is common for babies with GER to sleep comfortably in a vertical position on your shoulder and wake up when you lay them in the crib (7).
- Negative emotions.If your baby associates the crib with negative emotions and events, such as night terrors, then they could display reluctance to sleep in the crib.For instance, if your baby woke up due to a nightmare while sleeping in the crib, then they might fear to sleep in it again (8).
- Lack ofproper sleep routine.If your baby sleeps in a bassinet or another place for a few nights and in a crib on other nights, then they may not be able to fully adjust to sleeping in a crib.
Seeing your baby fight sleep because they do not like to sleep in the crib can be frustrating. It is necessary to accustom your baby to sleep in their crib to prevent sleep deprivation for both you and your baby.
How To Get The Baby To Sleep In The Crib?
The first step in making your baby sleep in the crib is to understand the reason behind the rejection. Once you know this, you can consider the following steps to encourage them to sleep in a crib.
1. Prioritize their comfort
If your baby refuses to sleep in the crib due to discomfort, then the best way to deal with it is to make the crib as per their liking. Buy a safe and spacious crib, including a stiff mattress that fits perfectly in the crib. Do not place any stuffed animals inside the crib.
Keep the ambient temperature appropriate for the weather. The nursery can be kept dimly lit with a night lamp. Ensure your baby’s tummy is full,the diaper is dry, and they are dressed in comfortable clothes. Always lay your baby on their back, as it is the safest position for newborns.
If your baby is diagnosed with GER or GERD, take the necessary steps to keep the acid reflux at bay. Find out more about GERD here.
2. Create a bedtime routine
Have a bedtime routine where you place the baby in the crib at the same time each night. Have a relaxing bedtime routine, such as reading a book or bathing before going to sleep in the crib. Place your baby in the crib even for daytime naps. Make sure you lay the baby in the crib after they are drowsy and before they fall asleep in your arms.
3. Try swaddling
It is said that swaddling might prevent unnecessary wake-ups caused by the baby’s startle reflex (9). If your baby is having night terrors and refusing the crib, then try swaddling them. Swaddling also helps make your baby feel safe, just like how they were inside the tummy. However, do not swaddle your baby once they start to roll, which usually occurs at the age of six months (10).
4. Make the baby like the crib
Place a comfort object, such as a toy, at a distance from the crib so that the baby can look at it. You can use a crib mobile placed at a height beyond the baby’s reach. Also, place the baby’s crib in your room (room-sharing), so that the baby can see you at night. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping a crib about an arm’s reach from your bed (4). These steps can help soothe the baby and not make them associate crib with negative emotions, such as loneliness.
5. Make the transition slow and gentle
If your baby is used to co-sleeping, it could be challenging to make them sleep in the crib. In such cases, make the transition from bed to the crib as gentle as possible.Prepare your baby to sleep in a crib by making them sleep in the crib during the daytime.Put them in the crib, sit by their side to sing a song, or tell them a story. Gradually increase the number of hours the baby sleeps in a crib.
During the initial days, they might cry, kick, and even fight sleep when you try to lay them down in the crib. Do not lift them immediately; try to soothe them in the crib. Constant efforts, along with positive reinforcement, will gradually make your baby habituated to sleeping in a crib.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How to get my baby to nap in the crib during the day?
Make similar arrangements like you make for the night sleep, such as make the room dark or dim, keep the surroundings quiet, and make sure your baby’s tummy is full.Also, maintain the same nap time every day.
2. Why doesn’t my baby sleep in the crib anymore?
This is normal for young children going through developmental stages; initially, they might sleep peacefully in the crib, but they may not now. There could be many reasons, such as teething, negative associations with the crib, night terror, etc. Once you identify the cause and eliminate it, they might again start to sleep in their crib.
Be it during the transition from a co-sleeper crib, or trying the crib for the first time, there would be some resistance from your baby. Be patient and gentle with them. Once you start to implement the tips mentioned above,along with a healthy sleeping routine, you will notice the baby getting used to the crib and mastering naps.
2. How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe: AAP Policy Explained; American Academy of Pediatrics
3. Mary Ann O’Hara,Evidence supports respecting informed parental preference; NCBI.
4. Reduce the Risk of SIDS & Suffocation; American Academy of Pediatrics
5. Robert Giesler,How to Keep Your Infant Safe in Their Crib; Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
6. Andrew Guthrie; Separation anxiety: an overview; American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry
7. Gastroesophageal Reflux: Helping Your Baby’ Seattle Children’s Hospital
8. Sean D Boyden, Martha Pott, and Philip T Starks; An evolutionary perspective on night terrors; NCBI
9. Swaddling a baby: the benefits, risks and seven safety tips; NCT
10. Important Milestones: Your Baby By Six Months; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention