5 Reasons Why Your Baby Won’t Sleep In Crib

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You spent countless hours adorning your child’s nursery and buying the best crib for your little one. However, when it is time for them to sleep, the baby won’t sleep in a crib, preferring to sleep in your arms or somewhere else.

If your baby has grown accustomed to sleeping in your arms or another spot, they may struggle to fall asleep in a crib. Read this post to learn why some newborns refuse to sleep in a crib and how to get them to sleep in one. But first, let’s look at the safety of cribs for babies.

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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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).
  1. 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).
  1. Lack of proper 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.

Some babies won’t sleep in cribs though they are tired and ready to doze off. This resistance could be due to discomfort in the crib, have separation anxiety, or lack of a proper bedtime routine. You may face this difficulty while transitioning them from a co-sleeper crib or introducing them to a crib for the first time. You can help them become comfortable sleeping in a crib by swaddling them, gently and slowly transitioning them to it, and forming a bedtime routine. With patience, your baby might gradually get used to this new environment.

Key Pointers

  • Babies may refuse to sleep on a crib if they have separation anxiety, gastrointestinal reflex, or are uncomfortable on the crib.
  • Ensure that the crib meets the CPSC standards before allowing your baby to sleep on it.
  • Identify the reason behind their refusal to sleep on a crib.
  • Making the crib comfortable, swaddling them before bedtime, and following a proper sleep routine could help.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Safe Sleep: Bedding, Pillows, Safety and More; United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
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
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Dr. Richard Mario Lurshay

Dr. Richard Mario Lurshay is a young and talented pediatrician, well known for his work with children. After completing his post-graduation in Pediatrics, he completed his training in Pediatric Nutrition from Boston University School of Medicine (USA). He is an esteemed Life Member of National Academy of Medical Sciences (NAMS), National Neonatology Forum (NNF) and Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP).... more

Rohit Garoo

Rohit Garoo is a zoologist-botanist turned writer with over 8 years of experience in content writing, content marketing, and copywriting. He has also done an MBA in marketing and human resources and worked in the domains of market research and e-commerce. Rohit writes topics related to health, wellness and development of babies. His articles featured on several notable websites, including... more