How to get baby to sleep in crib

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Sleep plays an essential role in your baby’s happy and healthy development, and experts say a crib is the safest place for your baby to sleep. Find out how to get your baby to associate her crib with sleep, how long a crib can be used by a baby, and what you can do to ensure your baby’s crib is safe for sleep.

Crib Safety Tips and Advice

The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a crib. A bassinet or a portable crib can also work.

Place a firm mattress in the crib, and cover it with a tight-fitting bottom sheet. The mattress should fit the crib snugly, with no gaps between the side of the mattress and the rails.

To keep your baby safe, make sure the crib stays bare. Don’t have any loose bedding, blankets, bumper pads, pillows, or toys in the crib, as these items can increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or lead to suffocation.

It’s safest to keep the crib in your room until your baby is at least 6 months old. Room sharing can reduce the risk of SIDS by 50 percent, and it can also make it easier for you to check on your little one and tend to her during the night.

It’s very important that in your baby’s first year, your little one always be put to sleep on her back in the crib. This back-sleeping position helps reduce the risk of SIDS.

Your baby may roll over onto her stomach or side during the night. If you notice this, gently roll her onto her back.

Once your little one is able to roll over both ways —that is, from back to front and vice versa—experts say you no longer have to worry about repositioning her onto her back if she rolls over during the night.

In Summary

A crib is the safest place for your baby to sleep. To help reduce the risk of SIDS, keep the crib clear of objects like pillows, blankets, and plush toys, and always place your baby on his back to sleep. During the first 6 to 12 months, experts recommend keeping your baby’s crib in your room.

 

How to Get Your Baby to Sleep in a Crib

Experts recommend placing your baby in his crib when he’s drowsy but not yet asleep. This helps your baby learn to associate the crib with the place where he falls asleep. If you’re struggling to get your baby to sleep, try some of these tips:

  • Check whether your little one needs a feeding or a diaper change, or whether he may be feeling sick.

  • Check that the room temperature is cool but comfortable for your baby to sleep in, and that your little one isn’t over- or underdressed. Try playing white noise or soothing sounds using a baby sound machine or creating white noise by playing a fan pointed toward a wall. Every baby is unique, but your baby might prefer having a night-light on as he falls asleep. A night-light can also provide enough illumination for middle-of-the-night feedings and diaper changes, so you avoid having to turn the main bedroom lights on.

  • Placing a mobile above your baby’s crib can give your little one something to look at, and before you know it your baby may have lulled himself to sleep.

We have more tips on how to soothe your crying baby, but be sure to reach out to your child’s healthcare provider if you have questions or if nothing you try seems to work.

Creating a Bedtime Routine

Setting up and following a consistent bedtime routine can eventually make getting your baby to sleep in her crib that much easier. Over time your baby will get used to the winding down period and will start to anticipate sleep.

A bedtime routine can include:

  • A warm bath

  • A relaxing massage

  • Singing or reading to your baby

  • Dimming of the lights.

An important part of a successful routine is maintaining a consistent bedtime. This will help your baby get into a sleep schedule over time.

Your baby's schedule may be disrupted occasionally if something crops up like an outing or overnight travel. In these instances, do your best to stay close to your baby’s usual bedtime, and resume the normal routine as soon as possible.

What About When Your Baby Wakes in the Night?

Your baby may wake during the night for feedings and diaper changes, and sometimes just as part of his normal sleep pattern. Some babies are able to settle themselves back to sleep once their needs have been met, while others may still be learning how to self-soothe. When you tend to your baby, keep the lights dim, and use a soft voice and calming movements while you take care of his needs. Afterward, place him back in his crib for sleep and reassure him that everything is OK and it’s time for sleep. If your baby doesn’t need a feeding or a diaper change but is still a little fussy you may not even need to pick him up. Gently stroking his cheek or head for a few moments and letting him know that it’s time for sleep may be enough to help him fall back asleep.

In Summary

Help your baby learn to associate his crib with sleep by always putting him down when he’s slightly drowsy but not yet asleep. Ensure that your little one is comfortable for sleep by checking things like his diaper and the room temperature. When your baby wakes in the middle of the night for a feeding or a diaper change, take care of his needs in a low-key way, keeping the lights dim and using a soothing voice. Place him back to sleep on his back in his crib as soon as you’re done. Give him a chance to try to self-soothe before gently stroking his cheek or head, or picking him up.

 

When to Start Using a Crib

Your child will get lots of use out of her crib! Many parents start using one the moment they bring their newborn home from the hospital. Other parents prefer to have their baby sleep in a bassinet for a few weeks, which can be very convenient since it’s more portable than a crib. However, keep in mind that a baby will outgrow a bassinet quickly, often in the first month, so you may prefer to skip this item altogether and have your baby sleep in a crib from the get-go.

In Summary

Your baby can start sleeping in a crib from day one, but you may decide to use a bassinet for the first month or so.

 

When to Stop Using a Crib

By the time your child is about 3 feet tall, he should no longer be sleeping in a crib, according to experts. When you buy your crib, check the manufacturer’s guidelines as there may be a maximum height, weight, or age limit associated with your child’s crib.

To ensure the crib is safe during both babyhood and toddlerhood, you will need to lower the mattress height from time to time so that your child can’t climb out or launch himself over the rails.

Before your child gets to the point where he can climb out of his crib, even with the mattress at the lowest setting, it’s a good idea to transition him to a toddler bed, or to a firm mattress placed on the floor.

There are toddler bed rails you can add to the bed, but some parents prefer to place a mattress next to the bed to prevent their toddler or preschooler from rolling out accidentally (or accidentally on purpose!).

Some parents also choose to transition their toddler to a bed once they have a new addition on the way because the crib is needed for the newborn.

In this case, making the switch at least six to eight weeks before the new baby is due is a good plan; that way, your toddler has to adjust to only one big change at a time.

In Summary

Most little ones outgrow their crib when they're 3 feet tall, or when they're able to climb out of their crib even with the mattress at the lowest setting. For your toddler's safety, move him to a bed before he reaches that height or can climb over the rails of the crib. Also, check the crib manufacturer’s guidelines, which may include a maximum height, weight, or age recommendation.

  

FAQs at a Glance

  • Routine and consistency can help your baby associate her crib with sleep. Putting your baby down in her crib when she is drowsy but not yet asleep can help create this connection.


    A soothing bedtime routine can also help settle your baby down for sleep. You might like to include some quiet story time or some lullabies in your routine.


    In the period before bedtime, keep things quiet and calm, dim the lights, and ensure that your little one’s room is conducive to sleep by making sure the room temperature is cool but comfortable.

  • Your baby can sleep in a crib from day one, but some parents instead choose to use a bassinet for the first few weeks.


    Keep in mind that around the time your baby turns 1 month old or weighs about 10 pounds, she will outgrow the bassinet and you will need to transition him to a crib.


    Generally speaking, it’s time to transition your child from a crib to a bed when you can tell that your toddler will soon be able to climb over the rails even with the crib mattress at its lowest setting. By the time she's about 3 feet tall, she should not be sleeping in a crib.

  • Yes, a newborn can sleep in a crib, although some parents chose to have their newborns sleep in a bassinet for the first month or so.

The Bottom Line

Getting your baby to sleep in his crib may take some time, but eventually your baby will get used it.

Placing your baby’s crib in your room and perhaps even swaddling him may help your little one feel more comfortable. Providing a soothing bedtime routine and ensuring he has a comfortable sleep environment can also be helpful.

Above all, safe sleep should be top of mind. This means always placing your baby to sleep on his back in the crib, and keeping the crib free of items like pillows and blankets.

Soon enough, your baby will form a positive sleep association with his crib, and it will become second nature for him to nod off at bedtime or naptime. He’ll eventually look forward to his bedtime routine, and he’ll be having sweet dreams in his crib.

How We Wrote This Article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.