Baby Won’t Sleep In Crib? Your Essential Step-By-Step Guide

Author Image By Paula McLaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH •  Updated: 08/17/23 •  Sleep / Sleep Tips

So your baby won’t sleep in crib? It’s a common issue that many parents face. But rest assured, there are solutions to help your baby or newborn sleep soundly in their crib starting tonight.

Why Baby Won’t Sleep In Crib

Some of the most common reasons why your little one may not be happy sleeping in their crib are:

1. Unhelpful Sleep Associations

One of the most common reasons why your baby won’t sleep in cribs is that they have developed sleep associations with other places or objects.

For example, if you have been rocking your baby to sleep in your arms or nursing them to sleep in your bed, they may have become accustomed to falling asleep in those positions.

Often when we move our babies to a crib we assume that they are old enough to fall asleep without being fed to sleep or rocked…. However, most babies will need to be weaned off these sleep associations before they can fall asleep alone.

As a result, when you try to put them down in their crib, they are very likely to resist because it is unfamiliar to them.

2. Separation Anxiety

Another reason why your baby may resist sleeping in their crib is separation anxiety. This is a normal part of development and usually starts around 6 months of age so often coincides with being moved from a bassinet to a crib.

Your baby may become anxious and upset when you leave the room or put them down because they want to be close to you.

3. Overstimulation

As your baby grows and they become more aware of the world around them they no longer spend most of their time sleeping or eating.

They are learning new skills all the time and this can mean that they become easily overstimulated which in turn can lead to overtiredness.

If your baby is overtired or overstimulated, they may have difficulty settling down and falling asleep when you put them down in their crib.

4. Discomfort Or Illness

Finally, your baby may resist sleeping in the crib if they are uncomfortable or ill.

For example, if they have a stuffy nose or are teething, they may have difficulty breathing or be in pain, which can make it difficult for them to fall asleep.

Additionally, if their crib is too hot or cold, or if they are wearing uncomfortable clothing, they may resist sleeping in the crib.

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Tips To Get Baby To Sleep In Their Crib

So if your baby won’t sleep in cribs… what can we do to help them?

1. Follow Safe Sleep Recommendations

First and most importantly ensure your baby’s safety, always follow safe sleep recommendations.

Place your baby on their back to sleep, use a flat and firm mattress, and keep soft objects and loose bedding out of the crib.

2. Create A Comfortable Sleep Environment

Make sure your baby’s sleep space is comfortable. Keep the room cool and use a fan for air circulation when the weather is warm. Dress your baby in comfortable clothing by using a sleep sack instead of blankets.

Using a white noise machine can also help settle your baby to sleep by keeping ambient noise to a minimum and providing soothing sounds.

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3. Establish A Consistent Bedtime Routine

If your baby won’t sleep in a crib, check their daily and evening routines.

The cornerstone of getting your little one to settle to sleep is a consistent bedtime routine to help your baby feel calm and relaxed. Read a book, sing a lullaby, or give a gentle massage to help your baby wind down.

4. Allow Baby To Lie Awake In Crib During Day

It’s okay for your baby to spend some time awake in their crib. This can help them learn to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own.

Put your baby in their crib while they are awake for a few minutes during the day, for instance when you need to visit the bathroom. Put up a crib mobile for them to watch and relax under. All of these things will help them get used to spending time in their crib while awake.

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5. Don’t Rush In

Avoid picking up your baby immediately when they wake up and instead give them some time to settle themselves. Many babies will fuss for a short while when put down to sleep or when they wake in the night but if they’re left for a short while they may re-settle themselves.

Of course, if they become very distressed you should go and comfort them.

6. Encourage Self-Settling

Encourage your baby to learn how to self-settle by putting them down drowsy but awake. This can help them learn to fall asleep on their own without needing to be rocked or held.

Developing strong sleep associations through consistent evening routines will also help baby learn to self-settle.

7. Make A Difference Between Nighttime And Daytime Interactions

Help your baby learn the difference between nighttime and daytime by keeping interactions during nighttime feedings and diaper changes quiet, dark and minimal.

During the day, talk and play with your baby to encourage wakefulness.

8. Try Sleep Training Methods

If your baby won’t sleep in cribs, despite trying everything, consider trying sleep training methods. For young babies, I would use the gradual retreat method to get them used to falling asleep without you.

However, always consult with your paediatrician before trying any sleep training methods.

Looking to get your little one to sleep quickly and effortlessly through a healthy nighttime routine? Check out my Bedtime and Nap Cheat Sheet and master the art of making daytime naps and bedtimes as seamless as possible.

When To Seek Professional Help

If your baby won’t sleep in their crib despite your best efforts, it can be frustrating and exhausting.

While some babies may take longer to adjust to sleeping in a crib, there may be underlying issues that require professional help.

Here are some signs that it may be time to seek help from a healthcare provider:

If you are concerned about your baby’s sleep habits or overall health, it’s important to seek help from a healthcare provider.

They can evaluate your baby’s sleep patterns and provide guidance on how to improve them.

They can also rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be impacting your baby’s sleep.

Remember, seeking professional help is NOT a sign of weakness or failure as a parent. It’s a proactive step towards ensuring your baby’s health and well-being, as well as your own.

Frequently Asked Questions About Why Baby Won’t Sleep In Crib

Looking for more information about why your baby won’t sleep in crib and what you can do about it? Here are the answers to the most common questions.

How Do I Get My Baby To Sleep Without Being Held?

One way to get your baby to sleep without being held is to establish a consistent bedtime routine to ensure they are primed for sleep. This can include a warm bath, a massage, a story, and a lullaby. You can also try swaddling your baby or using a white noise machine to create a calming environment.

PS: A weighted swaddle can help to make your baby feel safe and secure as they fall asleep.

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How To Get Your Baby To Sleep In Crib After Co-Sleeping?

Transitioning your baby from co-sleeping to sleeping in a crib can be challenging, but it is possible.

Start by placing the crib in your room for a few nights, so your baby can get used to the new sleeping arrangement. You can also try placing a shirt or blanket with your scent in the crib to provide comfort.

You will then have to follow the tips outlined in my How To Teach Baby To Self-Soothe post to ensure baby falls into a healthy independent sleep routine.

How Do I Get My Baby To Sleep In His Crib Without Crying It Out?

I am NOT an advocate of letting young babies cry it out except in extreme circumstances when nothing else has worked. I prefer the gradual retreat method which is kinder to your little one and less stressful for you.

You can also try gently patting or rubbing your baby’s back until they fall asleep rather than rocking or holding them.

Baby Won’t Sleep In Bassinet, What Can I Do?

Swaddling your baby or using a white noise machine to create a calming environment is a perfect way to help your baby settle in their bassinet.

If they have previously been happy in their bassinet, consider transitioning your baby to a crib. Take a look at my post on when to move your baby from a bassinet and how best to manage the transition.

Further Reading

If you would like to learn more about handling sleep issues such as sleep regressions, sleep schedules and safe sleep practices, read these posts:

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sleep cycles, medical advice, flat surface, crib mattress, crib at night, awake time, months of life, baby awake, baby monitor, newborn baby, deep sleep, sleep difficulties, sleep experts

Author Image Bio
Paula McLaren is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and a highly qualified childcare expert with over 40 years of experience as a Norland Nanny. She holds a BA (Hons) in Early Years Development & Learning (0-6 Years) and the prestigious Norland Diploma. Paula has worked as a night nanny, run a successful daycare center in London, and helped raise countless children using her tried and tested developmental and guidance methods.

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