How To Get A Baby To Sleep In A Crib? 12 Solutions You Need!

By Paula McLaren •  Updated: 12/07/21 •  12 min read  •  Baby » Baby Sleep

Does your baby only sleep peacefully when carried, swung or driven around the block 3 times…

And the second you think you can get them down into a crib, they wake up, cry and demand your embrace again?

I feel your pain.

In fact, almost every mother you meet will have experienced your pain and will sympathise with you…

But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Learning how to get a baby to sleep in a crib will be your secret weapon to getting peaceful naps and nighttime relaxation back again!

So, let’s start by explaining why baby might hate being in a crib…

And then move on to how we can fix these issues and give you the 12 solutions to get baby to snooze away in their crib in no time!

Why doesn’t baby like sleeping in a crib?

If your baby is struggling to settle to sleep in their crib or has been liking the crib up until now do not worry.

This is not an uncommon occurrence…

There are many reasons why your baby may not like sleeping in their crib or bassinet. 

Babies are quick learners and if they have done most of their sleeping next to you in a bassinet or Moses basket for the first 4 to 8 weeks of their life, they may not take kindly to being put down to sleep awake or moved into a larger crib away from you!

So what is going on with your baby when they don’t like their crib?

1. They are missing the womb

When you think about it, a newborn baby quite understandably can find leaving a safe, warm womb and exchanging it for a firm mattress in an open crib rather unsettling. 

That is why it is important to try and recreate a womb-like environment for your baby’s sleep (as best you can!)

This can involve the use of white noise machines, night lights, blackout curtains and a nice warm room.

2. They are used to sleeping elsewhere

In addition, if your baby has been falling asleep in places other than their crib, such as in your arms, in a stroller/pram or baby swing, then being put in a static crib to sleep will not be their favourite place to nod off.

3. They are used to the wrong sleep environment

Naps taken in prams or car seats, although fine occasionally, are not great in the long term quality of your little one’s sleep. The quality of sleep will not be as good as it would be in a darkened room in their crib.

4. They are waking somewhere different from where they fell asleep

Another thing to remember is that although your newborn will apparently sleep anywhere in the first few weeks, the natural nature of their sleep is light and spent mostly in REM sleep which means they wake easily. 

Therefore, should they wake in a different place to where they went to sleep i.e. in their crib and not in your arms, they are very likely to create a fuss and struggle to stay asleep. 

Also… moving your baby from your arms to a crib can be tricky when they are sleeping so lightly resulting in that all too common frustration of them falling asleep easily on you and then waking as soon as you put them down.

5. The Sleep timing is off

Your baby may also be struggling to adapt to sleeping in their crib because the timing of putting them in the crib is off. 

If your little one is overtired they will struggle to settle happily so you need to watch for sleep cues and know how long your baby is able to stay happily awake.

6. They are not spending time awake in their crib

Not spending time in their crib while awake may also be a reason for your baby not liking their crib. Getting to know their sleep environment will definitely help them settle.

To round off this section, here is a quick video from the Lullaby Trust to ensure you are preparing baby and crib safely for sleep.

Why does Baby suddenly dislike their crib?

If on the other hand, your baby has been initially sleeping happily in their crib or bassinet and then quite suddenly decides they no longer like to… this may be due to one or some of the following:

1. They have transitioned from a bassinet to a crib in another room.

Your baby may have been sleeping happily in a bedside crib or Moses basket in your room and now does not take kindly to being moved either away from you or from a bassinet to a larger crib.

2. They are experiencing a Sleep regression

Sleep regressions can often disrupt perfectly happy sleep regimes. 

For more information on how to deal with this issue take a look at my post on Sleep Regression and the 6 Month Sleep Regression to learn more.

3. They are Teething or Sick

Teething and illness in themselves can trigger a sleep regression and cause your baby to become more clingy but is usually short-lived. 

Once the offending tooth has emerged or the illness passed it is important to get back to pre-established sleep routines again.

4. They are having a Growth spurt

Young babies typically have growth spurts at 3 weeks, 6 weeks and 3 months of age which usually results in an increase in appetite. 

This can mean that your baby will likely be more hungry, need more feeding and subsequently find it harder to settle and or stay asleep.

5. They have hit a Developmental milestone

When your baby learns to roll over or sit up they may try and practise these new skills while in their crib, resulting in them finding themselves stuck in certain positions. 

Take a look at my posts When Do Babies Sit Up From Lying Down and When Do Babies Roll Over for some tips and tricks on how to navigate this phase.

Why will baby only sleep when held?

It is quite natural for a baby to want to be held by you… 

Having left the safety and warmth of the womb they will naturally feel their safest and most peaceful when you are holding them and rocking them to sleep!

However, despite this, you will need to wean your baby off this reliance on you for getting them to sleep. For expert information on how to do this refer to my post Baby Won’t Sleep Unless Held to navigate this tricky phase.

How to get a baby to sleep in a crib

Whatever the reason for your baby not liking their crib there are many things that you can do to help the situation.

1. Use a swaddle

Most newborns will settle more easily if they are swaddled. It stops the startle reflex from waking them and duplicates the feeling of safety and security that they felt in the womb. 

You may find that just swaddling your little one can solve your baby’s resistance to sleeping in their crib.

2. Establish the perfect sleep environment

Make sure that your baby has the perfect sleep environment to help them sleep more soundly.  

A darkened room, at the correct temperature with a white noise machine, will remind your baby of being in the womb and subsequently, help them to sleep more soundly and feel more secure.

3. Learn your baby’s sleep cues

Knowing when your baby is ready for sleep is also important. Getting the timing of naps and bedtime is vital for your baby’s sleep and will make them more likely to settle. 

Common sleep cues in babies are:

So look out for your baby’s sleep cues and act accordingly.

4. Know your baby’s age-appropriate wake windows

As well as knowing your baby’s sleep cues, you need to know their age-appropriate wake windows. Being aware of how long your baby can manage to stay awake will help to avoid your baby becoming overtired and consequently more likely to fight sleep.

Here’s a rough guideline to get you started:

AgeTime Baby Is Able To Stay Awake
0-6 Weeks30 mins to 1 hour
6-12 Weeks45 mins to 2 hours
3-6 Months1 ½ hours to 2 ½ hours 
6-9 Months2 to 3 hours
9-12 Months2 ½ to 3 ½ hours

5. Have a healthy and regular bedtime routine

Be sure to have a healthy bedtime routine that gives your little one all the right sleep cues that bedtime is on the way. 

A warm bath, a cosy cuddle and an evening feed in a darkened room before settling will go a long way to preparing your baby for sleep.

6. Don’t rely on strollers, car seats and swings to get your baby to sleep

If you want your baby to get used to sleeping in a crib then it is important that you don’t rely on other means to get your baby to sleep. 

Try not to let your baby fall asleep in strollers, car seats and baby swings regularly. 

Apart from these not being safe places for young babies to fall asleep for long periods of time, establishing your baby’s healthy sleep associations with their crib must come first if you want them to continue to sleep soundly and independently.

7. Teach them to fall asleep independently

For many babies being left to sleep alone is naturally quite hard. 

Teaching your baby to self-settle is possible from 4 months upwards and can be key to getting your baby to sleep happily in their crib. 

Put your baby down when drowsy but not fast asleep and get them used to sleep alone by staying with them and comforting them while they’re laying down in the crib, rather than picking them up. 

Gradually move further and further away each night until they are settling happily alone. 

Using music or a white noise machine also works wonders when you are teaching your baby to self-settle.

8. Let your baby spend awake time in their crib

This is something that I have found works really well when getting your baby used to their crib. 

Let your baby lay awake in their crib looking up at a mobile for short periods of time so that they can get used to their surroundings and learn to see their crib as a safe and fun place to be. 

This can also mean that when they wake they don’t immediately feel the need to be picked up!

9. Make sure your baby has plenty of opportunities to practice new skills

When your baby is awake make sure they get plenty of opportunities to practise any new skills they may be acquiring. 

If they get the chance to perfect these skills during the daytime they may be less likely to practise at night and will be more adept at their new skills and not get stuck in positions that prevent them from falling back to sleep.

Remember what I mentioned about learning to sit up and rolling over? Well, be sure to take a look at my posts How to Teach Baby To Sit Up From Lying Down and When Do Babies Roll Over for some tips and tricks on how to navigate these phases!

10. Transition from bassinet to crib correctly

If your baby is struggling to transition to a full-size crib then try these tricks. 

  1. Let your baby take daytime naps in their crib first before trying a full night’s sleep.
  2. Have your baby lay awake in their new crib without the expectation of sleep to get them used to it.
  3. Put the bassinet into the crib for a while. This is especially useful if you are moving your baby to a separate room.

11. Put them down to sleep properly

The way in which you put your baby down to sleep can also have an impact on how they settle. 

Once your baby is drowsy make sure you put them down bottom first and not head first. This movement is less likely to wake them.

12. Remain consistent

Most importantly it is essential that you remain consistent! 

Getting your baby to sleep happily in their crib can sometimes be tough, but with some patience and gentle loving persuasion from you… your baby will end up sleeping soundly and happily in their crib in no time.

How to get a baby to sleep in a crib after co-sleeping?

Co-sleeping with baby will have its own trials when weaning baby into a crib in their own space, but you should follow the above steps regardless. 

Take your time and be patient and gentle with baby. 

They will get there in the end!

I hope you have found this post helpful and you now know how to get a baby to sleep in a crib.

If you have any further questions or would like more advice, feel free to drop me an email at [email protected] and I’ll be happy to help!

As always, thank you for reading and until next time, Happy Parenting!

Paula McLaren

Paul Mclaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and has been in the child care industry as a Norland Nanny since 1982. Since then, her mission has been to help parents become the best they can possibly be. And each year, she continues to help more families understand their child's development, the trials and joys of parenting and of course, how to care for their little ones.

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