Is It Ok For Baby To Lie Awake In Crib? Yes Actually! Here’s Why!

By Paula McLaren •  Updated: 05/07/21 •  9 min read

Let me guess… Your baby is stuck to you like glue every waking moment… You never seem to have a spare minute to make a cup of coffee or take a shower… You’re wondering how you are supposed to balance newborn parenting and everyday life? And you’re asking yourself “is it OK for baby to lie awake in crib?” 

Well, the truth is… YES. YOU CAN ABSOLUTELY LEAVE YOUR BABY LYING IN THEIR CRIB WHILST THEIR AWAKE FOR SHORT PERIODS OF TIME.

And in fact, it is beneficial to their development to be left with their own thoughts (as long as you don’t take advantage of the fact and leave them there for too long – I’ll explain more about this in a second!)

So, how can we get your baby happy to be left on their own so that you can have 5 minutes to make a cup of coffee or grab a quick shower?

Is It Ok For Baby To Lie Awake In Crib?

So, Is it OK for baby to lie awake in crib? As I’ve already mentioned, YES! It is perfectly fine for your baby to spend time alone in their crib when awake.

In fact, many parents will envy you if you have a baby that is happy to lie awake in their crib and although these laid back babies are rare, they do exist and there is no reason why your baby cannot be one of them too!

I was fortunate to have a son who did this and I Ioved listening to him babbling away to himself at the start of the day when he woke up. And I want to share this experience with you and help you get a content baby too!

So, to begin with, how does lying awake in their crib help your baby develop?

How Does Lying Awake In A Crib Help Developmentally?

Alone time while awake is great for your developing baby. 

It encourages independent thought and allows your little one to practice language and, later on, fine motor skills. To this day, my son’s best ideas coming from alone time and he finds these moments of quiet contemplative and meditative.

Babies who lie awake in their cribs are often better at independent play as they grow too. This is beneficial to both you and your child as it gives you a break and helps to develop a strong sense of self and independence in your baby too. 

To learn more about independant and social play, check out this post -> What Is Social Play?

The Beginnings Of Self Settling

Lying awake in their crib is also the first steps to teaching your baby to self settle too. This skill will be a life saver for you and the earlier you can teach your baby to self settle the better.

Here’s a quick video about self-settling to get you started!

How To Get Your Baby To Lie Alone In Their Crib?

Firstly, you want to ensure their crib is a safe place for them to be left alone in.

Keep potential hazards away, such as blind chords and excess pillows and blankets. And ensure your baby cannot climb out of the crib either. 

Next, provide some form of entertainment for your baby. I am a huge fan of mobiles and your baby will happily stare at a pretty mobile for ages.

Once the room is ready, you need to ensure baby is comfortable and ready to be put down. 

Ask yourself:

  1.  Has baby been fed recently?
  2.  Are they clean and dry?
  3.  When did they last nap?
  4.  Have they been left alone before?

If baby has been fed and is dry, they should be quite happy to be put down for a few minutes whilst awake. If you’ve never left your baby alone before, you may need to start with very short periods of time and gradually work up to longer periods of time as they get used to being away from you.

The KEY with having a baby who is OK to be left alone is… their trust that you will return to them!

So, return often but don’t always pick them up straight away. Talk to them and leave again. Return a few minutes later and repeat. 

Over time, your baby will be quite happy to be alone as they know you will return to them soon!

Of course, if your baby is crying and wailing then go to them and comfort them! Just try again later.

If, however, your baby is just grizzling, give them a minute or two before you go in to see them. They may settle themselves down in that time and it will stop a bad habit forming where your baby will make any fuss and expect you to turn up immediately.

So how long can you leave baby awake in their crib for?

How Long Can Your Baby Lie Awake In Their Crib For? 

When your baby is very young, I would NOT recommend leaving them for more than 30 minutes lying awake on their own in the crib. 

But 5-10 minutes here and there so you can grab a shower or unpack the shopping is absolutely fine!

Having said this… babies need human interaction more than anything else, so although it may be tempting to put them in their crib just because they don’t mind, it is not a reason to do so. Babies need to be near you, so finding a balance is KEY.

I would reserve alone time in the crib for early morning waking, falling asleep prior to bedtime or nap time, night time waking or when you need to do something, like take a shower or fold the washing.

You may be surprised that your baby may fall asleep on their own if you put them down near a nap time too! That’s a self-settling WIN WIN!

Remember that lying flat on their back for too long may lead to your baby developing a flat head… So stick to the above guidelines and balance the time lying with tummy time.

If your baby is struggling with tummy time, check out this article to avoid any physical developmental issues down the line! -> My Baby Hates Tummy Time!

So, what happens if your baby wakes at night and lies in their crib for a while?

Split Nights Or Sleep Regression?

Well… waking at night can be caused by several things: 

  1. Being hungry
  2. Having a wet diaper
  3. Being too hot or cold
  4. Going through a sleep regression
  5. They’re experiencing what is known as ‘split nights’

Typically, after being fed, cleaned and returned to a comfortable temperature, your baby SHOULD fall back asleep in no time. 

However, if you baby is going through a sleep regression or is experiencing split nights, they may be awake for longer periods at night.

Split Nights

Split nights can be triggered by:

Although not spoken about often, split nights are relatively common. I have always had split sleep and as a baby, my mother would do her ironing in the middle of the night as I happily played away until the age of 2! 

If your baby is experiencing split nights, there are things that you can do to help get your baby back into a normal sleep pattern, which don’t end in you having to turn to household chores in the middle of the night!

Handling Split Nights

The best way to deal with this issue is to adjust bedtimes and nap times.

Inadequate napping in the day can lead to your baby going to bed earlier in the evening and then waking in the night once they have had enough sleep.

To break this cycle, start by making bedtime a little later and if necessary, wake your baby a little earlier in the morning. Hopefully, your baby will then be ready to nap properly in the day. And therefore, will sleep through the night!

Secondly, by having a baby who has learnt to play and be alone in their crib during the day, it will also help your baby to self entertain when they wake a night (meaning you won’t have to get up every time they wake!)

Sleep Regressions

Split sleep problems differ from sleep regression as your baby will usually be very happy to stay awake in the middle of the night for a couple of hours rather than be cranky and distressed if they’re going through a regression.

If you think you’re little one is going through a regression, here are some helpful articles to help you survive this tricky time!

REMEMBER: Teaching your baby to be content by themselves in their crib during the day may also help to avoid distress during sleep regressions too.

So, the fact is… if you are lucky enough to have a baby that is happy to lie awake in their crib for a certain amount of time, count your lucky stars!

Alone time will help them mentally develop and it can give you time to get odd jobs done. This skill of being alone can also help with nighttime wakings and make your life easier too!

I hope that this article has helped you become aware of the benefits of leaving your baby to lie awake in their crib and will help you to begin your journey with your own baby too.

So, I hope you enjoyed this post all about “Is It Ok For Baby to Lie Awake In Crib?” and if you know any other parents who would enjoy this content, be sure to give it a share around! 

If you have any further questions about letting your baby lie awake in their crib or self-settling or if you have any blog recommendations that you’d like me to write about… Then be sure to drop me an email at [email protected], as I love hearing from you!

Once again, thank you for your continued support 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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