Is It OK To Leave Baby In Crib Awake? (Here Is The Truth!)

By Paula McLaren •  Updated: 06/27/22 •  8 min read  •  Baby » Baby Sleep

Babies have a habit of sticking to us like glue…

But, sometimes we need to get other things done, like take a shower, clean a bathroom or just have a short break. And sometimes, your baby may need a social rest too… So, let’s review the question “Is it OK to leave baby in crib awake?” to ensure you and your baby get the most out of this quiet downtime.

Is It OK To Leave Baby In Crib Awake?

How Long Should You Let Baby Lie Awake In Crib?

Typically, 5 to 10 minutes every now and then of lying awake in their crib is absolutely fine for your baby.

However, when your baby is very young, you should NEVER leave them for more than 30 minutes lying awake in the crib on their own. 

Babies need human interaction more than anything else, so although it may be tempting to keep putting them in their crib if they don’t mind it… this should never be your reason for doing so.

When To Leave Baby Awake In Crib

If you’re asking the question “is it ok to leave baby in crib awake?”, you will no doubt think about WHEN you can leave them alone…

Whilst every family and baby is different, most babies can be left alone in their crib when:

How Does Lying Awake In A Crib Help Baby Develop?

When done correctly (as in… not for too long), awake time in a crib is great for your developing baby:

And to learn more about the art of self-settling here’s a quick video to get you started.

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

In addition to knowing if is it ok to leave baby in crib awake, you will need to know the best way to maximise this calm downtime!

So to get your baby to lie alone in their crib happily, you will firstly want to ensure their crib is a safe place for them to be left alone in.

Keep potential hazards away, such as blind cords, excess pillows and loose blankets and ensure your baby cannot climb out of their crib either. 

Next, you need to provide some form of entertainment for your baby.

I am a huge fan of crib mobiles as they are excellent for keeping babies entertained whilst helping to develop their eyesight, hearing and cognitive abilities.

Your baby will happily stare at a pretty one like this for ages!

Tiny Love Meadow Days Take Along Mobile

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Once the room is ready, you need to ensure your baby is comfortable and ready to be put down alone in their crib.

So ask yourself the following questions:

  1.  Has baby been fed recently? If your baby has been fed, they should be quite happy to be put down for a few minutes whilst awake.
  2.  Are they clean and dry? If your baby has a clean nappy and is feeling fresh, they will also be much more likely to be content spending some time by themselves.
  3.  When did they last nap? If your baby is overtired, they will struggle to settle and will not want to be left alone because they crave your comfort.
  4.  Have they been left alone before? 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 to having a baby who is OK with being left alone in their crib is: develop their trust that you will return to them!

And the best way to build this trust is to return often but don’t pick up your baby straight away…

Talk to them and leave again…

Then return a few minutes later and repeat. 

If, your baby is 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 from forming (where your baby will make a fuss and expect you to turn up immediately!).

Of course, if your baby is crying and wailing then go to them and comfort them!

You can always try to get them to spend some alone time in their crib later.

Over time, your baby will learn that being alone is nothing to be scared of and they will be quite happy to lie awake in their crib for a few minutes as they know you will return to them.

Is It OK to leave baby in crib awake

Frequently Asked Questions About “Is It OK To Leave Baby In Crib Awake?”

Looking for more help with understanding “is it OK to leave baby in crib awake?” Find answers to the most common questions here.

Does Spending Time Awake In Crib Lead To Flat Head Syndrome?

Flat head syndrome is caused by baby lying flat on their back for too long in a combination of ways such as:

In order to prevent flat head syndrome, balance baby’s time spent on their back (asleep or awake) with plenty of tummy time and consider turning their head whilst they sleep.

If your baby is struggling with tummy time, check out this article to find alternatives and avoid any physical development issues down the line.

Should You Leave Baby In Crib If Awake But Not Crying?

It is perfectly fine for your baby to spend time alone in their crib when awake and not crying.

In fact… this is the perfect situation!

A content baby who is happy to be alone with their thoughts and wondering for a few minutes at a time will flourish into an independent child as they grow up.

How Long To Leave Baby In Crib If Not Napping?

If you have put your baby down and they are not napping but they’re content by themselves, you should leave them for a maximum of 30 minutes alone.

This calm and relaxed alone time will act as a mini nap and will help your baby feel rested even if they have not slept.

With this said, you may need to adjust baby’s naps and sleep schedule for the rest of the day to ensure they get enough sleep overall.

What To Do When Baby Is Wide Awake In The Middle Of The Night

A common question that comes up alongside “is it ok to leave baby in crib awake?” is…

“What do I do when baby is awake in their crib in the middle of the night?”

And the truth is:

If your baby happily lies awake in their crib at night, leave them be. The less you engage with them, the more likely your baby is to happily drift back off to sleep in their crib.

However, if your baby gets upset when they are awake in the middle of the night, create a gentle connection point to help calm them down. This can be by laying a light hand on their chest or by singing a soft lullaby.

You can also use a swaddle with a weighted pad, like these ones from Nested Bean to replicate your touch.

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REMEMBER: Try to avoid picking up your baby when they wake in the middle of the night unless they’re due a feed as this may breed a bad habit of your baby fussing in order to be cuddled and comfort fed.

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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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