How to Teach Your Baby to Sleep in their Crib
In the newborn months it's very common for babies to love to be held while they sleep. They feel so safe and secure in your arms that there's really nowhere else they would rather be and of course after 9 months of waiting, moms love it too! Babies can also become accustomed to napping on the go - in the car during a drive, in the stroller or while being worn in a baby carrier.
I want you to know that all of these are okay! I loved holding all three of my babies for naps when they were little too. It encourages bonding, is comforting for your baby as they navigate and adjust to the outside world and helps them feel safe and secure. There is no guilt or shame in holding your baby for naps - I want you to enjoy every precious moment!
With that being said, it's also a great practice to help them learn about and become comfortable with their sleep environment, whether it's in your room or in the nursery. The list below has my recommendations for helping your baby learn to sleep in their crib!
1. The #1 tip that I tell parents is to simply practice laying your baby down in the correct environment, at the right time, 1-2 times a day.
Lay your baby down in the correct environment: pitch black, white noise and 68-72 degrees.
Lay your baby down awake, within the correct wake window. See the chart below for wake window guidelines.
Swaddle your baby and offer a pacifier if they will take one. Just remember to switch to a sleep sack once your baby starts rolling over.
2. Use a simple pre-nap routine.
At this age you don't have a lot of time in between the time your baby wakes up and when they are ready to sleep again so your routine will probably be pretty straightforward.
Routines help your baby understand what comes next and also help them to feel safe and secure.
Your routine can be as simple as: wake, feed, tummy time, book, diaper change, swaddle, lullaby, lay down.
3. Follow an eat - play - sleep schedule and make sure they get a full feeding.
This teaches your baby to separate feedings from sleep so it doesn't become a sleep association for them.
You'll also want to make sure your baby is getting a full feeding so their tummy is full enough to ensure a decent nap. If your baby is falling asleep while eating, gently wake them and continue the feeding.
4. If your baby starts to fuss or cry when you place them in the crib, feel free to comfort them while standing near them!
This is definitely not an appropriate age to do any formal sleep training, you are just working on some sleep conditioning and healthy sleep habits. If your baby needs a little help, that's okay!
You can shush them and offer some verbal reassurances or place your hand on their chest for a moment.
If your baby gets upset, please pick them up to calm them and offer some comfort until they have settled, and then try laying them down again. It's not unusual for some babies to need this step repeated a few times. They are trying to get used to something new and they find great comfort in you!
5. Follow your baby's sleep cues.
Wake windows are a great general guide for when to put your baby to sleep but in the first 12 weeks, you can also follow your baby's sleep cues.
Use the chart below to help you understand what signals your baby may be giving and what they mean!
Please note: some babies exhibit little to no sleep cues, believe it or not! If that's the case for your baby, just continue using wake windows.
6. After 15 minutes or so of trying to attempt getting your baby to sleep in their sleep space, you can move on.
It's okay if it doesn't work every time - truly! You made the effort and helped your baby become more familiar with their sleep space and that is what counts.
Once you have decided to ditch the process for this nap, go ahead and hold/pacify/rock them to sleep - whatever they prefer.
You can try again at their next nap!
7. Don't stress.
This is a time to enjoy and bond with your baby. You don't need to stress about getting them sleeping independently just yet.
Teaching your baby about their sleep space is a process. You shouldn't expect major changes overnight but that doesn't mean you should give up on it either. Results come through repetition!
Soak in all the cuddles and sweet baby on mama naps that you can. You can always sleep train your baby when they're 4 months or older if naps or nights continue to be challenging!
I hope you find these tips helpful as you navigate teaching your little one how to become comfortable with sleeping in their crib or bassinet. The key takeaways are to practice once or twice a day, in the proper room environment and at the right time. Please continue bonding with your baby and offering plenty of opportunities for them to become comfortable in the outside world! ♥