How Do I Get My Child to Sleep in Their Crib?
You might be asking yourself: How on earth do I get my child to sleep in their crib?!
This is often what parents of young babies, sleeping in a bassinet, want to know. Or parents of a toddler who is bedsharing, but whom they'd like to transition to a crib.
Here are 3 important things to keep in mind:
1) Your child doesn't hate the crib! They hate being separated from you!
Nighttime represents the longest separation that our children have from us and, instinctively, they view that separation as dangerous and unfavourable.
2) Your child is not used to being in the crib, so you can't expect them to want to sleep there right away! Since it is a foreign environment, they need to first be comfortable with the environment itself long before we ask them to sleep there.
3) It’s ok if your child never sleeps in a crib! For some babies, particularly those who are more sensitive, it is easier to transition to a floor bed, where a parent can lie with them. Know that your child doesn’t have to sleep in a crib if it doesn’t work for your family or your child!
If crib-sleeping seems like a good fit for your family, here are a few tips to help you get your child more comfortable sleeping in their crib:
Introduce the crib as simply a safe and enjoyable place to spend some time. Put on some music and play with your child while they're in their crib. You may want to put some toys or stuffed animals in there and have some fun together. You could even fill the crib with laundry and play peekaboo with your child as you fold laundry! Do this over a several days before you ever ask them to sleep in there!
Begin laying your child in their crib at the beginning of one of their nap times. If your child will go to sleep there; that's amazing! Most won't however, as it's a new place and they may not feel safe to do so.
If you need to help your baby off to sleep by rocking, feeding, etc., you can transfer them to the crib either just as they’re falling asleep or once they've been asleep for 15-20 minutes and their arm is fully limp. Some babies transfer better as they are falling asleep and others transfer better once they are in a deep sleep.
Transfer your baby to the crib, bum or side first, not head first. The less you can make it feel like they're falling, they less likely they are to startle, fuss and wake up when you lie them down.
You may want to warm the crib surface before putting them down, by using a hot water bottle, wheat bag, warmed towel etc. Be sure to warm the surface only slightly and REMOVE the source of heat before placing your baby down.
Help them settle in the crib by placing your hand on their tummy, rocking them gently side to side on the surface of the crib, stroking their hair, massaging their legs etc.
Don’t expect your child to nap for very long in their crib the first few times. If they wake up after a few minutes, comfort and reassure them. Your presence will go a long way to helping them feel safe sleeping in the crib.
You may want to add your scent to their crib by squirting breast milk on their crib sheet, pyjamas, or sleep sack. You could also scent their linens by nursing with them touching the skin under your shirt or by sleeping with their linens overnight.
If your child is over 1 year old, you could introduce a lovey to help comfort them in their new sleep space. You could feed or cuddle with your child and include the lovey in those cuddles and feedings! The lovey will take on your smell and also become associated with feeling close and safe.
Once you’ve introduced napping in the crib, you can begin nights in the crib. Your baby likely won’t sleep the whole night in the crib initially, but you might be able to get them to sleep their first stretch of the night in the crib, until their first waking. At that point, you may want to return to the more familiar sleep setup so everyone can get some rest. Continue starting the night in the crib each night, until they are eventually able to go all (or most) of the night in their crib!
Becoming comfortable sleeping in a crib is not easy for many babies. Remember to comfort your child and respond to them when they wake, so they know that, even sleeping in a crib, their needs for connection with you will continue to be met. They are more likely to sleep peacefully knowing their parent will support them when they need it.
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