Sleep can be an amazing thing, but it’s not easy or amazing when you have a screaming baby on your hands. Here are some of my best tips for introducing your baby to the crib, and getting him to sleep through the entire night.
1. Make the crib feel more like your arms.
It’s pretty easy to see why most babies can fall asleep easily in your arms from birth, but take some used to getting to a crib. Your arms are warm and welcoming, naturally, and a crib is not. You’re limited in what you can do because blankets, heating pads, or pillows all pose dangerous risks to baby.
You can solve this problem by swaddling babies under 3 months— feed them, and swaddle them, and hold them until they begin to dose off. You can then transfer them to the crib. For older babies, try sleep sacks. Your smell will transfer to the sack or swaddling blanket, and it’s the next best thing to being in your arms. For added comfort, if baby fusses, you can also stand over the crib and continue to touch baby but don’t pick her up - that will only confuse her.
2. Put baby down when they’re awake, but sleepy.
If you wait until baby is completely asleep, baby won’t remember there even being a crib. And if you put baby in when they’re awake and active, baby will struggle, fight, and scream. The key is to finding the perfect balance, and moment, to put baby inside the crib. If, inevitably, baby starts to cry, just remember that a baby who can sleep better is a happier baby. You’ll likely only have to endure a couple of nights of crying before baby learns it has little effect on him sleeping in the crib at night.
3. Start limiting baby’s motion.
Babies are used to motion in your stomach which is why many have to be rocked, bounced, or driven around to fall asleep. Try putting them in a stroller without pushing it, or a bouncy seat without bouncing it, to get them used to being in something that has no motion. It may take a few days, but you can slowly wean baby off of being used to movement at night until she can sleep in his crib.
4. Get baby in a habit or routine.
Try a bath or a book at the same time each night. Baby, like a Pavlovian dog, will recognize it’s time for bed and start to drift off on their own without too much effort from you.
5. The same theory applies for sleep times.
Obviously as baby grows you’ll adjust the times they go to bed each night, but stick to whatever routine you make. If you put baby to bed one night at 9 and the next night at 7, baby will never learn how to go to sleep at the same time each night. Habit and training are everything in this stage. Of course, you can bump up the times or adjust them, or slowly wean baby off of this or that until they’re able to sleep through the entire night.
6. Try feeding baby at night.
Give baby a snack, because we all sleep better when our stomach isn’t empty. But make sure the feeding is as non-stimulating as possible. Make sure you keep sounds and lights to a minimum, and because lights and loud noises can be upsetting or energizing to baby.
7. Make soothing noises for baby
Lullabies exist for a reason. Try singing a song, playing a tune, or using a white-noise machine for baby to fall asleep to.
8. You can try sleeping in the same room as baby.
For the first several nights of baby sleeping in crib, it may make it easier for you to be in the same room. Your smells and sounds will help baby adjust more easily.
9. Establish the crib as a safe place, a soothing place, and a place for sleep.
Start by putting a toy or two (during play time) in the crib. Once baby reaches for them, and realizes the crib isn’t scary, you can begin to use some of the techniques above to set baby down for nap in the crib. After a few successful naps, you can begin using these steps to get baby to sleep at night. It’s all a process.
10. Make sure the crib is comfortable.
11. And because it’s all a process you should recognize it’s not forever.
Every baby is different and some of these steps may not work for you - but your baby won’t be a baby forever and the bottom line is that this is not a permanent problem. Rest assured, you’ll have baby sleeping in the crib before too long, and things will go back to normal!