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tips when baby refuses crib sleeping

Is it difficult to make your baby sleep well in the crib? Or maybe even at all? That a baby refuses crib sleeping is a common situation and can happen both when they are newborn and later on.

Well, then check out these tips to help your baby accept the crib. It can be done!

Why do Babies Refuse Crib Sleeping?

Many infants seem to think that sleeping in a crib is a really lousy idea. Mom’s arms are so much cozier. And, of course, they are. Sometimes. But not around the clock; because then mom tends to become veeeery exhausted.

There are a number of reasons why your baby refuses crib sleeping. Here are some ideas

1 – It’s a cold, empty place

Your baby is used to the warmth of your arms or your womb. A crib is just a cold, large, empty space

2 – It is something new

Babies need to feel secure, and love routines. If their routine is to sleep in your arms or your womb, they will not feel safe in the beginning in a crib and will let you know.

3 – Painful

If your baby has acid reflux, which is quite common in young babies, being places on their back on a flat mattress to sleep can actually be painful! The same goes if a baby has an ear infection or a stopped up nose. Sleeping on a flat mattress can be very uncomfortable.

4 – They get overtired and don’t know how to fall asleep

If your baby is used to being rocked to sleep in your arms or womb, they may not be able to fall asleep in a crib

5 –  Stressful environment

If you feel stress or have turned the crib sleeping into a power struggle with your baby, your child will have a poor experience and a negative association with the crib.

So, as you can see, there may be many valid reasons why your baby refuses crib sleeping. The key is to help them like it!

There are things you can do to help your baby feel safe and comfortable while sleeping in a crib. Just remember that you can’t change a baby’s routines in just a day. Babies are routine lovers and they also need their parents’ warmth to feel safe. Give it a week at least, while implementing the tips below.

Do you need tips on how to buy the right crib for your baby? Click here.

How To Get Your Baby To Accept The Crib

Make the bed smaller

A newborn baby, with poor eyesight and used to the very warm narrow environment of the womb, will find the crib a super scary place! Make newborn your infant’s huge (in his or her view) bed smaller. Put rolled blankets or sheets in a circle, to make the perceived sleeping place as small as possible. (Just make sure they are rolled and secured so they can’t fall over your baby!)

Especially newborn babies also often seem to want to have something soft close to their heads to feel safe. A rolled small blanket or towel close to the top of their head can make a huge difference for them. Again, just make sure you don’t put anything in the bed that can fall over his or her face.

Making the bed seem smaller can really help when a newborn baby refuses crib sleeping. It will most likely not help older babies, that need space.

The Smell of Mom or Dad

Roll up a shirt that you have worn, and put it close to your baby’s head as part of the small bed you’re making.

If the bed smells like mom (or dad), your baby is likely to feel safer.

Nice temperature

Before putting your baby in bed, make sure the bed is not too cold. You can either put a warm (not hot) water bottle (or something similar) in the bed for a while before putting your baby down or, even better, use a sleeping bag for your baby. With a sleeping bag, your baby will enjoy more or less the same temperature all the time, helping him or her to stay comfortable.

Sleep bags (basically wearable blankets) are excellent in many ways, especially during the first months. As you may have noticed, especially breastfed babies often poop every time they eat in the beginning. This means you will have to change diapers at night from time to time.

With a sleeping bag that opens easily for a diaper change, you might be able to change diapers without making your baby wide awake, since he or she won’t get cold. I used a sleeping bag that could be opened at the bottom without opening the zipper all the way up. It was great.

My baby slept through the diaper change, never woke up for being warm or cold, and I could relax because I knew my baby was safe compared to under a blanket. The sleep bag I used is this one from from Woolino. It is great quality and above all, it opens two ways – both from top and bottom, which I loved!

If you use a water bottle or bean bag, make sure the bed doesn’t become too warm and take it out before putting your baby in the crib.

Swaddling

If your baby is between newborn and a few months old, you can also consider swaddling him or her.

In the beginning, you can swaddle the whole body, but at six weeks old or so, your baby’s arms (or at least one of them) should be free. At this time, the baby might start using his or her hands for self-soothing or to communicate hunger by sucking the hand.

Don’t know how to swaddle a baby? For more detailed instructions (and video) on how to swaddle your baby, click here.

A swaddled baby may feel more secure and therefore be less prone to refuse crib sleeping.

Put your baby to bed awake

Especially young babies can often be put to bed while still awake if full, happy and tired. This actually works great for many babies at around three weeks of age.

Simply put your baby down for crib sleeping, say goodnight and leave the room. You might be up for a surprise! This is much harder with older babies that are more aware of what’s going on. But you can always try!

Consider placing a musical mobile over the crib, for the baby to have something to look at and listen to.

Personally, I’m not fond of the cry-it-out method, especially not for young babies, so my advice is to not force this. If your baby starts crying, cuddle him or her first in the crib, but if that doesn’t help, let your child fall asleep (or almost fall asleep) in your arms. Then put him or her down.

For a lot more baby sleep tips, visit our baby sleep section. You can also find answers to many baby sleep questions in our baby sleep forum here.

Make it a new routine

Rome wasn’t built in one day and the same goes for changing a baby’s sleep routines. If you really want your baby to start sleeping in his crib, be persistent.

Implement all the tips above and always put your baby in his crib at least after he or she has fallen asleep in your arms. Every time. This way your baby will learn – fast or slowly, that this is the place to sleep.

In addition, make it a NICE routine. Take a deep breath and make sure you don’t transfer and stress, or frustration to your baby.

If baby refuses crib sleeping no matter what you do…

If your baby refuses crib sleep no matter what you do, you have two choices; switch to some other type of bed or let your baby sleep in YOUR bed.

Switching to some other type of bed means different things for different babies. For younger babies, something smaller than a crib, like a cradle or the stroller, is usually more accepted. After the age of 5 to 6 months, it is often the opposite – for older babies, cradles and bassinettes are too narrow to allow the baby to move around freely and safely while asleep.

The other option is to consider co-sleeping. Many babies sleep a lot better together with their mom during their first months of living.

However, if you or your husband smoke, if the bed is very soft or if any of you have consumed alcohol, co-sleeping can be very dangerous for the baby.

If you need tips for safe co-sleeping, click here.

One thing to remember is that while many newborn babies really only want to sleep in mom’s or dad’s arms, things usually get easier over time. If your baby refuses crib sleeping now, try again in a few weeks.

For safety sleeping tips (to reduce the risk of SIDS), read this article.

Now how do you survive until your baby sleeps better? Follow this link for some tips that don’t really help your infant sleep better, but you!

Is your baby refusing crib sleeping too? Or do you have additional tips to share on getting a baby to accept the crib? Please share by leaving a comment below! :-)

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Mellie

    Swaddling was my favorite tip ever! It made such a difference for my little one.
    I’ve had this book about sleep training – https://parental-love.com/shop/baby-sleep-training – but with tips for newborns as well. there was swaddling and white noise. Both very helpful but especially the wrapping – with drawings and all. My baby loved it!

  2. Avatar
    Jennifer K

    My 14 months old has always loved her stroller but also sometimes fallen asleep in her crib… but now she completely refuses the crib, stands up and starts crying very loud the second she’s in, only calming down when we pick her up, never even sitting down in the crib. This makes sleep training very tough (we did it with our oldest who was more mild, calm and crying alternatively, happy when we would come sah shhht etc). The stroller is not safe anymore as she can now get out in the morning and fall…. also, we always put her in her bed eventually, asleep, and she always wakes up middle of the night, crying of course because she’s in her crib. So we end up with her in our bed which is so bad for all of us… (our own sleep, our oldest jealousy, and our youngest’s nights)

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      At 14 months, I’d say this is completely normal behavior! And being an exhausted mom is very normal too… If there is any possible way, let her to sleep in your bed, you need to sleep. You can break that habit later on. Or put a bed or mattress in your room for her – or for one of you if the bed gets too crowded!.

      In my experience, kids tend to come back to our beds from time to time for many years when they need it. Only no one tells us this, Take it one day at the time, and focus on feeling good. It will make your daughter feels more secure too.

      Regarding the older sibling’s jealousy – of course, normal too! Try to reinforce how “big” your older child is and make the evenings really nice for him/her too.
      Good luck!