May 8, 2024
May 8, 2024

5 tips to help your baby to sleep in a crib, according to a sleep specialist

Now that you've mastered milk feeds, it's time to tackle sleep! While it's still too early to begin formal sleep training, you can start to lay the foundation for healthy sleep. But convincing your baby to sleep in their crib can be challenging, especially when they're so comfortable snoozing in your arms. We want the transition to the crib to be as smooth as possible (and we want some well-deserved rest for you too!), so we sat down with Summer Health’s sleep specialist Jess Ellsworth for some pro tips on getting your newborn to sleep in the crib. And remember, if you have any questions, Summer Health’s pediatric experts are only one text away.
Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Written by
Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Content Writer
Jess Ellsworth
Medically reviewed by
Jess Ellsworth
Certified Sleep Consultant

Can newborns sleep in a crib?

Yes! While many parents prefer a bassinet or mini-crib to keep their baby close by, cribs are perfectly fine too. Many parents don’t want to purchase a bassinet and a regular-sized crib too, so they’ll set up the crib in their room until baby graduates to their own room. “The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that a baby sleep in their parent’s room for at least the first 6 months of life, in either a crib or a bassinet,” says Jess.

Why is it difficult to get a baby to sleep in a crib?

According to Jess, some babies struggle to sleep in a crib because they're used to the cozy environment of the womb. Just like most aspects of raising children, it takes time and practice for your baby to adapt to change.

5 tips to help your baby sleep in a crib

Here are some expert-approved tips to help your baby begin snoozing in their crib.

1. Create and follow a bedtime routine

While there's no need for a strict bedtime just yet, establishing a bedtime routine can help prepare babies for sleep. This might include giving them a warm bath, a gentle infant massage, and singing a few lullabies before placing them down into their crib for the night.

2. Put your baby to sleep while they are awake

Did you just do a double take? Yeah, we said put your baby to bed while they're still awake. It might sound a bit counterintuitive, but placing your baby in the crib while they're awake helps them get used to their new surroundings.“It can be alarming for them to fall asleep in another place (like their caregiver’s arms) and wake up in their crib,” Jess explains.

3. An overtired baby will do anything but sleep

If your baby is overtired, they might have missed their optimal window for sleep. Pay close attention to wake periods and watch for signs that they're getting sleepy. It might take a bit of practice, but you'll get the hang of it soon. Just as a refresher, here are some cues your baby is ready for sleep:

  • Yawning
  • Eye rubbing
  • Flushed eyebrows
  • Fussiness
  • Staring

4. Practice planned moments of separation

According to Jess, if you suspect separation anxiety might be why your baby struggles with sleeping in a crib, try incorporating planned moments of separation into your routine. This helps your baby learn that you'll always come back. Jess suggests starting with something simple like a game of peek-a-boo and gradually increasing the time away, building up their confidence over time.

5. Set up a peaceful sleep space

Make sure your baby’s room is set up for optimal rest. Jess suggests using blackout curtains or shades, playing white noise, and keeping the bedroom temperature between 68°F and 72°F.

FAQs: Baby sleep

Here are some frequently asked questions about baby sleep.

What are some other safe places for babies to sleep?

Jess says, “Bassinets, pack and plays, or bedside sleepers are safe. If you don’t have any of those options, the safest space would be a cardboard box with a thin mattress.”

When shopping for a crib, what features should I avoid?

  • No cutouts in the headboard or footboard
  • No more than 2 3/8 inches (about the width of a soda can) between crib slats
  • No corner posts over 1/16th inch high
  • No drop side cribs

Jess advises avoiding these crib features to prevent little hands and feet from getting stuck, and to make sure clothing doesn't get snagged.

When should I stop using a crib?

Jess suggests waiting as long as you can before transitioning your child out of the crib since young toddlers are still learning impulse control (which is required for staying put in bed). If your child attempts to climb out of the crib and it becomes unsafe, it's time to switch to a bed for their safety. In most cases, Jess advises waiting until children are 3 years before making the transition.

Are bedtime routines important?

Yes! Bedtime routines can signal to your baby that it's time for sleep. It’s also a great way to bond and connect with your child.

Does sleep in a crib reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)?

A safe sleep area reduces the risk of SIDS whether it's in a crib, bassinet, or bedside sleeper.

What are some safe sleep practices?

There are lots of safe sleep practices. Here are just a few:

  • Always place your baby to sleep space on their back
  • Babies should sleep alone
  • Sleep surfaces should be firm, with a flat mattress with a tight-fitted sheet
  • Keep the crib free of toys, stuffed animals, blankets, linens, or anything else besides the baby during sleep time.
  • Babies should not sleep in inclined sleepers, bouncers, or baby loungers.

Do pacifiers reduce the risk of SIDS?

If your baby is willing to take a pacifier, consider offering it to them at naptime and bedtime. While the exact reasons are not fully understood, pacifiers have been shown to potentially reduce the risk of SIDS. Babies who use pacifiers during sleep might experience lighter sleep and may find it easier to wake up if they have trouble breathing.

If I'm putting my newborn to sleep, which blanket should I use?

Instead of blankets, which can be dangerous for babies, choose a snug-fitting swaddle to keep your baby cozy. There's a wide range of swaddles available, from wrap-style to zippered or velcro designs. Choose one that's easy for you to use and ensures your baby stays securely wrapped without wriggling free.

Why should I share a room with my baby?

The AAP suggests room sharing with your baby, ideally for the first six months, because it significantly reduces the risk of SIDS. Room sharing and placing your baby's crib or bassinet near your bed makes it easier to keep an eye on and hear your baby during the night. Plus, it makes those middle-of-the-night feeds much more manageable.

Why is bed sharing unsafe?

Always put your baby to sleep in their own crib or bassinet. While sharing a bed with your baby, also known as co-sleeping or bed-sharing, might seem cute and cozy, it poses a risk of accidentally rolling onto your baby and causing suffocation.

Bed sharing includes sleeping in your bed with a baby placed in a baby pod, cushioned mat, or Dock-A-Tot. These products are also not intended for sleep and should not be used for sleeptime.


American Academy of Pediatrics: How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe

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Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Content Writer
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