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Transitioning to a crib

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This blog post will be helpful for moving baby from a bassinet to a crib. If your baby is moving to an independent sleep space for the first time, also check out the PedsDocTalk resource: Newborn Sleep Guide, for more tips.

When do you move baby to crib?

Keep baby in your room for first 6 months—this is highly recommended if baby is premature or if anyone smokes in your house. Speak to YOUR child’s clinician on further guidance on when to move baby out of the room, as in many cases, we are okay with moving out earlier.

Make the new environment familiar

If you are transitioning to a crib in their own room, they may not be used to the space. Spend time playing in their room. You can even allow them to “play” in their crib during wake time. This won’t mess up their sleep. Or, you can do a cold turkey approach based on your sleep-training method of choice!

Choose your sleep training method

Time to choose a sleep training method! Do you prefer a more gradual approach? A more cold turkey approach? This is important to decide. When you transition them to a crib, you will implement the method of your choice. Remember, sleep training is teaching them to sleep independently on their own in the safe space you have created for them.

Practice pausing

Whatever method you choose, you can pause anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes when they fuss or stir. If your child is older than 4 months and you are training them to sleep in a crib, you can choose longer increments based on your sleep-training method of choice. Pausing will allow them time to get used to their new environment. They may surprise you and fall asleep without any prolonged fuss!

Focus on nighttime sleep first

Nighttime always comes first in training. Focus on independent sleep overnight before tackling naps. You can do it all at the same time, but this may be more difficult for a baby who isn’t used to that space. Also, if you try to do it all at once, it can lead to refused sleep, which leads to an overtired baby, making falling asleep more difficult.

Focus on naps last

Naps can be harder to get into the crib because their sleep drive is lower in the daytime than it is at night. You can focus on one nap at a time to get them used to their new sleep space without creating an overtired baby.

Make sure you have a solid bedtime routine

A good bedtime routine can be something as simple as a bath and book, or even just changing the diaper and putting pajamas on to let baby know it’s almost time to sleep. When you do this consistently at the same time each night, baby will learn that sleep is about to come.

Ensure you have a safe sleep environment

  • Remember to place baby to sleep on his or her back on a firm sleep surface, such as a safety-approved crib mattress (crib that meets CSPC guidelines).
  • Make sure baby’s crib or bassinet has no bumpers (including mesh), stuffed animals, pillows, or blankets. Just baby in the crib. Baby can wear a swaddle, wearable blanket, or just footie pajamas for comfort. Remove swaddle once baby shows signs of rolling over.
  • Keep temperature comfortable and avoid overheating with too many layers. Use the neck test: If the back of their neck is sweaty, they are too warm. Consider using a fan or air conditioner to keep air circulating and NOT stagnant.
  • No cords/blinds near baby’s crib they can grab and get tangled in.
  • Consider the use of a pacifier, as this has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS. If the pacifier falls out or your baby doesn’t use one, DO NOT PANIC. There are other safety measures above that you can use!

Focus on your soothing techniques that work for your baby when needed (remember the 6 S’s and also remember that not all babies need any or all of these!)

  • Side rock – Hold baby on their side or on their tummy.
  • Swing (or bounce) – Babies are used to bouncing up and down in utero, so a swing would mimic this motion. You can also bounce up and down on a yoga ball. You can swing them gently in your arms or in a swing.
  • Skin-to-skin – Let’s not forget the comfort of you. Sometimes they just want to be held or be in your arms or on your chest. This can be very soothing and a great tip for both you and baby.
  • Suck – A pacifier can be very relaxing and a great soothing tip.
  • Swaddle – This recreates the warmth and tightness of the womb, which can be calming to babies. To swaddle correctly, the arms should be straight down the side, with the swaddle blanket under the shoulders. Make sure the hips have adequate movement as well.
  • Shush (sound machine) – A sound machine can mimic the sounds of fluid in the womb, so it can be soothing to some babies. But not all babies love it! Some will cry more! Remember, every baby is unique in their sleep needs.

Looking for more guidance on infant sleep and all things first year of life? Sign up for The New Mom’s Survival Guide – an on-demand digital course with printables, video tutorials and live office hours to take the guesswork and stress out of raising your new babe.

P.S. – Listen to this episode of The PedsDocTalk podcsast where I discuss sleep training and breastfeeding!

Dr. Mona Admin

Hi there!

I’m a Board Certified Pediatrician, IBCLC, and a mom of two.

I know the ups and downs of becoming a mom and raising kids.

I help moms ditch the worry and second-guessing so you can find more joy in motherhood.


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