In a foggy haze of hospital discharge commands, I remember hearing, “Repeat after me: Baby will be in their crib. On their back. And with no loose blankets or clothing in the crib with him.” Then I’m sure I mumbled something that sounded like an agreement. And off my husband and I went to our home with our new little bundle of joy, looking both exhausted and starry-eyed.
As bedtime approached, all of our “for sure” things to do and our “we will NEVER dos” went out the window. We walked into our son’s room to lay him down in his “Separate bed. On his back. With nothing else in the crib.” I burst into tears. “He’s too little for this!” And out he came into our room where we scrambled for a Plan B. I knew that co-sleeping wasn’t going to work for our family, but having him in his crib in his room was also not going to work for my new mom heart.
We used a bassinet in our room for a few weeks until that stopped working for us. And then it was time to move on to the crib. I have since grown to LOVE cribs and having a separate room for the baby. I strongly encourage new moms to have a crib set up in the baby’s room even if they do not intend to use it right away. Getting comfortable seeing it in anticipation of a new baby brings a sense of reality that a baby is coming. I also think you’re more apt to use it sooner.
How to Transition Baby to a Crib
If you’re in the stage now where what you have been doing for sleeping is no longer working, your little one may need their own space. You’re ready to use the crib! It may not be as easy as just putting them in there and walking away. Especially for babies who have become used to being right next to you most of the day and night, this can be very tricky. It’s a frustrating switch and can easily cause parents to throw in the towel. Don’t give up! Follow these tips on how to transition baby to a crib.
1. Be committed.
With anything in parenthood, if you are not committed to winning the war, don’t even start the battle. Your will must be stronger than your child’s. If you start this process just to give up, you’ve lost all the ground you’ve covered. So make up your mind that you want this. If there is a partner involved, get on the same page with them that they are also to be just as committed. Even at 3 am when giving in seems really appealing. You might be in for a few rough nights of sleep, but it’s like ripping a band-aid off.
2. Have the crib assembled before the transition starts.
I like having the crib set up in the nursery before the baby arrives, so it is available when I am ready for it. Even if you are not going to put the baby in the crib the first night home, using the crib for their naps throughout the day has been a massive help in getting my boys used to it and made for a seamless transition when we started using it for bedtime. It was also a reassuring process to “practice” with the crib at nap time while I was awake during the day to check on them often.
3. Keep your bedtime routine consistent.
Even though the location of sleep is changing, keep the routine the same leading up to bedtime. And do not, I repeat, do not, look panicked! I swear kids can smell fear on a parent when something new is happening, and then they overreact. Maybe it is just my kids, but when my energy changes, their energy changes and turns into a meltdown mess.
4. Stay on track.
Once you put baby down for the night, say good night and walk out. Use whatever is common bedtime practice when they are in the room with you, but now they will use it in their own room. They may fuss or all-out scream and cry for a long time. But stay the course. After setting a timer for 5-10 min, go back in after setting them back down, rub their back, settle them back down, and leave again. Try using a white noise machine, which may also soothe them.
5. Plan on earlier bedtimes.
While on this transition journey, start bedtime routines before the usual time because it will take some time to settle.
Taking the time to get the baby comfortable in their crib for nap times during the day will make the process of switching to the crib at night much simpler. If the baby is at a daycare center, ask the caregivers to use a crib for naps. On weekends or days off, be consistent in making sure you plan on naps being in their cribs. This will take work from everyone in the family because consistency and habit change is what changes behavior. It is so worth it in the end if you can resolve to get the result you want.