How to get your baby to sleep in the crib was something that many of us have struggled with over the years. If you have ever muttered the words through tired lips “My baby will only sleep in my arms  “…  you can breath a sigh of relief today.  We have some time-tested baby sleep solutions that actually work.

My baby will only sleep in my arms - Kids Activities Blog - baby wide awake looking at camera
Baby, why don’t you sleep?

Newborn Baby Won’t Sleep in Bassinet or Crib!

When your baby won’t fall asleep  without you, it can be hard and then on top of that it might be in completely the wrong place!

I have been there, too, and  it DOES stop.  

Eventually, they do just fall asleep, without needing you right there to pat them, rock them, nurse them, feed them…All four of mine are now falling asleep all by themselves and yours will, too.

My Baby Will Only Sleep In My Arms - mom and sleeping baby on her shoulder
Eventually they will sleep…

Reasons Why Your Newborn Won’t Sleep in Bassinet

Your newborn baby is used to being with you, wrapped tightly with warmth 24/7. When you place your baby in a crib or bassinet, they miss the warmth, the tight wrapping and the sounds and movement of the womb. To help your baby adjust (and they will) to the outside world, here are some tips to recreating the womb experience inside the bassinet:

  1. Swaddle baby to recreate that tight, comfortable feeling they had in the womb.
  2. Make sure the room is dark – use blackout shades during the day and remove night lights and other bright items during the evening/night.
  3. Use a sound machine that can help baby remember the constant comforting sounds of mom. Whether that be a heartbeat, ocean or other rhythmic white noise, it can help baby feel relaxed.
  4. Rocking baby gently or walking around with baby before bed, can relax your newborn just like it did a few weeks prior to birth!

How to Get Baby to Sleep in Bassinet without Crying It Out

Many babies can be sleep trained without crying it out with some persistence by mom and dad or other caregivers. Think of it as a long term training where you start with the goal in mind and realize it is not an overnight goal!

  • Start with a good and consistent bedtime routine that relaxes baby and signals that night time is near.
  • Place baby in crib with everything ready for sleep.
  • If baby cries, wait a moment and then go to baby and comfort, rock and lay back down. Keep hushed tones, dark surroundings and limited distractions
  • Repeat over and over until baby falls asleep.
  • Wait just a moment longer each time baby cries.

How to Get Baby to Sleep in Crib

Getting your newborn baby to sleep in the crib is just like sleeping in a bassinet, only bigger! Baby can feel a little lost in all that space even though a crib seems small to us. Using the same techniques to recreate some of the womb experiences can help the transition like: swaddling, darkness, white noise, rocking and being near when needed.

Baby Only Sleeps When Held

It may start by accident.  You nurse or  bottle feed your baby, just to get a few extra minutes of sleep yourself, and then it becomes a habit.  

You bring your baby into your bed so you can get the sleep that your body is craving and you both sleep well, so you do it again.   When you try to stop, your baby cries and cries.  

What do you do now?  

Take the advice from these real moms… who have been where you are right now.

How to Get Your Baby to Sleep without Being Held

The truth is that this happens more often than you might think.  Even babies who are considered “good sleepers” have occasional off-days and nights where they only want to sleep in someone’s arms.

1. Continue Sleeping in Arms with a Twist

Remember that this is very normal and natural for your baby to want you.  You may be in “survival” mode right not- trying to get sleep where you can.  

“Just do what feels right to you, feed to sleep, cosleep, do what you can to get the most sleep and least crying… They are only babies for 365 days which will pass in the blink of an eye. Do what you can to enjoy it while it lasts” ~Rebecca

If you aren’t comfortable co-sleeping, remember that it only takes three days to break a habit.

Three days!

One thing that helped me was to put my baby down in the crib and then time how long he cried.  I know this sounds nuts and a little cruel, but what I found was that it was always less than a minute.  It seemed like an hour!  But when I actually timed it, he cried for less than a minute and then would sleep longer and more soundly than if he was in my arms.  

2. Prepare the Crib for Baby to Sleep

Try making the crib warm by placing an electric blanket on his sheets for 10-20 minutes BEFORE you put your baby into his crib.   Remove the blanket right before bedtime (you never want to leave it in the crib).   It will warm the sheets, which will make sleep come easier.  (Think of it like this:  you are a warm body, so if he is resting on you and moving to cold sheets, a drastic change in temperature can be startling)

Try putting a crib beside your bed and hold your hand in on your baby’s belly until he/she falls asleep.

Try a co-sleeping bed or crib (many stores sell these)

3. Positioning Baby for Success

If you want your baby to sleep on his back, hold him on his back when you are snuggling him.  It will make the transition easier to the crib or bassinet.

4. How to End Co-Sleeping

If you have been co-sleeping and need to make a change for some reason, here is Sherry’s story that is encouraging and real:

“I couldn’t even get out of bed to brush my teeth and he’d start moving & crying! At four months it was becoming challenging because he would wake up every 30 minutes all night and all day I also have a three-year-old and it  was very hard to co-sleep and also get her to bed! My husband and I decided it was time to get him out of our bed at 4 1/2 months… a few rough nights of crying and going in to comfort him to show  him that his crib is where he sleeps and he’s been doing wonderful!!   He’s now almost six months old and sleeps 11 hours in his crib!!! You have to do what works for you and not worry about it!! I thoroughly enjoyed cosleeping but it was definitely our time to end it.”~Sherry McQuay

Try placing the baby in their crib while you are awake, to avoid them temptation to co-sleep due to YOUR sleepiness.   A good way to do this is by starting at nap time.

5. Baby Will Only Sleep in Swing

I had one of these kids too…that went through a phase where he only wanted to sleep in the swing as it was swinging. It was easier for me to let him fall asleep in the swing than endure the screaming as I took him out to his bed.

For awhile I justified that the swing would stop and he would stay asleep.

But sleeping in a swing is not a very good longterm solution! All I can think of is how I am going to need a larger and larger swing {Giggle}.

First, look at what is going on and if the problem of your child sleeping only in the swing is minor compared to other stressful things that might be happening, then giving it another day or two is fine.

I always said there is a season for everything.

Once you are ready to start weaning baby from sleeping in the swing, then start to distance falling asleep from the swing. Place your baby in the swing until eyelids get heavy. Then start removing him earlier and earlier in that process to eliminate the association of sitting up and swinging with sleep.

It took less than a week to make the transition this way…so hang in there.

6. When Baby Will Only Sleep in the Car

Like the swing, some babies will only sleep in the car…and some only when it is moving! This is more common than you might think and it requires a similar, but more abrupt ending since driving your car every time your child needs sleep is certainly a short term solution!

Find other ways to mimic that motion whether it be pushing the stroller or placing the carseat in a wagon, etc. And then pre-empt the actual falling asleep with a move to the crib or bassinet.

This will work. It just will be a little noisy at first.

7. Try Swaddling If it is an Option

The AAP guidelines for swaddling is to stop swaddling at 2 months or when your baby starts to roll over intentionally. This is a bit controversial since many moms have swaddled for up to 4-5 months as did I. The concern is that your baby would become entangled in the swaddling and not be able to move to breathe. So look at what is happening and what supervision you can give to make your decision.

Swaddling works because the baby feels safe and secure tucked in. Think of how a baby could feel like it is falling when placed on their back after being tightly secured in the womb for such a long time.

8. Start as You Mean to Go

I probably repeated those words a million times when my kids were little. Start as you mean to go.  Start as you mean to go. Start as you mean to go. 

I read this is a book that I loved (The Baby Whisperer) and it holds true for every situation.  Don’t do something that you don’t intend to keep doing.  

You are training your children one way or another.

It helped me see how what may seem small and inconsequential on any given day actually builds up over time in baby steps to the bigger picture.

9. Routine! Routine! Routine!

Put him  down for naps and bed at the same time each day.  You may need to wake them in the morning to try to keep this schedule.

Keep a structured routine, so his body becomes used to sleep at the same time.

10. Tips for Getting Baby to Sleep

Try making a “sh, sh, shhhh… sh, sh, shhhh…” sound as you keep your hand on his chest.  This sound reminds them of being in the womb.

If he cries when you try to put him into his crib, pick him up until he is calm and then immediately place  him into his crib again.

OMG. This too shall pass, my friend.  I remember going through this with each of our four children.  I remember it like it was yesterday, but it does get better and easier.

You are tired now, but you will get sleep again.  

You can find more solutions and ideas here at Kids Activities Blog where we share real mom solutions every day…

Activities for the other kiddos

What have you found works to get your baby to sleep in the crib? What tips do you have that we missed? Have you found ways to help your child sleep when they get older, like toddler, 1 year old, 18 month old, or even preschooler?

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1 Comment

  1. Oh my goodness. This brought back those late night memories of babies NOT wanting to sleep in the crib. I can remember walking around the house in the dark trying not to trip over anything while holding a baby desperately wanting the baby to fall asleep so I could return the baby to the crib! I am glad I am not the only one…