This is something that comes up a lot. Parents share with me that their baby hates the crib. Like HATES it. They scream and cry the moment they even get near it.
It is a frustrating and draining situation, especially when it happens every single night. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way!
Why it seems that your baby hates their crib
There are multiple reasons that your baby could have a negative association with their crib or cry immediately upon being put in or getting close to putting them in. It ranges from them being unfamiliar with the space to them anticipating that sleep is coming and wanting to stay with you instead (FOMO babies!) to them having learned that if they cry in their crib something else that is more desirable for them happens.
Many parents in this situation still want their babies to sleep in their crib but just want it to be much less painful with less crying and screaming. It can feel impossible when your baby seems to hate their crib so much. But let me tell you from experience, I have worked with 100s of families that told me “my baby hates their crib!” It is possible to get your baby easily and peacefully sleeping in their crib. I’m going to share with you some ways to help get the process started.
7 Ways to help your baby acclimate and feel comfortable in their crib
The following strategies to help your baby acclimate to their crib should be short play exercises (5 minutes or so). This is because we want to make sure that your baby does not start to associate their crib with play but can also start to have a more positive association with it in general. These exercises should be done with lights on or blinds open at a time that is not close to their normal nap or bedtime. This also helps avoid association of the crib primarily being a place to play because other sleep cues are not present.
Short periods of play with you right there with them
Put your baby in their crib for 5 minutes and actively play with your baby and their favorite toy. Put the toy in first to help your baby go into their crib happy and excited to play with that toy.
Read your baby a story while sitting in the crib
Reading a favorite story, especially if it is a story about going to bed happily (such as Goodnight I Love You or The Going-To-Bed Book) is another great way to help your baby feel more comfortable in their crib.
Talking positively about their crib (and sleep)
Talking to your baby is often an under-utilized strategy to help your baby understand what is going on. The amount of receptive language babies have at a very young age is often underestimated. So talk to your baby about what a safe and happy place their crib is. (Talk about sleep in general positively, and believe it yourself!)
Here is an example: Don’t tell your baby “I know you hate your crib but I’m putting you in anyways.” Tell your baby “Your crib is a safe and happy place and I’m going to put you in now.”
Tell a fun story about their crib such as how they can slide down a rainbow or blast off in their crib rocketship to dreamland. These can help, especially older babies and toddlers, to be a bit more excited about going into the crib.
Play peekaboo while baby sits in their crib
Peekaboo is a great game to play during these exercises. In addition to being something most babies absolutely love, it helps your baby see that you always come back. This allows them to develop more trust related to being in their crib.
For babies 12 months or older, offer a lovey
A comfort object, or lovey, can be a helpful tool in getting older babies and young toddlers comfortable in their crib. Having an object that they derive comfort from can help them navigate unfamiliar or potentially undesirable space. Here are some ideas to help you introduce a lovey to your baby or toddler.
Make sure your bedtime routine is full of connection
Bedtime especially is the biggest separation of the day. The ‘cure’ for separation is connection. So be present with your baby or toddler at bedtime. Really connect with them through bath time play, massage, making eye contact while getting pajamas on, reading books while cuddling on your lap, etc. Leave your phone out of it, leave that never-ending to-do list in your head out of it and be present with your baby.
This connection piece is really huge. Having some renewed intention behind your time together before bedtime can make a big difference.
Make sure your baby knows how to fall asleep in their crib
Helping your baby or toddler learn to fall asleep in their crib is key to helping them feel more comfortable in there. Learning independent sleep skills gives them the confidence of knowing what to do once they are in their crib on their own.
There are lots of different ways to do this. Make sure your find a method or strategy that feels right for your family and that you can be consistent with. Consistency, confidence (from parents!) and calm are key to successfully and painlessly helping your baby or toddler learn these skills. (Not sure what to do or where to start? We can help!)
Still struggling because your baby hates their crib?
Reach out to the Sleep Love and Happiness team today, we specialize in helping babies and toddlers sleep confidently and peacefully for nights and naps. You can schedule a free evaluation call to learn more about how we may be able to help you and your little one!
Cheers to healthy, happy sleep,
Bonnie is a Pediatric Sleep Consultant with over 5 years of experience working with babies, toddlers and young children to get them sleeping well using responsive and respectful sleep strategies. Learn more about Bonnie and how she works with families to get everyone sleeping better here.
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