There’s no denying that we all love our baby snuggles and cherish each one we get.
We also can’t deny that there are times when we need a little space, whether it’s to get a few things done, nap, or simply have our body to ourselves.
And there’s nothing wrong with that!
In times past, families were raised in large, close communities with an extended family involved in each other’s daily lives. Adding a baby to the mix was a shared responsibility and there were plenty of open arms to hold a sleepy baby. Nowadays, that responsibility is often shouldered by only one or two parents, leaving fewer arms to hold Baby, fewer chests for them to nuzzle, and fewer breaks for said parents.
Times change and it’s ok, safe, and healthy for Baby to get the rest they need in their crib.
Here are my top 5 tips on making that a thing:
1. Use age-appropriate wake windows...
...and if your child is old enough to be on a 2-nap schedule (starting around 6-8 months) or a 1-nap schedule (starting around 15 months), use the age-appropriate wake windows to create a set schedule instead of following wake windows each day.
Essentially, wake windows are the ideal times we can stay awake before we need to get sleep. (I say “we” because even as adults we have a wake window, it’s just one wake window that’s much longer than a baby’s multiple wake windows.) This post shares more about wake windows.
Since babies need more sleep in a 24-hour period, their need to sleep comes quicker than an adult’s, and as they grow that need comes slower and slower, extending their wake windows and lessening the amount of time they sleep each day.
Often, if you’re only following your baby’s sleep cues, by the time you catch them showing, it’s too late and the switch has flipped from awake to overtired. So, keep an eye on the clock and get your babe down for sleep when their wake time is approaching its end.
The clock is your friend.
(Screenshot the "Wake Windows" image and check out this post for a breakdown of newborn wake windows.)
2. Set up their sleep space for great sleep.
Aren’t there just some places that scream “sleep here!” (Or maybe they whisper it? 🤔)
Well, whether that space screams or whispers, your body is encouraged to slow down and sleep.
That’s what we want your little one’s room to do when it comes time to sleep!
The first thing to check - How dark is your little one’s room?
Can you see your hand in front of your face once your eyes adjust? Do you see any light peeking in around the door or the edges of the curtains? Is any light shining from the baby monitor or any other device in the room?
The second thing to check - noise interference.
Do you have white noise running throughout their sleep time? Is it loud enough to dull the sounds outside their room?
Being sure your child’s room is set up for optimal sleep is key and easy to fix if it’s not!
Click here to get my free room setup checklist and how-to!
3. Establish a nap time routine
Have you found yourself driving on “autopilot” when you’re headed in a familiar direction? You miss a turn because you were so used to taking this road to get to a certain place, not this new place that you now need to make a U-turn to get to. (GPS: recalculating…)
This “autopilot” is a routine. Routines, once established, don’t take much effort or thought to do and help you arrive at the same destination each time they’re done.
Let’s use this to our advantage when it comes to sleep times with our children (and ourselves!) and let the destination be sleep.
Once we establish a consistent ROUTinE to sleep, our children will find it much easier to get there.
Routine helps sleep become easily found and brings security. We all feel more secure when we know what to expect.
We don’t want the routine to be complicated, just enough to signal the transition from time awake to time asleep.
Put on jammies and sleep sack (or swaddle for newborns under 12 weeks old that aren’t showing signs of rolling)
Read/look at a book
Snuggle and pray
The routine is something you can always take with you whether you’re out for the day, on vacation, or someone else is taking care of your little one.
4. Get your little one familiar with the crib.
It can be hard for anyone to sleep in an unfamiliar place. (I know I rarely sleep as well on vacation as I do at home!) We’re most vulnerable while we sleep and having familiarity with the environment we’re in helps us relax into sleep.
To help familiarize your babe with their room and their crib, spend lots of their time awake in their room and let them spend some of that time in their crib. Though we want them to connect sleeping with their crib, we also want them to feel safe with it. Your peaceful time together in that space will bring familiarity and familiarity bringing a sense of safety and comfort.
5. Practice, practice, practice.
Even after doing tips 1-4, odds are your little one won’t take to taking a nap in their crib on the first try.
That’s normal and ok!
Whether they’re a newborn or an older baby that’s used to napping in other places, the crib is a new and unfamiliar place to sleep (and isn’t nearly as snuggly as some other options). But, that doesn’t mean it’s not a great place for your babe to sleep; it’s just a new place and it’ll take practice (and time. And patience. Lots of patience.)
The more they can practice the more they’ll come to know that the crib is a great place to sleep and you’ll always come back.
If your little one is older than 16 weeks old, you can choose a training method that you’re comfortable with and can stay consistent in. (Check out this blog post about nap training for help!) For babies younger than 16 weeks old there should be no sleep training involved, but you can still practice! Check out this blog post and tip #3 in this blog post for ways to practice with a newborn and for all the details, check out The Newborn Sleep Guide!
Most babies and young children would much prefer to snuggle up and sleep in your arms, the carrier, swing, stroller, or car seat, but that’s not always possible for various reasons.
The crib is a wonderful, comfortable, safe place to sleep as well, it’s just quite different than what most babies are used to. Though it will never replace the comfort of your arms, with consistency in these 5 steps, the crib will become another option come sleep times.
If you’re wanting more guidance on how to make crib naps a commonplace (along with great nighttime sleep), I’d be honored to help! You can book a pressure-free (and cost-free) 15-minute call here to chat about finding the best package for your family!