It’s a common complaint among parents—you just can’t get your baby to nap in his crib. Of course, he’ll sleep everywhere else: the car, the baby swing, the bouncy seat, the car seat or in your arms. Getting baby to nap in his crib is an important part of teaching him how to self-settle and in creating healthy sleep habits. It’s not always easy to do, but there are some ways to make the transition to crib napping a little easier.
Begin putting your baby down to sleep in his crib or bassinet almost as soon as he is home from the hospital. It’s tempting to let your baby nap in his carseat or bouncy seat, but both of them cradle your baby in a sleep position very different from the sleep position of the crib. Using the crib from very early on will help him to get used to it before he gets used to napping in any other manner.
Swaddle your newborn baby before putting her down to nap in her crib. A crib is a large, open space and many babies feel more comfortable and secure all snuggled up in a smaller space. Adding a sleep positioner—a pillow or wedge which helps a baby stay on her side during sleep—can add to that feeling of security. Additionally, you can make the crib smaller by adding crib bumpers to the sides. Just make sure they’re tightly secured, as loose crib bumpers can be a safety hazard.
Settle your baby down for her nap while she’s still awake. Waiting until she’s already asleep doesn’t give her a chance to learn to self-soothe. Initially, you will have to provide the soothing techniques, such as rubbing her back or stroking her hair, but as she gets a little older, if you slowly withdraw from soothing her to sleep, she will have learned how to do it on her own.
Stick to a predictable nap schedule, keeping in mind that typically, the later in the afternoon a baby naps, the later she tends to be up at night. Choosing a morning and afternoon nap time can help a baby learn a healthier sleep pattern and learn to associate those times with crib sleeping. The first week or so may be a little difficult, because you are trying to change your baby’s internal clock. Start slowly, changing the naptime by 15 to 30 minutes a day until you’ve adjusted it to the planned time.
Pay attention to your baby’s signals. Despite choosing a naptime, you may need to be a little flexible. If your baby shows signs of being tired before the scheduled nap time, you may have to amend your schedule to take advantage of the opportunity to put him in his crib. Likewise, if after 20 to 30 minutes, he’s wide awake in his crib, don’t continue a naptime power struggle—he may just not be sleepy yet.