Congratulations! You have just arrived home with your precious little newborn. If this is your first baby, you may be feeling quite overwhelmed and unsure of yourself. Being a new mom is not always going to be plain sailing, and there are so many things that you will have to learn, including how to get a baby to sleep in a crib after co-sleeping.
What Does the Term ‘Co-sleeping’ Refer To?
The term ‘co-sleeping’ was coined to describe the process of getting your baby to sleep by being together with you when you sleep. ‘Co’ actually means ‘with’, so ‘co-sleeping’ refers to having your baby sleep with you.
Co-sleeping can be done in one of two ways. Either you can have your baby in your bed with you, or your baby can sleep in a specially designed co-sleeper bassinet that is positioned right next to your bed, and is open on the side alongside your bed.
This allows you to reach out and touch your baby whenever you need to, either to pat or stroke him, or to lift him into your bed. It allows your baby to feel that you are close by and he knows that he can reach out and touch you whenever he wants to.
How Does the Co-sleeping Habit Begin?
You are very possibly one of those moms who always swore that she would never let her baby get used to sleeping in her bed. So how does co-sleeping start, and how do you get a baby to sleep in a crib after co-sleeping?
Let us go back to that first day home after giving birth. You may walk through the door in a state of elation, so proud and happy to be home with your sweet little bundle of joy. But you are more than likely also tired, and possibly still in pain after giving birth.
It does not take long for exhaustion to set in. After a few hours, you feel as though you really need a lie-down. You get comfortable on your bed and start nursing. Baby feeds intermittently, and eventually, he dozes off.
As he gradually settles into a deep slumber, your eyes start to droop, and before you know it, you have nodded off with the baby snuggled contentedly on your chest. You both sleep like this for a few hours, until he wakes, crying for his next feed.
That night, the same thing happens, and the routine repeats itself over the next few days. The crib stands ready in your room, lovingly prepared with that beautiful baby linen, but your little darling screams every time you try to put him down in it. You are permanently exhausted and desperate for sleep, and it is so much easier to get him to sleep in your bed. Well, hey Presto! You and your munchkin are now co-sleepers!
Perhaps you and your baby are the stars of a different scenario. When you were expecting, you excitedly hopped from one baby store to another, eagerly examining the myriad of things so alluringly displayed. Who knew that a baby needed that much stuff?
One of the main items on your shopping list was a bassinet. The range is endless, and you have no idea what you want. But the co-sleeper bassinet looks so pretty. And the sales lady is so convincing. When she tells you that this is the best way to ensure that YOU get a good night’s sleep, you are totally won over.
So you and your baby are officially co-sleepers. But you do know that this can’t go on forever. You won’t want a 5-year-old in your bed every night, so at some point, you will need to break the habit and figure out how to get the baby to sleep in a crib after co-sleeping.
When Should You Transition From Your Bed To A Crib?
Many people like to make the change early on, when their little one is only a few months old, while others may prefer to give the baby the security and comfort of sleeping with Mum until at least a year old.
Sometimes a life event in your family can prompt the move. Often the news that a little sibling is on the way will make you start thinking about moving the baby to his crib. You know that sweet little kiddies’ song, “There were 5 in the bed, and the little one said, Rollover, roll over”…..You know for sure that that is not the family tableau you want to see in your future!
Many couples start out in a very small home as newlyweds and start thinking about moving to a bigger place once their first child is born. Moving a house can often be a good time to get a baby to sleep in a crib after co-sleeping. The first night or two, you may want to keep him in your bed so that the change is not too drastic for him, but then you can gradually start to introduce him to the crib.
How To Get Baby To Sleep In a Crib After Co-sleeping
Your baby will be so used to sleeping with you that the separation might be quite a difficult process. You will have to be very patient.
When you are ready to get a baby to sleep in a crib after co-sleeping, we recommend a gentle and gradual transition from your bed to the crib. The most important aspect to remember is that your baby needs familiarity in order to have a sense of security about going to sleep in his crib.
On the first day, start off by putting him down in his crib, with a familiar soft toy, for only a few minutes at a time, when he is wide awake and you are close by. Talk to him constantly, in a calm, soothing voice.
Stay nearby, where he can see you, and keep talking to him all the time that he is in the crib. Repeat this activity every few hours. By the end of the day, he will already be familiar with his crib and know that it is a safe place.
The next day, start his first daytime nap by letting him fall asleep either in your bed, as usual, or in your arms. When he is sound asleep, move him gently into the crib and let him wake up in it.
For his next nap, give him a quick cuddle, then put him down, but stay close by and keep talking to him. He may cry for a while, but keep reassuring him that you are there. You might need to stand next to the crib and pat him or stroke him to calm and soothe him until he falls asleep.
At night, it is helpful to establish a good bedtime routine, and then stick to it consistently. We suggest dinner (if he is already eating solids), followed by a bath and a feed. Then hold him quietly while softly reading to him (yes, even tiny babies love listening to stories). Try not to feed him too soon before putting him down, so that he doesn’t associate sleeping with feeding.
Put him down and follow the same procedure as for daytime naps. He will soon adapt and get used to the routine, and you will be able to walk out of the room and leave him to self-soothe himself to sleep.
In order to get your baby to fall asleep quickly and easily, timing is crucial. You need to start the bedtime routine just as he starts to show that he is getting tired. If he is not tired enough yet, he will fight sleep and it will become a battle of wills.
On the other hand, it is equally important not to let him become over-tired. If he is over-tired, he will become fractious and restless and may cry frantically when you put him down. You will soon learn to interpret your baby’s signals and will be able to judge when he is ready for sleep.
Swaddling the baby tightly in the early months will make him feel snug and safe, and will help him to fall asleep more easily.
If your baby is a light sleeper, you can try using a white noise machine, or even playing soft, soothing music in the room as he is falling asleep. This helps to block out other sounds and is particularly useful if you have older children who are running around and making a noise.
There are a few other matters to consider in the process of getting a baby to sleep in a crib after co-sleeping.
Where Should You Put The Crib?
This question is not a one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on many things. How many rooms do you have? Do you have enough space for the baby to have his own room? How big is your bedroom? Is there enough space to keep the crib in your room without it being unmanageably cramped? How important is it to you and your husband/partner to have your privacy in your bedroom? These are all questions that only you can answer.
You also need to consider what kind of sleeper your baby is. Is he a very light sleeper, and wakes at even the slightest noise? If so, it might not be a good idea for you to keep his crib in your room. You will have to tiptoe around him, being careful not to make a sound.
On the other hand, if your baby is a heavy sleeper who happily sleeps through any noise, and you know that you will be able to open and close doors, use your hairdryer, and flush the toilet in your en suite bathroom without waking him, then it will be fine to keep his crib in your room.
You may even just want the convenience of having him close by for those middle-of-the-night feeds and diaper changes, so that you don’t have to stagger around the house in a state of semi-sleep yourself, in order to get to him as soon as he wakes.
What Are the Important Things to Consider About A Crib?
You are now ready to move your baby out of your bed, or co-sleeper bassinet. You have found the perfect spot for the crib, and want to be as well-prepared as possible for the transition.
There are many different options when it comes to choosing a crib. Whether you buy a low-budget, bottom of the range crib, or a high-end luxury crib, safety is paramount. When it comes to how safe the crib is, examine the following:
- Paint – Make sure that the crib is painted with non-toxic, lead-free paint.
- Slats – It is vital that the slats of the crib are a safe distance apart. The recommended width is no more than 2 ⅜ inches. Obviously, the gap should not be wide enough for the baby to slip his head through, but you also don’t want it to be too narrow, because he could get a little leg or fist stuck between the slats if they are too close together.
- Base – the base should be solid and firmly fixed to the sides. It is very useful to have a height-adjustable base that you can lower as the baby grows.
- Sides – the sides should be strong and firmly attached. Avoid drop-down sides. They have been proven to be unsafe, and many babies have been seriously injured in this type of crib.
- Mattress – the mattress should be firm enough to provide good support. It should also be breathable. A good crib mattress will have a series of holes in the mattress, allowing air to circulate.
- Crib bumpers – these should not be used. They are a suffocation hazard.
You will want your baby’s crib to be a place where he feels both secure and comfortable. If you follow the above recommendations you should not have any problems when establishing how to get a baby to sleep in a crib after co-sleeping.