What to Do If an Infant Won't Sleep in a Crib?

By Lisa Baker

For new parents, getting a baby to sleep is a common concern. Although infants need a significant amount of sleep--around 15 hours a day for a newborn--some infants have trouble sleeping. If your baby won't sleep in his crib, there are many strategies you can try to help him sleep better.

Different Methods of Putting a Baby to Sleep

Some experts recommend training babies to sleep by letting them cry in their cribs until they learn to go to sleep on their own. But all children eventually learn to sleep alone, so if you're not comfortable with controlled crying, there are other methods you can try.

Start by establishing a regular pattern of sleeping and waking and a regular pre-sleep routine that will cue your baby that sleep is coming. Your routine could include reading a book, rocking, nursing and dimming the lights. If your baby seems sleepy but immediately wakes up when you try to put him in his crib, you can try holding him until he is deeply asleep. Especially with a very young baby, it's OK to lull him to sleep by rocking and nursing him until he is almost asleep. Once he is nearly asleep, you might be able to put him in the crib without disturbing him, and he might then fall asleep on his own. If that doesn't work, you can rock him until he is completely asleep. Try to lift one of his limbs; if it flops back limply, then you know he's really asleep, and you should be able to put him in his crib without waking him. Over time, you can gradually get him more used to his crib and teach him to fall asleep without so much help.

If rocking a baby for hours is too difficult, consider getting a sling or baby carrier. A hands-free carrier will allow you to do housework and other errands while carrying your baby, and most babies will quickly fall asleep while in a carrier. Once his limbs are limp and he is deeply asleep, you can transfer him to the crib.

Different Beds

Another option to help your baby sleep better is to try different beds as alternative to a crib. If your baby is small enough, you could try a cradle or bassinet. Some babies sleep better in cradles because they are smaller, which make babies feel safer, and because the rocking movement helps put babies to sleep.

You could also try a co-sleeper. A co-sleeper is a bassinet that you place next to your own bed. Many babies do not like the silence and solitude of a crib in an empty nursery. The contrast to the loud sounds and constant motion of the womb is confusing and frightening. By keeping your baby close to you, where she can hear your breathing and feel your warmth, you can help her sleep better. You can also respond more quickly to her when she wakes in the middle of the night, which might help her go back to sleep faster since she won't wake fully before you respond. If you choose to try this, be sure to follow safe co-sleeping recommendations. The American Academy of Pediatrics' 2005 publication "The Changing Concept of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome" recommends against bed sharing, which is bringing your baby into the adult bed with you, but recommends room sharing, which is when your baby sleeps in the adult bedroom.

About the Author

Lisa Baker has been a professional writer since 2001. She has published articles on parenting, environmental issues and religious topics in a variety of print and online venues, including "HomeLife Magazine" and "Pink & Green." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Sweet Briar College.