If your baby refuses to sleep in the crib, there’s no need to despair! Here are four reasons why that happens and what to do. 

Here’s one scenario: your 8-month old goes down for naps in her crib every day just fine with zero fusses. But when bedtime comes, she just wants to cuddle and sleep next to you. The second you try to put her down in her crib, she becomes inconsolable unless you pick her up.

Here’s a different scenario: you’re five months pregnant with your second child and need to get your 12-month-old to sleep and stay in his cot before the new baby arrives. He drifts off to sleep in your arms at about 7:30 pm before you place him in his cot. But when you try to leave, he starts crying and throwing a tantrum.

How do you get her/him to sleep in the crib? Here are 4 reasons why your baby refuses to sleep in the crib and 4 great tips for what to do. 

Why does your baby refuse the crib?  

Unfortunately, babies don’t possess the skills to express their feelings, needs, or fears in words. Tears are some of the most effective ways they can communicate with you. Here are four possible causes why your little one is refusing the crib:

Separation anxiety

Many infants, as they head towards toddlerhood, start to experience separation anxiety.

They’re learning the idea of “object permanence,” which means that even though you don’t see some things, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. 

Meaning, your child becomes aware that even though you’re not next to her, you do exist somewhere else.

Babies start displaying object permanence and separation anxiety as early as four or five months old, although the majority of them would develop this at around nine months.

She doesn’t know how to self-soothe

Another reason why your baby refuses to sleep in the crib is that she doesn’t know how to self-soothe

If your little one doesn’t know how to put herself to sleep and relies on you for that, she will communicate in the only way she knows how and that is through crying. 

She’s crying because she wants you to feed her or rock her to sleep. 

She’s used to falling asleep in another place

Let’s say that you’re putting your baby to sleep by rocking her in your arms.  As she falls asleep, her mind subconsciously notes everything that’s happening around her so that she knows what to expect when she wakes up. So, when she rouses and realizes she’s not sleeping where she fell asleep, she’ll get upset and start crying to express her agitation. 

Your baby is going through a milestone

Babies grow and develop at a fast speed during their first year of life. She’ll be learning how to crawl, walk, or even pull herself up in the crib. 

She may not be fully awake, but her brain can still be processing these new things she’s learning in the middle of the night.

my baby is refusing to sleep in the crib

4 tips for getting your baby to sleep in her crib 

Teach her how to self-soothe

To teach your baby how to self-soothe, follow these four tips:

  1. Follow a consistent bedtime routine that will let your baby know that it’s time to sleep.
  2. If you’re feeding your child before sleep, move the bedtime feeding session to a slightly earlier part of the bedtime routine.
  3. If your child is younger, try giving her a pacifier to help with the self-soothing process, or if she’s older, a soft toy or blanket that she’s created an attachment to will do the trick.
  4. Don’t forget to put her in her crib while she’s drowsy but awake or fully awake if she’s older.

At the start, you may sit beside her in the room to offer comfort, but gradually reduce the support you give. For example, you can start by offering words of comfort or patting her on her back. 

Once she learns how to self-soothe, you can apply the same strategy when she wakes up in the middle of the night. Go to her crib and use the same soothing words, or gently pat her on the back. Patience is the key.

Make sure the room is sleep-conducive

Babies are delicate little people who need a carefully designed sleep environment that supports long and healthy sleep. If your baby wakes up every hour of every night, a quick and easy fix is to make sure their room is conducive to sleep.

Here are a few tips:

  • Keep the room at an ideal temperature, which is 68-72°/19-21°.
  • When the baby was in your tummy, there was constant white noise. Consequently, she finds white noise relaxing and soothing. You can easily create a womb-like sleep environment by getting a sound machine and playing some white noise. 
  • The quality of sleep is much higher in a room that is dark. Consider getting blackout curtains if your nursery gets plenty of light during the daytime.

Make sure the environment in which she falls asleep is identical to the environment in which she wakes up

If you’re rocking her to sleep but aren’t planning on doing so for the entire duration of the night (duh), this is something you should reconsider. 

Feeding and rocking are a normal part of a baby’s life, but make sure they’re happening when your baby is still fully awake. The trick is to teach your baby how to fall asleep on her own. 

She should always, and I mean always, fall asleep in her crib. 

Consider sleep training

The great thing about sleep training is that it can be done when your child is three months old or up to 18 months old. With a little bit of effort and dedication from your end, you can teach your child how to sleep independently in a matter of days. 

Whether you choose the cry it out or the controlled crying method, it’s important that you only try the methods that you feel comfortable with using.