Why Does My Baby Sleep in His Crib During the Day…But Not at Night?
Does your baby nap just fine in her crib or bassinet…then at night, she reaches and cries for you the minute you put her down to sleep in her crib?
If so, you’re not alone. I first encountered this issue years ago, when I was beginning my career as a certified sleep consultant. But I’ve seen it so many times since that you might just be surprised.
My best friend’s baby slept in his crib during the day, right on schedule. At four months old, Caleb took naps in his bassinet, or sometimes, in his crib, twice a day. Yes, all by himself. But at night, when my friend put him into his baby crib, Caleb’s eyes would pop open and he’d cry frantically.
And I gave her the info and solutions you’re about to read below.
Can baby sleep alone in a crib — without crying? Yes! It all comes down to sleep training. Here are some of the best methods I’ve found for teaching a baby to sleep in a crib at night. (Bonus: these methods are effective and gentle!)
When Do Babies Sleep Through the Night?
First, you need to know whether your baby is ready to sleep through the night.
Your baby may NOT be ready if:
- she is under 6 weeks old,
- she was premature,
- she has special needs, OR
- she has come down with a cold or other illness
Your baby probably IS ready if:
- she is at least 6-8 weeks old,
- she was a full-term birth,
- she does not have special needs, AND
- she is not currently sick
It may be surprising that at two months, you can teach your baby to sleep alone in their crib. Most healthy babies can, and some do…if their parents know the right steps to take.
But first, why does your baby sleep fine during the day, but won’t sleep in her crib at night?
Why Won’t My Baby Sleep in a Crib at Night?
During the day while Baby naps, there is activity around the house. Your cell phone may ring. You might sing along to the radio, do the dishes, or take care of Baby’s older siblings.
Even if you try to be quiet during your infant’s nap time, there can be other sounds. For instance, cars may pass by on the street. Or children talk and laugh on their way home from school.
All of this is subconsciously soothing to your little one. (After all, it means someone is around.) But at night, everything goes quiet. Where did everyone go? More importantly, where did you, her most loved and dependable caregiver, go? So your baby cries hard, looking for you.
And there’s another element which causes babies to not want to sleep in their crib at night. Many parents let their baby fall asleep in their arms or in an active part of the house. Then when Baby wakes up, she’s in a completely different place. She’s disoriented. Frightened, she calls out for you.
Now that you know the possible reasons for your problem, here are the best steps to follow to help Baby sleep in her crib at night.
Step One: Teach Baby to Nap in His Crib
The first problem I have seen with many parents during my time as a certified sleep consultant is that parents only use the crib for nightttime.
During the day, the baby may be put to sleep in a bassinet or, when the baby is a little older, a Pack ‘n Play or other convertible sleep/playpen.
The baby gets used to active, comforting sounds and motion while he sleeps during the day. Then at night, he’s put into his crib, where it is dark and quiet. He gets his first feelings of loneliness, and he may be afraid, so he cries out.
If you have been putting your baby in a place other than his crib for naps, your first step is to put him in his crib for naps instead.
- This may take a few tries. Let him know you are there and continue your usual day activities.
- If he continues to cry, do not force him to stay in the crib. Get him out and try again once he’s sleepy. Eventually, he will be tired enough to nap in his crib.
- Be cheerful getting him up from his nap in his crib. You want his crib to be a positive and happy experience.
Step Two: Teach Baby to Fall Asleep By Herself
Many parents start to crib-train their baby by putting the baby down when she’s already asleep. This seems natural. After all, if she’s sleeping, she should continue to sleep once she’s put down…right?
But as you may have discovered, babies who fall asleep and then are put down somewhere else may immediately come back awake once they’re moved (or put down from your arms.)
There’s a reason. If your infant falls asleep in one place — say, the living room, during tummy time or in your arms — and wakes up in another place, alone, she will be scared. After all, it’s a shock to be dozing in one place one minute, then awakening some place completely different.
That’s why the best thing to do is to help your baby fall asleep by herself. You should do this for naptime and bedtime.
- Put Baby down in her crib when she is sleepy but not fully asleep.
- If Baby wakes up and cries hard, pick her up. Do not leave her alone crying, which will give her negative associations with her crib. Letting your baby cry hard for long periods may also teach her she can’t trust you to be there for her. That will only make the problem worse.
- Try again once she is sleepy but not fully asleep, until she eventually stays in her crib and falls asleep completely (without crying).
- If your baby absolutely won’t sleep in her crib by herself at first, start with the place you’ve been putting her down for naps. Then move to the crib when she’s mastered falling asleep on her own in her nap place.
Step Three: Use Additional Resources
There are other tools you can try to help your baby sleep in their crib at night. Try:
- a baby sleep sack
- gentle, soft baby sleep music
- swaddling (for babies who have not rolled over yet, or are not trying to roll over)
- a gentle, expert-approved baby white noise machine
- a favorite blanket if your baby is one year or older and in good health
Want more info on how to help your baby sleep all on her own in her crib? I’m here to help!