Sleep Transitions: Part 1 - Parent Bed to Crib
This is Part 1 of a 3-part series of post on sleep transitions.
We all know that safety is key when placing our babies down for sleep. You likely have read all about safe sleep, and you may have planned to have your baby sleeping in a bassinet and/or crib from day one. Or, you might be sure you are going to safely bed-share with your little one and sleep that way until your child is ready to sleep in their own space. Best laid plans can sometimes go awry when it comes to sleep, so I want to give you some tips and suggestions to help you with this important issue.
I’ve often heard parents say that out of desperation they bring their baby to sleep in their bed with them. They had planned on having their baby sleep next to their bed in a bassinet, but they ended up bed-sharing since their baby woke so often through the night. What often starts as a desperate need for more sleep turns into an even more desperate need to get your baby to sleep independently, as bed-sharing can sometimes mean your baby is feeding all night long. Some parents have no problem with this arrangement, and are happy (or at least willing) to have their baby on and off the breast throughout the night. However, for some, this leads to a level of sleep deprivation that is not sustainable.
I have also worked with parents who think they want to bed-share only to find it is just not working and they aren’t sure how to help their baby learn to sleep separately. Whatever your initial intent, here are some ideas for making the adjustment to more independent sleep. This is the first of 3 blog posts about sleep transitions. The first part is the transition from your bed, to a crib, the second is from your room to your baby’s room, and the third is from a crib to a toddler bed.
For babies under 6 months, you want to continue to have a parent sleeping in the same room with the baby. This is called co-sleeping. It means your baby is sleeping in the same room, but on a different sleeping surface.
In the first 3 months, it is helpful to have a bassinet right next to your bed so you can easily see your baby, and respond when they wake. Feeding your baby, and then returning them to sleep near you is ideal, but not always realistic, as babies under 3 months often want to sleep very close. Do your best to put your baby down in their own sleeping space, and give them a minute to try and settle themselves if they wake. Don’t be too quick to respond, but listen first and wait to see if they really need you. Put your hand on your baby and see if that is enough to help them settle.
If you do find yourself pulling your baby into your bed, be sure you are following safe bed-sharing guidelines. Here’s a link to review: https://cosleeping.nd.edu/safe-co-sleeping-guidelines/
Be sure that you don’t try to sit up and hold your baby in a chair or on a sofa, or even in your bed if you are very tired. This isn’t safe, and does not give you a chance to drop into restorative sleep. If you are really tired, it’s best to split the night with your spouse, or partner or other support person, so you each can get some sleep while lying down. And it’s best for your baby to sleep lying down as well. Holding your baby for a few minutes after a feed is fine, but holding your baby all night long on your chest is just not sustainable.
If your baby is between 3-6 months, it’s best to move your baby’s crib away from your bed so there is some distance between where you are sleeping and where they are sleeping. It’s a good idea to move your baby out of a bassinet at this point so your baby has room to move their body. You can either set up their crib, or use a pack and play.
Transition them out of a swaddle and use a sleep sack for naps and bedtime. Babies this age are often more aware of sounds and will wake easily if they hear you. By moving their crib farther away from where you are sleeping, you make it easier to share the room, but not have your baby wake at every noise. Using a sound machine can help too, but be sure it is not placed too close to where your baby is sleeping.
Find posts on the other sleep transitions here:
If you find the transition from your bed to a crib or toddler bed is proving to be difficult, let me know, and we can set up a call. I’d be happy to help.
Disclaimer: Elizabeth Green's Early Parenting Sleep Consultations and written materials are for educational purposes only and are not meant as medical advice. All spoken and written information is to be used at each parents' discretion.