Does that precious little sleepy-head of yours suddenly become a night owl just when your internal clock says it’s time to tuck in? Oh, Mama. I don’t have to tell you that a regular sleep schedule is a thing of the past for all of your foreseeable future. And well beyond. But neither does that mean that all hope is lost. If baby is having trouble falling asleep in the crib, let’s run down a quick list of what the culprit might be and how to nip this bummer bedtime habit in the bud.
Here’s the good news. You can figure out what the problem is and find a sleepy-time solution. Here’s the truth. It could be one of any number of factors. It’s probably different from moment to moment. With time and patience, you’ll get to know baby’s bedtime needs better and better, and you’ll both adapt. Here are some basics to get us started. First, let’s stage the scene.
Where Should Baby Sleep?
The most important thing is that you establish a safe sleep environment and let little one adjust to sleeping sweetly within these parameters. Remember, a newborn is going through just as big a transition as you are. From safe and secure, to out in the world, baby can be understandably flustered by being left alone to drift off to dream. As we start to understand more and more about the risks of SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, recommendations are changing. Now, there’s more information not just about how to arrange baby’s sleep space safely, but where a newborn should sleep as well.
What is Room-sharing?
The American Academy of Pediatrics updated its recommendations in 2016. Now they say that newborns and infants should be room-sharing to ensure the safest and best quality sleep for babies and parents alike. They recommend room-sharing rather than bed-sharing for a minimum of 6 months and ideally up to one year of age.
What is room-sharing? Good question. This somewhat new idea is the answer to a genuine conundrum. We all know that babies, especially newborn babies, snuggle up and sleep much better when they’re closer to you. Like in your arms, on your chest, or nursing kind-of-close. Really, who can blame them? After nine months in the womb, it’s not a surprising preference.
Why Should You Share a Room with Baby?
We also know that many a sleep-deprived parent, including yours truly, and probably every nursing mom ever, has defaulted to napping alongside baby just to give everyone a moment of shuteye. Bottle-feeding parents do it, too, so as not to exclude anyone. It’s a pretty universal parental slip-up. And, bear in mind, that it’s not entirely a bad thing.
For example, skin-to-skin contact with newborns is known to have numerous benefits. It is recommended through a minimum of the first 12 weeks of life for a solid 60 minute block each day. Although, for safety, the parent should be totally awake and aware even if baby is sleeping.
The AAP’s room-sharing without bed-sharing recommendation is based on case-control studies in England, New Zealand, and Scotland, which have demonstrated that room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS compared with solitary sleeping.AAP Journal – “Are There Long-term Consequences of Room-Sharing During Infancy?“
Here’s the deal. Regardless of recommendations, parents know it’s happening. And the AAP understands it too. It’s for precisely this reason that they now recommend room-sharing. It’s the safest alternative of which they can currently conceive. The dangers of bed-sharing and co-sleeping in armchairs and on couches are profound and sobering.
Too many parents don’t fully realize the risk that a snooze on an unsafe surface can pose. And so, room-sharing is where we are now. The hope is that it will increase safe sleep practices, with baby on their own sleep surface, rather than an unsafe one. Because with baby nearby, it can be tempting to snuggle up in the adult bed, especially if it calms and comforts a little one. But the AAP is asking parents to choose responsible room-sharing and only bring baby into the adult bed if parents are awake.
How Do You Share a Room with Baby?
Room-sharing means that we don’t place baby in their own separate nursery right from the get-go. Instead, we try to foster the bond of closeness a little while longer by keeping baby bedside. The benefits are numerous. With baby sleeping close by, but on their own safe sleep surface, parents and babies clock more, higher quality, sleep hours. Baby is on hand for comforting, changing, cuddling (while awake), and feeding throughout the night.
The current recommendation is simply placing your crib alongside the adult bed. You can also choose a bedside sleeper bassinet, in-bed co-sleepers, and the like. However, to date, the AAP isn’t ready to rule one way or another on these devices.
Whew, that’s a lot of information on the practice of room-sharing. But it’s an important topic because it’s a big, and somewhat controversial change, in the recommendations about where your baby should sleep.
Why Doesn’t Baby Like the Crib?
With the safety question settled, we can look at other factors that could keep your little one from drifting off to dream in their crib. There are quite a few reasons why baby could resist the crib, and most of them are pretty easy to understand.
- Whatchamacallit? Remember, it’s a brand new world for baby, and literally, everything is another unknown experience. Baby likes to be near Mom and Dad for comfort and reassurance as they get used to navigating their senses around this new place. A crib is unfamiliar and can be overwhelming for baby. Introduce baby to the crib a little at a time. And if you’re room-sharing, you can snuggle baby almost to sleep and then attempt the transfer just as little one starts to drift off.
- Me, sleep here? That brings us to our next point, literally, your little one may not know what to do when they find themselves on a firm mattress with no one to snuggle. Try to stay as near as possible in the adult bed until baby is dreaming. Although, you could use the opportunity to get up and around with both hands baby-free, you might also want to nap. Let baby sleep and you catch some dream-time as well.
- What’s the matter, Mama? Remember that if you feel unsure about putting baby in their crib, your little one is gonna know it. Baby is bound to fuss if they sense that you’re hesitant about the situation. Be calm and reassure little one with your presence. Let them know this is a safe sleep space where they can dream away awhile.
What’s bothering baby?
You’ve checked if baby is hungry or needs a fresh diaper. Nope. And none of the above was the right answer for your baby, either. Well, here are a few final details that might be affecting your little bundle of sleepless joy.
- Too hot? Too cold? – Get it just right by considering the temperature of baby’s sleep space. Ideally, baby should sleep in onesie pajamas on a firm, flat surface with no pillows or blankets. Make sure you choose a onesie that suits the room-temperature. For newborns up til baby can roll over, you can also use a swaddle to help with temperature control. A sleep sack is another alternative to to keep baby cuddled up and cozy safely.
- What’s all that racket? – Even though the womb is far from silent, newborns aren’t used to all the sounds of the wide world unfiltered by Mama’s steady heartbeat. Try white noise or heartbeat recordings to help soothe your little one to sleep. After all, baby sleep is a complex and delicate thing. But if some kind of noise is keeping baby from a nap, this can be an easy fix.
- Routine maintenance? Establishing a bedtime routine from the earliest moments possible will work in your favor in the long run. Maybe you read a short story, hum a lullaby, or try infant massage. Whatever works best for you and baby. Remember that your routine is your own, it’s unique, and if it works for you and baby, it’s just right.
- Keep it up! To that end, whatever works for you and your baby is the right choice. Take a nap, or don’t. If sleep training isn’t something you’re up for, don’t worry about it. Need to take a drive to let baby fall asleep in the car seat and then transfer to the crib? Do it. You know that a healthy, happy baby is one who is sleeping. Following safety guidelines, you’re the one observing, learning, and adapting to how baby sleeps best.
Life with a newborn is no joke. Sometimes it seems like no matter how many parenting classes we take, books we read, or sites we subscribe to, we still have no idea what we’re doing. Figuring out baby sleep is the equivalent of understanding the art of alchemy. Know that you and baby are gonna be just fine. No matter what your method is, if it’s an informed choice guided by equal parts research and intuition, from one Mama to another, I see you. Good job. Now, go hand that wide-awake baby off to your partner or a trusted care-giver and go take a nap.