5 Reasons Your Baby Hates the Crib

Maybe it’s uncomfortable? It lacks pillows. The mattress is plastic. Maybe it’s the COLD plastic that is the problem. Have you tried warming it with a blow dryer before putting baby in there? Do you have cotton sheets? Is the thread count too low? What crib did you buy? Maybe you bought the wrong kind.

Sleep Fact # 73 – It’s not the crib.

In almost every conversation about getting babies to sleep in their crib the parent will suggest that the problem may be the crib itself. As adults we tend to project our own sleep “stuff” onto our little ones. We can’t sleep without our down comforter, allergen-free pillow, and 700 thread count sheets. So how can we expect our baby to sleep in a baby jail on a plastic mattress? Plus they cry whenever we put them in there so they MUST hate it, right?

There are many reasons why it’s challenging to get babies to sleep in their cribs. But none of them are about the crib. The bedding. Or the mattress.

Why Babies Hate the Crib

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  1. They’re not used to it

    Most babies sleep primarily in their parent’s room for months so their own room (much less crib) may be a strange place they’ve barely glimpsed much less spent any time in. Often the baby’s room becomes the default storage place (because you never go in there) and ends up being dark, dusty, and cluttered. It’s like asking your baby to sleep in the Costco warehouse the day after Christmas. If so, it’s time to clear out the crap and start having some fun in there. Read books, sing songs, hang out in there! Even if you aren’t ready to permanently move baby into her crib, play with her IN the crib. It’s time to make her room/bed a familiar and happy place to be.

  2. They don’t know how to fall asleep in it.

    Your baby needs to learn how to fall asleep. This isn’t some autonomic process that happens on its own. Like potty training and successfully navigating a new car lease, it will require training and practice. Putting your baby in her crib and expecting her to figure it out on her own is unlikely to work any better than dropping her off at a dealership and waiting for her to emerge victorious with a new Prius.

  3. It makes their tummy hurt.

    This is RARELY an issue however some babies have food allergies and/or reflux which can make it almost impossible for them to happily spend time on their backs. Trying to get a baby to sleep in a crib with chronic heartburn will likely leave you both in tears. IF this is an issue for YOUR baby they may need to sleep at an angle for as long as long as a year. Because these babies often struggle with sleep I suggest the use of swings to keep them upright when they sleep.

  4. It makes YOU uncomfortable.

    Often parents have mixed feelings about the crib. They may have fears about the baby not being in the same room with them. Maybe both parents aren’t on the same page about moving baby to her crib so there is some contentiousness about it. But somehow babies who can’t reliably get their own fist into their mouth are remarkably sensitive to the emotional state of their parents. If there is any internal conflict about baby going into the crib it’s going to hinder your effort to help her sleep happily in there.

  5. You’ve taught them to hate it.

    Ouch! Stings a bit doesn’t it? Sometimes when babies are really fussy the crib becomes the default place to put them when they’re inconsolable and Mom needs a minute or two to collect herself. Which is totally understandable – sometimes you need to relieve your aching back, sometimes you’re just beat and need a safe place for baby while you take a deep breath, etc. More often well-meaning parents have taught baby to hate the crib through an unsuccessful attempt at CIO (note: CIO is a BIG topic and there will be BIG posts to go into it in more depth). Only now the crib has become the “penalty box” with only negative associations.

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None of the reasons why your baby hates the crib have ANYTHING to do with the actual crib. I think people LIKE to think that it’s the crib because that is a really tangible problem to solve (ex. buy new better crib). Sadly helping your baby learn to love the crib is not a problem that you can shop your way out of.

Young house working girl in Nepal.

Prena is 14 and lives in Nepal.

Bedroom of a young girl from Nepal.

This is where she sleeps.

I recently came across this site showcasing some brilliant photography from a book called Where Children Sleep. The author states that his goal was to provide these images and related stories for kids ages 9-13 to gain more cultural awareness about how different our lives are by relating it to something every kid is intimately familiar with – their own bedroom. Looking at the picturesmakes me feel like I’ve taken a stiff kick to the gut. Although I keep going back to look at them which suggests a deep psychological issue that I should probably look into.

But if you can overlook the overpowering poverty of many of the images, you may notice the fact that children can sleep in a dizzying array of environments. Many have no mattress, no pillow, and in some cases no walls. But everybody sleeps.

It’s not about the crib.

PS. In case you were wondering I survived the Spartan Beast! Running around a mountain tackling bruisingly hard challenges is not for everybody. But I highly recommend The Beast or the similar Tough Mudder. Why is getting tired, sweaty, and sore such a great idea? Because when you have kids it sometimes feels like you’re whole life is ABOUT kids. Entering a challenge event forces you to take back some time and mental space to prepare. And for 7 hours in the sun you will remind yourself that you’re not just a parent. You’re still a bit of a warrior.

PPS. If you have a second, voting for me at lovelinks will make your jeans fit better!