Your baby needs plenty of safe, healthy sleep to grow, and the safest place for them to sleep is in a crib. Here we'll answer common crib-related questions, including “How do I get my baby to sleep in a crib?” “How do I make sure my baby's crib is safe?” “How long can my baby stay in their crib?” and “How do I get my baby to associate the crib with bedtime?”
If you have more questions about how to help your baby love sleeping in their crib, we have more articles here on the blog AND you can download the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ app. It's packed full of pro-tips to help you teach your baby healthy sleep habits that will help your baby, and you, enjoy more sleep.
How Do I Make Sure My Baby's Crib is Safe?
While cribs are the safest place for your baby to sleep at night or during naptime, a bassinet or portable crib or pack and play are also secure and more portable. That said, many babies outgrow bassinets in the first month or two.
Whichever you have, here are basics for crib safety:
Keep It Firm: Babies should sleep on a firm mattress with a tight fitted sheet. Avoid using additional sheets as blankets or to cover them - if you are no longer swaddling, then opt for a sleep sack for optimal safety.
Keep It Clear: Again, your baby should not have any additional sheets in their crib, but remember to also keep it clear of pillows, blankies, stuffed animals, or anything other than a pacifier if they use one. Stuffed or soft accessories can lead to suffocation and have been associated with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Keep It Close: This may not be an option, but, if possible, keep the crib in your room for your baby's first six months. This reduces the risk of SIDS by up to 50 percent. Also, it makes checking on them at night easier and faster.
Keep Your Baby On Their Back: Another way to reduce SIDS is always put your baby down on their back to sleep, for their first year. It’s common for babies to start rolling onto their side or stomach around 2 months. If this happens, gently roll them back over onto their back until they're able to roll over both from front to back and back to front.
Can Newborns Sleep in a Crib?
Yes. Your baby can start sleeping in a crib on their first night home.
When Should I First Use a Crib?
You can use a crib as soon as your baby's born, though you can also use a bassinet in those first weeks, which many parents or caretakers prefer because they’re more portable and often easier to keep close. But be advised: your baby will grow fast and may outgrow a bassinet relatively quickly. Using a crib from day one will help teach your baby that's where they sleep and rest. Plus, it saves a little money!
How Do I Help My Baby Associate the Crib with Sleep?
- Set the Scene: Make their room dark, ensure the room temperature is between 68-72° F, and invest in a sound machine. For more on setting up your baby’s sleep space, read our sleep training checklist.
- Check the Diaper: Make sure your baby is wearing a fresh, clean diaper. Many things can disrupt your baby’s sleep, the last thing you want it to be is their diaper.
- Drowsy, but Awake: Put your baby into their crib when they’re drowsy but awake, rather than putting them down in their crib when they are already asleep. This helps them associate the crib with sleep. If you hold them until they fall asleep, they’ll learn to rely on you to put them to sleep.
- Create a Routine: We discuss this more fully here, but a bedtime routine helps calm your baby while also cueing them that it's time to sleep. A bedtime routine can include:
- Fresh Diaper
- A snuggle
- Reading a story
- Singing a song
Whatever you do during this bedtime routine, keep the energy calm and soothing – and keep the steps consistent in the same order. This will help cue your baby that it is time for sleep.
The Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™ app has a mini-course dedicated to creating the ultimate bedtime routine. Plus, it will remind you when to start bedtime each night, which helps prevent your baby from becoming overtired.
How do I Encourage My Baby to Sleep in Crib?
Routine and consistency are the key ingredients to teaching your baby how to accept a crib or any other aspect of creating a habit. If you want your baby to sleep in their crib, you can gently coach them to do so by introducing it for naps and nighttime sleep.
Which is the Safest Crib for Babies?
There are so many wonderful cribs out there, we can’t recommend just one that’s the safest. We can, however, tell you how to keep your baby’s crib safe:
Avoid Drop Rails: Drop rails are super quick and easy but can just as easily injure your baby by dropping on them or dropping down and allowing them to fall out.
Avoid Slat Gaps: Make sure the space between crib slats is at most 2 3/8 inches. Your baby may be able to fit their head between anything larger.
Keep it Plain: Decorative cutouts or designs are cute but also dangerous. Keep your crib as plain as possible to avoid injury. (Also, plain cribs are more affordable, which is an added incentive!)
Clean Fits and Corners: Check the crib’s corners, panels and anywhere else where two points or segments meet. You want to make sure there are no protruding snags or gaps that may catch your baby’s clothing. This can lead to serious injury.
**This advice is especially important for vintage, antique, or hand-made cribs.
Lower Your Crib’s Mattress: Keep your baby safe in their crib and avoid any “great escapes” by regularly lowering your baby’s crib mattress as they grow. You want to make sure the mattress is lower enough that your baby cannot grip the top of the railings or sides.
Clear Cords, Wires, or Ropes: Be sure to look outside the crib for potential hazards, too – including extension cords, blind pulls, mobile strings – anything that is a choking hazard and within your baby’s reach should be removed or secured.
When Should I Stop Using a Crib?
The rule of thumb is your baby can use their crib until they're three feet tall, though different crib manufacturers have different guidelines. Always read your owner's manual for the most accurate advice for your crib. Also, to keep your baby safe as they grow, lower the mattress in the crib from time to time to prevent them from climbing out in “great escapes,” and potential injuries.
Pediatric Sleep Consultant, Mandy Treeby, recommends keeping your baby in their crib for as long as possible. “A mistake many parents make is transitioning them out of the crib too soon, I usually recommend keeping them there until around the age of 3 or 4 when they are better able to comprehend the transition to a big kid bed.”
If you're moving your baby from their crib to make room for a newborn, switch to a new bed or toddler bed about six-to-eight weeks before the new baby arrives. This will help the older baby adjust before they take on their new role as older sibling!
For step-by-step guidance on all things sleep, from putting your baby down in their crib to nap transitions to sleep tracking, download the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers™. We created this app specifically to guide you through the ups and downs of healthy sleep as your baby grows and develops. If nothing else, take this FREE sleep assessment and get a personalized plan for your baby. links
“Safe Sleep Knowledge and Use of Provided Cribs in a Crib Delivery Program,” Kansas Journal of Medicine.
“Developing circadian rhythmicity in infants,” Pediatrics.
“Sleep and Early Brain Development,” Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism.
How We Wrote This Article:
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.