how do i get my baby to nap in the crib during the day (2)

How Do I Get My Baby To Nap In The Crib During The Day?

It takes a while for newborns to develop a sleep schedule because they need to develop their circadian rhythms. During the first month, babies will spend around 16 hours a day sleeping. 

This will usually happen in the form of three- or four-hour naps evenly spaced between feedings. After a newborn has been awake for one to two hours, it will need to sleep again.

As babies get older, nap times typically become more predictable. For example:

  • Ages 4 months to 1 year. After the newborn period, your baby will likely nap at least twice a day — once in the morning and once in the early afternoon. Some babies also need a late-afternoon nap. You might aim to have your baby nap at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Let your baby nap for as long as they want, unless your baby has difficulty falling asleep at night. If your baby takes a third nap in the late afternoon, try eliminating that nap around age nine months. This will help your baby be ready for an earlier bedtime.
  • Age 1 year and older. When your baby is around ten months to age 1, they will likely drop the morning nap. During this transition, consider moving up your baby's nap time and bedtime by a half-hour to help them adjust. Most children continue taking an afternoon nap of one to two hours in length until age 3. After this age, nap length tends to shorten.

Remember, however, that every baby is different, and baby nap schedules can vary.

In the first hazy days of parenting, your baby sleeps wherever: in your arms, in a bassinet, in a sling, in a swing. 

But there comes a time when you’re ready for your precious bundle to nap in her crib. Here are some expert tips to make the transition as smooth as possible for both the baby and you.

Baby Nursery FAQs

While he'll surely take a snooze in the stroller from time to time during your morning walk, it's ideal if your baby falls asleep in his bassinet or crib. (When at home, always place your baby in his crib to nap, and don't let him sleep for extended periods in the stroller or car seat.) Don't overschedule.

A cold, ear infection, rash or other ailments can disrupt your baby's sleep and make her not want to be put down in her crib. New milestones. Rolling over, sitting up and babbling are just a few of the exciting tricks your baby may be trying to master in the crib at night. Sleep regression.

The 60-minute rule means that you'll keep your baby in the crib for naps for at least 60 minutes from when they're placed down, even if they're not asleep.

What About Short Naps? If your child falls asleep easily but takes short naps, crying it out may be effective to lengthen their naps. If your child sleeps less than 45 minutes for a nap, you can elect to leave them in their crib for another 10-15 minutes to see if they may fall back to sleep.

Play games in and around his crib for a few minutes, several times a day. For example, hide a favourite toy in his crib or play peek-a-boo through the bars. At the same time, be sure to have a mini naptime routine in his room. After a few days, start putting him down for his nap but stay and pat him to sleep.

Consistent Routines

how do i get my baby to nap in the crib during the day

By three months, most babies can sleep for about six hours a night and are more alert during the day. If your baby isn't napping regularly, you should start working on a sleep schedule. Sleep experts and parents agree that the key to successful napping is to be consistent: Baby naps simultaneously, in the same place, with the same routine each day. 

The trick to getting her to sleep when and where you want her to and not according to her whims is to stick to a schedule. Don't follow the lead: Both of my kids have napped on the living room rug because that's where they collapsed while playing.

One recommended system, according to Mindell, is to set nap time according to the hour the baby awakens each morning, remembering that your little one will need to go down for a nap roughly two hours later. 

Another is to choose a nap time by the clock. We know one mom of twins who swears by the "ten and two rule." Starting at six months, her kids were in their cribs at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and she arranged her day around the naps. Each choice has its drawbacks. 

If your baby doesn't wake up at the same time every day, her morning nap could fall anywhere from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., leaving you little ability to schedule your morning time. A nap at the same time every day means that your baby needs to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, something younger babies may not do yet.

Regardless of how you choose to schedule naps, getting the baby into her crib before she's exhausted is key. "The biggest mistake parents make waiting too long for the morning nap," says Mindell. If you're looking for signs of tiredness, like eye rubbing, you risk losing your window of napping and may wind up with a cranky, overtired child who's ready to explode.

While timing is important, you shouldn't discount location. "Ideally, your baby should nap where she sleeps at night, in her crib or bassinet in a dark room," says Mindell. How she drops off to dreamland is even more vital for her ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Case in point: If your 3-month-old dozes each morning in the swing, you're going to be stuck rocking a much heavier child in your arms when she outgrows the swing several months later.

Similarly, "a child who needs a bottle or breastfeeding to snooze won't know how to soothe herself back to sleep when she wakes up," points out Sharon Greenup, spokesperson for Zero to Three, the early-childhood research and advocacy group in Washington, D.C. The key is to find soothing cues to help your little one fall asleep independently that doesn't require your constant attendance. 

A daily ritual, similar but shorter than your bedtime ritual, can do just that. "Babies learn through repetition," says Green. "Predictability gives babies a sense of comfort and security." Sitting with your baby in the same chair for a prenup story or singing a favourite song each day signals to her that it's nap time. 

6 Sleep Saboteurs

Of course, as every new parent knows, life happens, and even the most diligent parent can be thrown off schedule. Here are some of the most common situations that sabotage your hard-won nap schedule and what to do to avoid them:

  • No nap. You're crazed with errands, your sitter forgot the routine, or you've all slept late. For whatever reason, the baby missed his nap, and now you're paying for it. "If my toddler, Cody, doesn't nap in the early afternoon, he sleeps through dinner and wakes up miserable and starving, or he has a meltdown," says Denise Newman of Berkeley, California. Her solution? Make sure he naps, even if he's not at home or there's a major distraction going on. "If we're at someone else's house, I'll lie down with him in a bedroom. He even napped during his sister's birthday party," says Newman.
  • Carnapping. It's similar to catnapping but more destructive. Your child falls asleep in the car for a few minutes, and when he wakes up, he won't sleep and is testy and irritable. "Sometimes ten minutes can be enough to keep a child awake, but not enough to keep him going," says Mindell. The solution? Stop him before he naps. Open a window, or try singing to keep him awake until you get home. To avoid future carnaps, pinpoint the times when you're most likely to be out and about, and choose the baby's nap time accordingly. If you find you need to make a big-time shift—say, a half-hour—adjust the time by gradually moving it in 15-minute increments; instead of 12:30, go to 12:15 and then 12 until you're at the time you need.
  • Sickness. Colds and other common childhood illnesses interfere with good napping because they often interrupt nighttime sleep, throwing the baby off schedule. If your child is up all night and falling asleep at breakfast, bring him back to his crib, so he still has a mental connection between naps and his crib. After the illness passes, return to your bedtime rituals to help get your naps back on track.
  • Vacation. Your baby couldn't care less that he's in sunny Nassau; a different crib and major schedule disruptions can ruin his nap timing and leave him cranky. The good news? If you've stuck to a routine at home, you can adapt it to your vacation. And if your child has a lovey, he sleeps with, taking it on vacation ups the chances that he'll nap better in a strange place. Thanks to his dad's unwavering ritual (and his trusty brown stuffed doggie), 9-month-old Tony Kavalam napped throughout a six-week trip to India. "I lay Tony on his left side, place his doggie on his right cheek, drape his right arm over the doggie, and walk away," says his dad, Jude, of Seattle.
  • Developmental milestones. When your 8-month-old conquers pulling herself up, she'll probably prefer working on her new skill to taking a boring nap. Give naps a try, but don't worry if she won't sleep now and then. "Put her in the crib for an hour, even if she plays. When the time is up, take her out," Mindell advises. If she falls asleep later in front of a video, take her back to the crib to sleep. Return to the usual nap time the next day. "After she masters the milestone, she'll be ready to start her nap routine again," notes Mindell.
  • Older siblings. They're big, and they can do lots of cool stuff. What baby wouldn't want to stay up and play with them? They also need attention, particularly if they're toddlers, and you can't leave them to their own devices while you implement a baby's nap routine. One solution: family rest time. Baby goes to her crib, the older kids settle down with a book or, conceivably, nap themselves. It worked like a charm in my house. No one missed out on any fun, and everyone got some much-needed rest.

Getting Your Baby To Nap In The Crib

how do i get my baby to nap in the crib during the day (3)

For many newborn moms, getting babies to nap in the crib feels like an impossible task.

Perhaps you don’t mind holding your baby to sleep, but you’d rather not make a habit of it and deal with problems down the road. Maybe you’re going crazy because you can’t take naps yourself or get anything done.

Or maybe you know she’ll have to nap in the crib at daycare when you go back to work after maternity leave and would rather she get used to it now.

So, how do you get her to nap on her own in the crib? And what should you do if she only sleeps when held?

Rest assured, you’re not alone, friend. The newborn stage can be frustratingly unpredictable. What works for one nap completely flops for the next. And often, “success” only happens after consistent effort and routine, and even then, you can still end up right where you started of nowhere.

Plus, most newborns aren’t equipped to consistently put themselves to sleep until they’re a few months older. For the most part, it’s okay if she sleeps in your arms—it’s a temporary stage.

Put Your Baby Down Before She Fusses.

One common misconception many first-time moms make is waiting until the baby is fussy before putting her down for a nap.

Here’s the thing: fussiness is usually a sign that your baby is already overtired, making it that much harder to put her down in a crib. Instead, you want to catch her when she’s still pleasantly sleepy and ready to nap, not when she’s fussy and fighting sleep.

Free resource: Do you struggle with getting her to nap without crying? Her awake time just might be affecting how well she sleeps or not. Join my newsletter and get One Mistake You’re Making with Your Baby’s Awake Time and discover one mistake you may be making with her awake time.

Give It A Few Minutes.

Felt so defeated each time we heard my baby fuss a mere few minutes after we had just put him down. Other times, we scoop him up if he so much as opened his eyes after his head hit the mattress. Somehow, we equated his being awake as a failure on my part.

Later learned that giving babies a few minutes to settle can be all it takes to get them to sleep in a crib. For instance, be aware of your baby’s different cries. If she sounds like she’s simply fussing or whining, don’t feel compelled to pick her up right away. Instead, give her a few minutes to settle.

And if she happens to open her eyes when you put her down—especially when she’s not crying—don’t take that as your cue to start rocking her to sleep all over again. Instead, give her the time to fall asleep lying down. (After all, we don’t always conk out the minute our heads hit the pillow.)

In doing so, you’re allowing her to learn, however gradually, to self-soothe rather than expect you to pick her up at the slightest stir.

Use A Mobile

Many moms swear by crib soothers and mobiles as a way to help their babies fall asleep in their cribs. If your baby takes to relaxing sounds, a mobile can be a fantastic solution, one that’s only available in a crib.

The trick is to put her in the crib awake but ready to sleep. Allow her to watch the mobile when she’s drowsy so that she can associate it with falling asleep.

Tip: Stick to using the mobile as a soothing device, not for entertainment. That way, she knows that the mobile signals sleep time, not play.

Copy Your Bedtime Routine For Naps

Does your baby fall asleep in the crib just fine at night? Part of that could be the soothing bedtime routine you have in place.

To help her sleep in the crib during the day, follow a routine similar to your bedtime one. For instance, we did the same rituals for naps (other than bathing them and changing into pyjamas) as I did for bedtime, including:

  • Changing into a new diaper
  • Reading books
  • Singing songs
  • Swaddling
  • Drawing darkening curtains
  • Turning on white noise

These activities can signal to your baby that, just as she sleeps at night in the crib, so too can she sleep in it for naps.

Put Your Baby Down Drowsy With A Pacifier.

Some babies take to sucking on a pacifier to fall asleep. See if you can help yourself take advantage of the soothing sensations of a pacifier by taking a nap in the crib.

Once she’s drowsy but still awake, lay her down in the crib. Then, insert a pacifier in her mouth, so she has something to soothe herself with even if she’s out of your arms.

Use A Swaddle

As much of a fan as I am about putting a baby down drowsy but awake, it doesn’t always work. And considering that you’re in the throes of the newborn stage, sometimes you do what you have to do, including trying the exact opposite.

Start by swaddling your baby, so she feels snug and less likely to flail her arms and wake herself up. Then, hold and rock her slightly in your arms until she’s completely asleep before putting her down in the crib. Even if she’s lying in the crib, the sensation won’t feel as odd because she’s tucked in a swaddle.

Decrease The Difference In Sensation

Babies can startle awake when they’re put in a crib because being in your arms and being in the crib is so different.

Instead, decrease the difference in the sensation between the two. For instance, you can:

  • Keep your hand behind her head and neck for a minute after putting her down
  • Keep your hand over her tummy for a minute after putting her down
  • Bend over the crib and keep your chest touching hers for a minute before standing back up
  • Move slowly as you walk to the crib

Use A Sleepsuit

Some babies don’t take to swaddles and get frustrated; they can’t suck their hands or else try to maneuver themselves out of them.

One solution is to use a sleepsuit. This allowed your baby to feel snug and contained but still have her arms and hands free to suck. It’s also a great transition to ease her out of a swaddle she might be fast outgrowing.


It's common for babies to cry when put down for sleep.

During your baby's first month, avoid letting them cry. Soothe your baby by singing quietly, playing soft music or rocking them gently.

At age four months, if your baby cries after being placed in the crib, check on them and offer comforting words. Then leave the room and give them time to settle again. You might also consider putting your baby down for a nap a little earlier. This might allow your baby to get past some fussiness by the time their nap is supposed to start.

Also, keep in mind that babies are often active during sleep — twitching their hands and feet, smiling, startling, and generally appearing restless. It's easy to mistake a baby's stirrings as a sign that they wake up or need to eat. Instead of picking up your baby right away, wait a few minutes to see if your baby falls back to sleep.

Helping your baby get the right amount of daytime sleep isn't always easy. Don't feel bad if some days are more challenging than others. Remember to look and listen for the signs that your baby is tired and keep their nap routine consistent.

If you have questions or concerns about your baby's napping schedule, talk to their doctor.

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