Crib sleep is a fairly western construct, considering that the majority of the world practices some form of co-sleeping in place of solitary sleep. So if your baby really hates the crib, you’re not alone, and it’s not because you’ve done something wrong!
Let’s be honest: a crib is essentially a giant cage. While it may work for some babies, others may never take to it.
If this sounds like your baby, here are 5 things you need to know:
- Sleeping alone isn’t a prerequisite for improved sleep, and your baby doesn’t need to ‘learn’ to sleep alone. Just like so many other aspects of parenting, where a baby sleeps best is highly dependent on temperament. While some babies do sleep better on their own (particularly if they are especially light sleepers), others sleep best by a parent’s side; in a baby carrier; in the living room; or on the go. While you can set up certain predictable indicators that a baby is in their sleep space and sleep is on the horizon, sleep is not a skill that can be taught, and certainly, being alone isn’t a skill babies need to learn, either. Many adults sleep best beside their partner, so it’s not surprising that babies and young children may feel this way, too.
- Your baby isn’t ‘fighting’ you or ‘fighting’ sleep. Much of what is presented by sleep trainers as sleep ‘norms’ is entirely anecdotal. The majority of sleep charts you can find with a quick Google search are based on the average baby, but many babies fall outside of this ‘average’ need for sleep and are either high or low sleep needs compared to other babies of the same age. If your baby is ‘fighting’ going to sleep, it could be because they are either over or undertired, and ditching the charts to follow their sleep cues can help to resolve this challenge.
- There are many alternatives to crib sleep, ranging from bedsharing all the way to a floor bed for independent sleep. Sleep arrangements are based upon cultural norms. In North America, where independence and autonomy are highly valued, parents are more likely to expect crib sleep, and tend to attribute forms of cosleeping to their ‘failure’ to teach their babies to sleep independently. In the vast majority of the world, however, cosleeping is substantially more common, and can often present parents with a variety of alternatives that may be more successful than solitary crib sleep. Additionally, floor beds can be a highly successful alternative to cribs, even for young babies. Particularly, if you’re interested in moving away from associations like holding to sleep, a floor bed will allow you to easily support your baby to sleep out of arms. As long as the sleep space is appropriately baby-proofed, floor and/or Montessori style beds can be used at any age.
- Your baby is behaving just as they should if they are unnerved by separation: being in close proximity to you makes them feel safe – and it’s biologically normal. When observing sleep through the lens of attachment, we know that babies attach through proximity. That is, the closer they are to you, the safer they are going to feel; and the safer they feel, the more likely they are to go back to sleep without signaling between sleep cycles. This happens naturally, and there is nothing you need to do – or even can do – as a parent to force this to happen. The best way to support your child’s developing independence is to allow them to be dependent on you.
- You should follow your instinct to pick your baby up or soothe them in any way you feel comfortable if they seem distressed. Parental instinct exists for a reason, and tuning into what your body is telling you about your response to your baby is paramount. The rule of thumb I suggest to clients is that if something doesn’t feel right to you, it likely won’t feel right for your child, either.
Does your baby hate their crib? Has it been causing you stress? If you’re in need of some judgement-free support, please feel free to reach out anytime!