Many parents use a bassinet for the first few months after their little one is born because it’s easier to keep baby close for those numerous night feedings. Unfortunately, at some point, the baby will need to be transitioned into their own crib and this can create some disruptions in sleep for everyone – baby, parents, and the rest of the family! Fortunately, here are some expert tips from an infant crying specialist and maternity nurse for you to make this transition as smooth and as easy as possible.
When and Why Transition to Crib
Transitioning baby from bassinet, or in some cases, their swing or bouncy chair, into a crib can be for a number of reasons. Maybe your doctor is recommending a crib with a wedge to help with baby’s acid reflux, or more likely, your baby has simply outgrown their bassinet!
If you go strictly by the weight and length limitations for a bassinet, you might think it’s ok for baby to keep sleeping in there beyond 6 months of age. Unfortunately, you’d be wrong because once baby start learning how to roll over and sit up, keeping them in a bassinet (or swing / bouncy chair) overnight is a major safety hazard! So, either before or as you start to see your baby hitting these milestones, it’s time to start planning your transition.
Now, planning the timing for transitioning from bassinet to crib is going to vary for every baby and every family. First and foremost, make sure you aren’t trying to make the transition just before or after any other major adjustment for baby. For example, if you’ve just ended your maternity leave and now dad is handling bedtime routines, or say you’ve just come back from baby’s first trip on an airplane to visit Grandma & Grandpa, hold off on transitioning until baby is firmly back in their a normal sleep routine.
Other factors to consider in timing the transition are your baby’s sleep needs. The earlier you transition a baby into their crib, the easier the transition will be, simply because younger babies aren’t as firmly routed in their preferences yet. A 6-month-old is generally more attached to a particular routine – location, sounds, smells, etc. – so just like trying to take ween from a pacifier, starting around the 3 – 4-month mark can make things a bit easier on everyone!
That being said, younger babies, especially those 3 – 4 months might still need the soothing vibrations from their bassinet to fall asleep or stay asleep. So if your baby is loving the motion their bassinet provides, transitioning earlier might not be the best timing. However, keep reading as there is a good possibility of adding similar soothing vibrations to your baby’s crib so you can transition them anyway!
Now that you know it’s time to transition baby into a crib, it’s important you set the crib up safely! A firm, full-size crib mattress that fit “snuggly” inside the crib frame is the first step. Since there are no standard crib mattress and crib frame sizes, it’s important to ensure – “no more than two fingers of space should exist between the side of the mattress and the crib frame”. So anything more than about a 1-inch gap could be a suffocation hazard as a baby could get trapped, unable to breathe in the gaps!
A firm mattress is also important so there is less opportunity for baby to sink into the mattress and a better ability to move or push themselves away from the mattress should they somehow find themselves face down!
The crib should have simply a top sheet and no frilly bumpers or extra bedding, pillows or stuffed animals. This minimizes suffocation risks and is recommended to prevent SIDS. A well-secured swaddle blanket, however, is allowed (and helpful) for SIDS safety. Also recommended for SIDS “Safe Sleep” guidelines is placing your baby down on their backs to fall asleep. Older babies may roll over in their sleep, which is totally normal, and if that happens there is no need to roll them onto their backs again. Just never put your baby down on their side or tummy!
As a final point, ensure you’ve got the room set at a good temperature (usually between 68 – 72 degrees) and that your crib is new (or relatively new). The proper room temp can help ensure baby doesn’t get too hot or cold while they sleep, ensuring they sleep soundly. You can also ensure baby is properly dressed for the temperature by simply ensuring they are wearing one extra layer of clothing than you would in that room! Secondarily, the cribs age is an important safety note because gaps between crib slats changed over the years to ensure baby’s heads didn’t become trapped between the bars. So while grandma’s antique crib might look amazing in your nursery, it could be a huge hazard you can’t risk with your precious little one!
Tips to Make a Smooth Switch
Now that we’ve got a safe crib environment for baby to sleep in, actually getting them to fall asleep and stay asleep in that space is the next major step. First and foremost, understand that this transition might disrupt their standard sleep schedule and cause them to wake up a bit more frequently than normal. Each baby is different and you know best, so just tap into your intuition and be patient as you both figure out this new territory!
- A Warm, “Smelly” Crib Sheet is Good!
Putting baby down on a chilly crib sheet might startle them so try warming it up a bit with a heating pad (either plug-in or better yet, a rice-filled pad warmed in the microwave). By heating up the crib sheet you also better mimic the warmth baby feels when snuggled up with mom or dad, so it helps them feel safe and secure in the new, bigger space.
Just make sure you put the baby down to sleep without the heating pad! Also, be sure to test the heat with your inner wrist (just like you’d do with a bottle) before putting the baby down so it’s not too hot.
By adding mom or dad’s “smell” to the crib sheet before making the switch, can also help baby feel safe and secure in their new space. Try sleeping on the sheet yourself for a few nights before adding it to baby’s crib for some added comfort and to help ease the transition.
- Keep Swaddling
If your baby is still sleeping swaddled or is using a sleep sack, keep using this in the crib! The added resistance to movement will continue to make baby feel secure in the crib while keeping the continuity from their old routine similar! Just be sure you’re using your swaddle safely.
- Keep Things Moving
Just because your baby is ready for a crib doesn’t mean they are ready to give up the soothing motions they love when falling asleep (say from mom rocking them to sleep) or while sleeping (say from the soothing vibrations of their bassinet! Fortunately, the Baby Brezza Smart Soothing Mat is the perfect product to give your crib the soothing motions baby has come to need to sleep well!
You can use one of the several modes to see which one works best for your baby. Just know that how you use the mat (e.g. directly under baby vs. under the mattress) can affect the vibrations so be sure to try all the modes before deciding what’s best.
Lastly, just be sure that you do ween baby off the Baby Brezza Smart Soothing Mat’s vibrations as they age; your 2-year-old shouldn’t still need a Soothing Mat to sleep well each night! You can ween them off by decreasing the vibration levels every few weeks or months depending on your baby’s age. You can also use the 1-hour auto-off function as a further way to ween them off needing vibrations all night, instead only having them to help them fall asleep.
- Soothing Sounds are Still a Good Thing
Just as with swaddling and motion, baby will likely still want and need soothing white noise to sleep. Not only does white noise helps drown out other noises (e.g. a dog barking, an ambulance whizzing past), it also brings them back to the comfort and security of the womb. So keep the white noise machine or app on in baby’s room both as you’re helping them fall asleep, and while they sleep to keep them happy and at ease.
- Keep Mom + Dad’s Soothing Close
As you put the baby down in the crib, they might startle or stir. So try to make that transition smooth but also help them settle back in once on the crib mattress by providing a bit of gentle pressure with your hand on their chest after they are in their crib can help baby know you are still “there” as they are dozing off. You can provide this soothing touch for as long as baby needs at first and ween them down from there. It’s all about gradually helping them learn how to fall asleep by themselves, stay asleep soundly, and self-soothe if they do wake up at night!
And that’s it! Now you should have all the tools and tricks you need to make an easy and smooth transition from bassinet to the crib!