How to transition baby to crib I Make the switch from bassinet to crib with these easy tips I 16 transitioning to crib tips for parents
There’s no doubt in my mind, new parents are warriors.
After months of battling through sleepless nights, half-asleep breastfeeding, letting baby fall asleep while you hold them (and then holding them for hours), and jumping at every cough, sneeze, sniffle, and sleep regression, it’s fair that you’re ready to transition your baby to their own crib.
Sure, you’re probably used to having your baby sleep safely next to you in a bassinet.
But sooner or later it’s fair that you and your partner want your own space again, and you’re ready to move your baby into their own nursery (which, let’s face it, has probably been ready and waiting for them since before they were born!)
When it’s time to transition your baby to a crib or mini crib in their own room, many parents wonder: how do you do it?
Our daughter slept in a bassinet side-sleeper in our room until 4 months.
We were then lucky to take off traveling, so she slept in a Phil and Teds travel pack and play instead of a crib in various hotels and airbnbs, before transitioning to her own room as a 1 year old.
In the spirt of sharing with parents who come after us, below I’ve shared my sleep and transition tips to hopefully make the big transition process simple and easy (for you AND baby!).
When To Transition Your Baby To A Crib?
Many parents wonder when is the right age to begin transitioning your baby from bassinet to crib?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends room sharing with your baby for the first 6 to 12 months, to reduce the risk of SIDs.
But I get that every family and circumstance is different.
For lots of parents, it’s fairly easy to have a bassinet or even a pack and play in your room.
But if you live in a small space, you might not have space for a crib (although you could consider a mini crib).
And if you’re on a tight budget, you might not want to buy a bassinet or side sleeper for the first 4 to 6 months, followed by a crib for later.
Whatever your reason for being ready to transition your baby to from bassinet to crib, or from crib or pack and play in your room to one in their own room, know that different families make the transition at different times and in different ways.
Our daughter never used a bassinet, but rather slept in a side-sleeper and then a travel pack n’ play. My sister-in-law had her kids in a crib from Day 1.
Most parents opt for the bassinet option as it is easier to move around the home and fit into your room for those early months, but it’s certainly not the only option.
Eventually, however, it will be time to move your baby from your room to their own room. And regardless what kind of bed they use when room sharing with you, the tips below will probably apply!
When is it Time to Transition Your Baby from Bassinet to Crib?
There are a few telltale sign your baby is ready to make the transition from bassinet to a crib.
Consider the following practical considerations in addition to expert guidance from groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Your Baby’s Weight
Usually, bassinets have a weight limit of between 10 to 20 pounds. Check the limit on yours, and when it’s reached, you’ll need to transition to crib or pack and play that holds their weight.
Babies experience lots of growth spurts in the first 6 months, so check their weight fairly regularly (many parents have a baby scale at home for this).
Your Baby’s Size
Often, it will be your baby’s weight that determines its time to switch from bassinet to crib or even floor bed.
But babies come in all sizes and shapes. It’s entirely possible your baby is still within the weight limit, but gets too long for their bassinet or side sleeper.
If you find your baby looking a little cramped in their bassinet, transitioning will likely help them sleep better.
If Your Baby Can Roll or Sit Up
It may be that your little one is still the right weight and size for their bassinet, but is beginning to roll over or sit up.
This is a definite sign to transition from a bassinet to a crib.
It simply isn’t safe for babies who can move to stay in a bassinet. Their rolling, wiggling, and moving could make the bassinet unsteady or tip it over, so it’s time to transition.
As a reminder, at this stage you also need to stop dressing baby in PJs and a swaddle, and simply dress them in appropriate PJs for the season, with a sleep sack optional. Once a baby can roll and move on their own, swaddles are hazardous and their hands and arms need to be free.
Babies Aged 6 Months+
As noted above, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies sleep in their own bed (separate from their parents’ bed), in their parents room, until they’re at least 6 months old.
They go on to say 12 months is even better, which is what I felt most comfortable with for my own daughter.
How to Transition to Crib
Once you’ve decided your family is ready to make the big switch, here are some tips!
#1 – Ensure Baby’s Crib is Safe and Ready
The first step in making the transition to the crib is preparing it.
You probably picked out your crib months ago, and it’s been patiently waiting in your baby’s room for this moment! Before putting baby to sleep in the crib, you need to make sure it meets safe sleep guidance. This includes:
- No crib bumpers, pillows, stuffed animals, and toys. Basically, nothing apart from your baby should be in their crib. It may seem boring (or like a baby jail!) but it’s safer this way. When they’re younger, it’s a suffocation risk. But as they get older and start sitting/standing in their crib, this also prevents the use of props to help escape and climb out!
- No blankets either, instead, use a sleep sack. For young babies, I prefer swaddle sacks to traditional swaddling blankets, because of the risk of hip dysplasia with swaddling. But for older babies, a properly fitting sleep sack can replace the use of a blanket.
- Ensure you have a firm mattress in the crib and have tight-fitting sheets that are carefully tucked in on all edges. The mattress should fit snuggly with no gaps between mattress and frame, and the crib mattress height should be age appropriate.
- Always put babies to sleep on their back. Seriously do this each time you put your baby to sleep. Once they can roll back and forth, it is okay if they end up on their tummy by themselves, but you should still start them on their back every time.
#2 – Create A Environment for Sleep
We all sleep better when we are cozy and comfortable, so ensure your nursery is a perfect place for baby sleep.
- Make it dark: Use blackout blinds or curtains to block out the light. Especially for daytime naps.
- Keep the noise down: Although you don’t want to be walking on eggshells and in complete silence every time your baby snoozes, it’s important for things to be quiet. We used a white noise machine until our daughter was almost 3, and told us she prefers quiet. White noice machines can be comforting, and is a good option if you’re worried about noises waking them up.
- Check the room temperature. You want it not too hot, nor too cool. Between 68 and 72° F is best, with the correctly rated sleep sack and clothing for the time of year. Our bath thermometer doubles as a room thermometer, which is quite handy for babies!
#3 – Spend Time In The New Room
In the days leading up to the transition to crib, spend lots of time in the nursery. If your baby has never been in that space before, you can’t expect them to settle there immediately when you switch.
Move the changing mat in, and use the nursery for diaper changes, or for some tummy time.
Play in the room so she absorbs the sights, smells and becomes familiar with their new safe space.
#4 – Get a Baby Video Monitor
Technology is wonderful, and it’s so simple to be able to see and check in on your baby as they fall asleep in their crib without even moving from your own bed.
Video monitors are useful to give you peace of mind, and not need to check on your little one every 5 minutes during the night.
Owlet is one of the more popular brands of video monitor, if you need a starting point!
#5 – Start A Bedtime Routine
Each evening, as you begin to wind down from the busy baby day, have a consistent bedtime routine that your little one will learn to associate with bedtime and sleeping.
Parents often follow the bath-bottle–book-bed routine.
This can start with a bath, and maybe a few bath games, and then snuggles in the nursery while you have a final feed before bed.
You can share a storytime, and have bedtime kisses, then put the baby to sleep in the crib.
A bedtime routine is also great for when you have a babysitter for bedtime, or if your little one is looked after by grandparents. Keep everyone informed of the same routine for consistency.
#6 – Smells Like Mom
You can prepare your little one’s crib to be a bit more familiar on the first night by sleeping with the sheets that you’ll use in the crib for a night so they smell like their parent.
If your baby is used to falling asleep with you close by, this can add some comfort and familiarity.
#7 – Nighttime or Naptime?
Different people will tell you that you should begin with nighttime or start with naps in the crib. Both methods have their pros and cons.
Nighttime is good as baby is usually tired at the end of a busy day, and they will have a greater urge to sleep. However, if you’re nervous about your baby’s first night in their own room, you may not have much of a restful night of sleep as you check on them.
Daytime naps first can be beneficial as you can keep an eye on baby as you putter around the house. But, your baby may not settle as easily with it being a bit lighter in their room (get blackout blinds) or if you are noisier.
#8 – Teach Your Baby to Self Soothe
Babies wake in the night (we ALL know this!). If they wake in their unfamiliar new room, it may be a little more worrying for them.
Try to combat this by putting your baby to sleep in the crib when they are drowsy, and not fully asleep. This way they are aware of their surroundings and practice drifting off in their new crib environment.
It can be difficult not to jump at every noise and cry from your baby in the night, but allowing your baby to soothe themselves back to sleep will benefit you in the long run.
If you do hear your baby through the monitor, pause outside the door and let them settle for themselves. Often they are making noise as they transition through sleep cycles. Wait a moment to see if that call-out is actually for you.
#9 – Choose The Right Time to Start
Although growing out of the bassinet is one great reason to transition your baby to a crib, timing is still important.
Pick a week when you aren’t busy, and don’t have any scheduled nights with a babysitter, so you can build the routine from the get-go.
Also if your baby has been sick, or feeling under the weather, avoid transitioning your baby until they are back to feeling normal.
Transitioning Your Baby to a Crib: The Gradual Approach
Crib transition and a room change at the same time might feel overwhelming for a little one to cope with all at once.
If moving your baby into an entirely new bed, new room, and leaving them for the entire night is a little too much for your little one (or you) you can try a gradual approach to transition your baby to crib.
#1 – Make One Change At A Time
Start with moving the crib into your bedroom for a few days so your little one gets used to sleeping in a new bed, but with the same smells and environment that they are used to.
Alternatively, you could also use the bassinet in the baby’s nursery for naps at this point to get them used to their new space.
After a few days, move the crib into the nursery to let your baby sleep in there.
#2 – Extend the Time
When making the transition to crib, you may do it gradually with the time your baby spends in each bed.
You could put baby down to fall asleep in the bassinet, as usual, but then after their feed in the middle of the night, transition baby to their crib for the final part of their sleep.
This is when they are still drowsier and sleepy, so they won’t notice as much of a change.
#3 – Stick Around
You could also put baby to sleep in their crib and then stay in the nursery until they are truly settled. If you take this approach, don’t stand over the crib watching their every move, but sit in a comfortable chair in the corner to watch them from afar.
This is a good method for parents who want to feel safe knowing their little one is sleeping soundly, and would be checking every few minutes otherwise.
FAQs About Transitioning Baby To Crib
If my Baby is Smaller, Should I Get A Smaller-Sized Crib?
There are ‘small’ cribs available to buy made from birth up, but there is nothing wrong with a full-sized crib, even for a newborn. You will need to get a bigger crib eventually for when your baby is bigger, so buying a smaller crib now means buying two in the long run, unless you have a specific reason (such as a lack of space).
A bassinet is great until their are around six months old and mobile.
How Long Does the Crib Transition Process Take?
This honestly depends on you and your baby.
You can move baby in one night and hope for the best, or slow out for a more gradual transitioning. But as the parents of your baby, you know them best so go with what suits you.
We went with a “rip the bandaid off” approach, as our daughter was used to different rooms from travel.
Can I Try Co-Sleeping With My Baby?
The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend infants sleep on the same surface or mattress as adults.
Sleeping in the same bed is hazardous and should be avoided when your baby is very little.
There’s plenty of time to be woken up and co-sleep with a wriggly toddler later, when they’re older and bigger, if you choose this for your family.
Final Thoughts on Transitioning to a Crib
We hope that this article is helpful for you to be able to make a smooth transition from sleeping in a bassinet in your room, to your baby sleeping in their own nursery.
The process is tricky to do, and all parents feel a little worried during this milestone in their baby’s life. But keep at it, and they’ll soon be sleeping the night away in their crib.
Please feel free to share this article with other parents and check out the rest of our blog for other great sleep tips and parenting information.