Is your baby playing in the crib instead of sleeping, rolling around but not crying? Take a look at these tips to help her sleep instead.
Apparently sleep time is the new play time… at least according to your baby.
Instead of sleeping like she used to when you put her down, she plays, talks to herself, and even stands up. She’s not crying, but she’s awake in her crib. This can go on for a while before you finally give in and rock her to sleep (especially since you know she’ll be cranky without rest).
You know you shouldn’t rock her or stay in her room, but you’re exhausted and at your wit’s end.
She might actually feel tired, what with rubbing her eyes and yawning, but she still refuses to settle down. Instead, she squirms and calls out for you. When you go into her room to remind her to go to sleep, she gets even more excited.
She’s not exactly crying—in fact, she’s awake and playing in her crib. But the longer she does this, the more overtired she gets, and the more likely she’ll throw a fit. You’re wondering if it’s okay to leave her awake in her crib at night while you eventually fall asleep.
When your baby is playing in the crib instead of sleeping
I can certainly relate, mama.
There was a time when I’d put my baby in the crib and he’d immediately roll around to his belly with his head propped up, ready to crawl. It would take an hour before he finally settled to sleep, and sometimes these moments ended with tears and screaming.
Other times, I’d wake up to him in the middle of the night cooing to himself or thumping his legs. He was so restless and moved around so much, that by the time morning rolled around, he was extra fussy and exhausted.
I knew this couldn’t continue, so I started researching strategies to turn things around. Take a look at these tips and see if they can work for you, too:
1. Experiment with your baby’s wake times
The biggest culprit with a baby playing in the crib instead of sleeping is that she isn’t tired enough. As babies grow up, they need fewer naps throughout the day, stretching their wake times longer.
For instance, if your six-month-old is still taking three naps a day, more than likely she can get away with two. With two naps a day, her wake times can follow this pattern:
- After waking up and before the first nap: 3 hours
- Between the first and the second naps: 3.5 hours
- Between the second nap and bedtime: 4 hours
The perk of dropping a nap? This frees you up to do more activities between naps instead of rushing home to get her to sleep.
That said, what if her wake times are actually too long? This is always a possibility, especially if she’s cranky and overtired come bedtime. If so, experiment with shortening her wake times, extending her current naps as much as possible, or having an earlier bedtime.
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2. Keep your baby’s room dark
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A night light can be pretty useful to see your way around the room, especially for middle-of-the-night feedings. But any glimmer of light can also be an excuse for your baby to play instead of sleep in her crib.
Try to keep her room as dark as possible, starting with removing the night light. You might also install blackout curtains like these to block sunlight from outside. The darkness can signal to her that it’s time to sleep, not play.
3. Have a consistent bedtime routine
Transition to bedtime (or even nap time) with a consistent routine that, like her dark room, will signal to your baby that it’s time to sleep. By doing the same things in the same order at the same time, she’ll get the hint that she should be sleeping.
Then, keep your activities subdued and relaxing. Dim the bathroom lights during bath time or read books specifically about going to sleep. This isn’t the time for a tickle-fest or playing games.
And finally, don’t make your routine longer than it needs to be. Aim for 15-30 minutes a night to get her in the mood. That way, it’s long enough to get her relaxed, but not too long that she gets restless.
4. Let your baby practice new skills during the day
Does your baby keep crawling, pulling herself up, or clapping her hands when she should be asleep? She could be using the time in her crib to practice these new skills. Great for her development, but not so great when you need her to rest.
To prevent this from happening, give her plenty of opportunities during the day to practice her skills. For instance, let her crawl around at home instead of keeping her in a swing or infant seat. Give her a chance to cruise and stand and play with her toys.
That way, she’ll feel less inclined to practice at night and go to straight to sleep.
5. Let your baby be
Do you feel compelled to go into your baby’s room every time you hear her babbling or see her standing in her crib? See what happens if you let her be.
It’s truly okay if she doesn’t fall asleep right away. Think about your own sleep habits, and how you sometimes need a few minutes to finally sleep. You’re sorting your thoughts or turning around to find a comfortable position.
The same is true with your baby. So long as she’s content, she’ll probably fall asleep eventually.
Now, if she does fuss, check in with her every 15 minutes to remind her that it’s time to sleep and make sure that all is well. Keep checking in 15-minute intervals until she’s finally asleep (more frequent than that and you could be riling her up even more).
Hearing your baby babbling over the monitor instead of sleeping can make you feel anxious. Shouldn’t she be asleep by now? You wonder. Naps are ruined and you’re up multiple times a night.
Thankfully, you can try a few tricks to get her sleep in the crib instead of playing. To start, experiment with her wake times, making sure that she’s tired enough to actually sleep but not overtired that she’s restless. Keep her room dark to prevent her from thinking it’s time to play.
Have a consistent bedtime so she expects to sleep after going through the same rituals and signals. Give her plenty of time to practice new skills during the day. And finally, see what happens if you let her be. Give her a chance to fall asleep on her own, checking in at intervals if she’s fussy.
With enough time and effort, she’ll realize that sleep time really is for sleep, not play.
Get more tips:
- Why I Regret Rocking My Baby to Sleep
- A New Mom’s Guide to a Baby Fighting Sleep
- 5 Reasons Your Baby Wakes Up Crying Hysterically
- Adjust These 3 Factors to Stop Your Baby Waking Early
- What You Need to Know About the 11 Month Sleep Regression
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