I just finished Baby 411 and loved it, but I have a question. My 5-week-old little girl wants to be held all the time. She refuses to sleep in her crib, waking up almost immediately every time she gets put down there. She will usually sleep pretty well in either her swing or her bouncy seat, but I really want her to sleep in the crib. At the moment she is sleeping at night with me and my husband and we are fine with that arrangement for now, but we are approaching the limit of being ok with that. What should we do to make her not need to be held all the time and to make her be ok with sleeping in her crib?
Thanks for writing in. Newborns have no self-soothing skills. They are born with the ability to suck, which is soothing, and they enjoy being snug—because that is like the womb. As their brain and nervous system mature, they gain the ability to self-soothe, but that is around 4-6 months of age. So, until 3-4 months, parents need to do what they gotta do to get their babies to settle down. In other words, you have lots of rocking, walking around, humming, bouncing, and going for car rides at 3 am. (Don’t worry, it does get better!!)
As for sleep location, as long as it is a safe place and position, it is fine. Most babies under 3 months of age do NOT like to be in a crib. It is a very big place (unlike the womb). That’s why most parents opt for a bassinet or a co-sleeper for their newborns. They also swaddle or use a Miracle Blanket type of device to keep baby safe and snug. We do not advise having a baby under 1 year of age in a parents bed because of the risk of SIDS. Co-sleepers allow the baby to be right next to mom and dad, but in a safe sleep space.
Know that whatever sleep space you use right now and whatever methods work to get her to settle are NOT setting up permanently bad sleep habits. Re-read the sleep chapter about setting up healthy sleep habits and know the magic window to begin positive sleep associations begins around 3 months–you have plenty of time before then with a 5 week old.
Ari Brown, MD