When your baby moves to a crib depends on several different factors. The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends little ones sleep in the same room as their parents until six months to promote nighttime breastfeeding and reduce the risk of SIDS by having mom and dad close by during the night, so you’re more easily alerted to any problems with your baby.
Once your baby reaches six months, you don’t have to kick her out on her own right away, though. Even if she’s still in a bassinet, if she’s not sitting up or rolling over yet, she’s safe to stay there a little longer. You should also consider how well you’re all snoozing in the same room. Here are some questions to ask yourself that can help you decide when to make the switch:
How big is your baby?
Bassinets and other bedside sleepers are great for newborns, but they usually come with weight limits. Some are as low as 10 pounds (which might only get you through the first month), though most can hold a 20-pound baby. Check the instruction manual or the manufacturer’s website to find the weight limit for yours. If you can’t find the weight limit, err on the side of caution and move your little one to a crib when she hits 15 pounds.
Does she look cramped?
Even if your baby hasn’t reached the weight limit of her bassinet, it might be getting just a little too cozy. Take a look the next time you put her down. Does she seem cramped? If her head or feet are bumping into the sides or ends of the bassinet, or she’s waking up very often (or very suddenly), it might be time to give her a little more space.
Can your baby roll over or sit up in her bassinet?
Hitting new milestones is exciting, but the more your baby can do, the riskier it is to sleep in a bed made for infants. As with cribs, lowering the mattress before a baby can sit is a smart safety move, so apply the same principle to bassinets. In fact, bassinets are often shallower than cribs, so a baby who’s rolling or about to sit up could flip herself out.
Tips and tricks for moving your baby to the crib
You may prefer to make the shift in small stages if there aren’t safety issues (i.e., your baby hasn’t exceeded the height and weight allowances of the bassinet, and their mobility doesn’t put them in danger of falling out). In that case, you’ll start offering one sleep period in the crib per day (such as the first nap) and continue the rest in the bassinet. After a few days, you can move on to another sleep period in the crib (e.g., bedtime), and so on, until they’re no longer sleeping in the bassinet at all.
Wondering where to begin? Start with the first nap of the day, or bedtime only, in the crib. We find that these sleep periods tend to be the easiest. That is, parents, report that babies are less likely to fight sleep at these times compared to naps later in the day or falling back to sleep in the middle of the night. Once your baby has had several snoozes in the crib at these easier times, you can move on to the remaining sleep periods.
Continue to use your consistent bedtime routine
Developing a calm pre-sleep routine (for both naps and bedtime) may not magically ensure your baby loves the switch to the crib. But it’s an important foundation-setting step. Consistent routines help cue that it’s time to wind down and sleep, no matter where that sleep takes place. That means your baby will know what to expect, whether sleep is happening in the bassinet or the crib.
Bonus: Not only do bedtime routines promote healthy sleep habits and improve overall well-being — they have broader positive consequences too (like increasing feelings of security and providing early learning opportunities).
Give your newborn some practice
If space allows, give your baby the opportunity to fall asleep in the crib once in a while, even if they’re still using the bassinet for most sleep times. That way, when you’re ready to make the switch, they’ll have some experience being in the crib.
Look for opportune times when your baby is fed, dry, sleepy, and content. They may surprise you and drift right off to sleep! If your baby doesn’t fall asleep in the crib, you can always try again another time.
Start with an “easy” sleep time
Once you’re ready to swap the crib for the bassinet, we advise kicking off the transition with the easiest sleep period of the day. The idea is that your baby will be less likely to fight sleep and more likely to accept the new sleep space. Parents often tell us that it tends to be the first nap of the day or bedtime. You know your baby best, however, and their surest sleep session may be different.
Simulate the coziness
Since bassinets are much smaller than cribs, some parents worry that their child will feel overwhelmed by the vast open space that the crib provides. If you think your baby will miss the comfort of the close sides of the bassinet, there’s an easy fix. Don’t place your baby in the middle of the crib. Instead, place them down at one end of the crib so that their body is parallel to the sides; this will give your baby the feeling of being enclosed on three sides and may help them feel more secure.
Use the weaning feature on motion bassinets
If you have a self-moving bassinet (the kind that rocks, jiggles, or otherwise uses motion to lull your baby to sleep), you may be faced with an additional challenge as you transition away from it. Not only will your baby need to adjust to a new sleep space, but they’ll also need to adjust to falling asleep without the motion the bassinet provided.
Luckily, many of these modern bassinets have a weaning function, to help your baby acclimate to falling asleep with less movement. Use it! Unless your baby needs to transition to a crib immediately for safety reasons, the weaning feature can help your baby gradually adjust to falling asleep without motion, and learn to self-soothe, which can help reduce calls for parental help during the night and make the transition to the crib easier.
AAP guidelines of bassinet and crib use
To reduce the risk of a sleep-related death, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends always placing your baby down to sleep on their back. Use a firm, flat surface without soft objects (like pillows or stuffed animals) or lose bedding.
Whether your baby’s sleep space is a bassinet or a crib, the AAP also recommends that the furniture meets the safety requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).