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Family Bed: Advice from Moms
Q:
How do I get my almost one-year-old to sleep in the crib and not in our bed? I have heard and read conflicting things about this issue, and need advice. Every time I lay her down in the crib, she wakes up crying. How can I make her understand that this is where she should be sleeping?
A:
Julie in Montreal
Try putting her into her crib before she is asleep. This way she gets used to her surroundings before falling asleep. And if she does wake up, it’s less traumatic than falling asleep in Mom’s arms and then waking up all alone.

Victoria in San Antonio
Tell her that her crib is where she sleeps. Follow a bedtime routine. Check on her when she cries, but don't let her get up. Extend the time between your visits—this works. We did this with our son at 5 months of age; he is now 15 months and still sleeps in his crib all night.

Mary Beth in Henderson, KY
Honestly, it sounds harsh, but crying to sleep helps. We faced the same situation at 10 months and it worked after only one night. Our son cried for about 45 minutes the first night and it broke our hearts, but then he fell fast asleep. Now we all sleep great!

Anna in Jacksonville, NC
The easiest solution to your problem is to: 1. Give her some warm milk. 2. Put her to bed at the same time every night. Be consistent, but don’t let your child cry for more than 10 minutes. 3. Play classical music in her room. 4. Turn lights off and close her door.

Aaron in Channelview
One thing I did for my daughter was to give her a warm bath to help her relax and know that it was bed time. Then I would talk to her and tuck her in, with some soft music playing so she does not think that she is all alone.

Lilly in Kansas City, MO
Set up a bedtime routine and follow it every night. It helped my daughter to give her one of Mommy's t-shirts to sleep with—she could still smell Mommy and was comforted by it.

Rony in Houston
Try putting her crib in your bedroom for a couple of days. Once she realizes that mommy is near and she is not abandoned, you can try to move the crib into a different room. Also, maybe it is worth trying to put her in the crib for a daily nap.

Kim in Nipomo, CA
Try giving her an object she likes that smells like you. If she has a favorite toy or blanket, use that. If she doesn't, just put a crib sheet over your pillow for a few nights. Being able to smell you in her bed will be a comfort and make it easier.

Tammie in Marysville
The hardest "first" with my children was to take them from the "family bed" to their own beds. I proceeded with our usual nightly routine, with the exception of then carrying them to their beds. Then I’d shut their doors … I cried, they cried. But within one week, it worked!

Claudia in Twin Lakes
When she wakes in her crib, try rubbing her back and softly reassuring her until she falls asleep, but don't pick her up. Do this each time she wakes. It may require a lot of patience the first night or two, but the end result will be worth it.

Kristin in Seattle
Lay her in her crib and stay in the room with her. It's not the bed that she cares about … she wants to be with Mommy and Daddy. She'll cry when you lay her in the crib, so stay nearby for a while. Just sing, or talk to her. Let her see that the crib is okay!

Bettye M. Caldwell, Ph.D.
I think it is a mistake, though there are plenty of people who would disagree with me. But what’s done is done, and now it is going to take some time to get him used to sleeping alone. I wouldn’t let him cry too long, but don’t take him back to bed with you to get him to stop crying. Do that even once and you are back at ground zero.

If he cries before going to sleep, sit in the room with him for a little while until he goes to sleep. But be sure to say, “Mommy won’t be in here when you wake up.” He is too young to understand all those words now, but I would say it, anyway. If he’s going to sleep by himself but wakes up and cries (presumably to get in bed with you), pat him a bit, perhaps give him a pacifier, and reassure him: “Mommy’s going to be in the bedroom next door, and I’ll be right here to take you out of bed when you wake up.”

If you feel too guilty doing this, remind yourself that babies sometimes become smothered when they’re in a big bed with one or both parents. He’s a lot better off in his own bed.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education