Whether you lay your little one down in their crib for a rest, nap, or to sleep at night, you may wonder if it’s okay to leave them there if they wake up (or don’t fall asleep in the first place). The answer is: yes! In fact, as you’ll read below, it’s beneficial for your baby to get some time alone (safely). Plus, it’s a break for you too.
What the Experts Say
A research report from the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) states that letting a child lie awake in their crib for short periods of time shows no harmful effects on the baby’s ability to develop healthy emotions and relational patterns. In addition, it does not break down the attachment a child is developing between him/her and the parent.
Short periods of time mean 35-45 minutes happily playing and babbling to him/herself. If the child is screaming for this amount of time, providing comfort is suggested. However, if your baby is happy and playing, you have time to take a quick shower or make a cup of coffee.
Going to Sleep Routine
Putting your baby in the crib while he/she is awake and content is very possible. The key is to help settle them down with a bedtime routine. You can have the same routine for naps and nighttime sleep. My third boy would get sleepy eyes when he snuggled with his little frog blanket. Once he felt the softness of his blanket, his eyes would begin to fade.
The routine you choose, whether it’s reading a book, singing a song (the same song), offering a pacifier, or a combo of all, should be implemented each time your baby is getting ready for sleep. When the routine is played out in the same way, the baby learns sleep is coming. Baby learns quickly to anticipate what is coming and will be much more likely to slumber more quickly and contentedly.
With my firstborn, I started implementing a nighttime routine. I put him in fresh PJs, I read a book and I sang a song. That first night I left him in his crib while he was still awake. He didn’t like it so much and became distressed. I went in and soothed him by rubbing his back and singing the same song and left again. It took a few more times, but he eventually went to sleep. The next night, I came back fewer times in a shorter period of time.
Read more about self-soothing here.
When your baby wakes up in the middle of the night, don’t leave them alone for more than 35-45 minutes, unless they are happy and playing. It’s actually helpful for babies to have time alone for their own development in independence.
If your little one cries a little bit and then soothes themselves and recovers, there is no need to run in and pick them up. However, a highly distressed child needs an adult’s comfort and care.
Listening to your little one coo and babble while in their safe place is a delightful sound. All of my babies have enjoyed alone time in their cribs. It is so sweet and full of life. It’s amazing what even an infant can do on their own.