How to Transfer Baby From Arms To Crib: No Drowsy But Awake Nonsense

Photo by Leah Kelley from Pexels

You had managed to get your baby asleep in your arms. Congrats! Now, if you can just put them down without crying or waking them up. The second you start to move them to their crib, their eyes pop open and before you know it, they're wide awake. The struggle grows even more intense as you try desperately to get them back down to sleep. This common story is one I'm sure many parents have endured.

In this article, I’ll give you some ideas on how to get your baby to sleep in their crib when you put them down and how to prevent this from happening in the first place.

Do babies hate their cribs?

This is one of the most common questions I get asked as a sleep specialist and the answer is no. Babies don’t hate their cribs. However, babies find it very difficult to sleep alone anywhere if they are not near their caregiver.

It was only during the industrial revolution that infants began to sleep alone, which was merely 200 years ago. So though the world has changed significantly, it is important to note that babies haven’t.

Before they entered into this world, babies spent a significant amount of time in the womb, which is an environment that is safe, warm, and familiar, and your baby was surrounded by noise and fluid. So, it is natural that babies do not enjoy being alone or set down in a crib with a firm mattress. In addition, babies do not understand that the crib is a safe space for them. As a result, most babies find it hard to sleep alone in their own sleep space.

You’re not failing as a parent if your baby doesn’t like sleeping in their cribs; most babies don’t. And you can be an attached and responsive parent and still want your baby to sleep in their own space.

Here are some tips and suggestions that I pulled from my ebook “Independently Sleep Without Sleep Training” on how to transfer your baby into their sleep space without sleep training.

Things to do before transferring your little one in the crib:

  • Prepare a separate sleep space for your baby

  • During the day, take them into the room and begin familiarizing them with their new sleep space and environment. It doesn't need to be while they're playing.

  • Place a warm towel in the crib to warm up the crib mattress, then remove it right before you place your baby down onto the mattress (this will help them to feel warm, even if they are not in your arms)

  • Timing is everything! Check their sleepy cues and use their wake windows to better understand when it's time to put down to sleep. A baby who is not tired enough may have a hard time with the crib transfer.

Transfer your baby into the crib when they're in a deep sleep:

  • If your baby is slowly breathing and is completely relaxed, then they are in a deep sleep.

  • You can do the rag dog test to check by slowly lighting your baby's arm.

  • If your baby is resisting, it means your baby is still in light sleep, so you should wait a little bit and try again. If their arms are floppy, it means their in a deep sleep

  • Before putting your baby down in the crib, make sure you wait 15-20 minutes or 20-25 minutes for younger babies.

  • Lower your baby to crib feet touching the crib first or you can lower your baby down on their side and slowly roll them onto their backs and place some gentle pressure on them for a few moments before gradually releasing (NOTE: the sensation of being lowered down may cause a trigger a startle reflex.)

  • If your baby wakes up from the crib transfer, gently place your other hand on their chest. This will provide them with an extra sense of security and closeness.

  • Remain there until your baby settles back to sleep and reduce the full hand support to four fingers, then three, two, and one. Keep that final finger pressure in place until your baby is back to sleep.

  • Once your baby has settled into their sleep space and is asleep, you can remove the handoff from their forehead and remove the hand from their chest. This process can take 5-15 minutes. If your baby is unsettled and wakes completely up, try another time again.

What to do if you’re baby wakes up within minutes of putting them down in the crib?

  • Try a floor bed, where you can get up and move while the baby remains in place. Note that floor beds require extra attention to safety but have added benefits. Floor beds are for babies are 6-months and older. (see here for more info.)

  • Please have some patience. Even if your baby sleeps 5 minutes in their crib, that is still wonderful. Keep practicing; it will take a while until your little one starts to sleep alone whenever they are developmental. You're doing a great job.

American Association of Pediatrics Crib Safety:

  • Check to make sure that the crib/product has not been recalled

  • Recommend that the infant is not positioned between objects when sleeping

  • Replace any broken or missing pieces right away

  • Baby placed on the back

  • Make sure that the crib/bassinet is free from toys, blankets, pillows, and bedding

  • Let the baby room share with the parent (co-sleep),

  • Remember the ABC's of safe crib sleeping: Baby should be placed Alone, on his Back, in the Crib without any sleep positioners

  • Make sure that the baby is not overheating

  • Ensure that there is no space between the mattress and the crib, bassinet, or portable crib

You aren’t doing anything wrong or creating any bad sleep habits if your baby still needs your presence in order to fall asleep.

Love & Sleep,


If you still need help, I’m always here to support you.