Sleep is an obsession for many new parents, and it’s easy to understand why: You’re not getting nearly enough, and yet you have to think about it all the time as you schedule naps and hope that (just this once) you all sleep through the night.
And since babies change so much in the first year, it seems like as soon as you’ve got naps and nights nailed down, your baby outgrows her bassinet — and suddenly it’s time to think about those sleeping arrangements all over again.
How long should my baby sleep in a bassinet and what age should I move her to a crib?
Many newborns start their sleeping lives in a bassinet or other bedside sleeper in their parents' room. This is convenient since you can comfort and feed your infant in the middle of the night without shuffling down the hall in the dark. Plus, it follows the American Academy of Pediatrics’ advice that babies sleep in the same room as their parents — but not in the same bed — for the first six months and possibly up to a year.
If you’re wondering at what age a baby stops sleeping in a bassinet, there isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. It depends on a combination of your particular bassinet’s weight limit and your child’s development (more on that below).
Not a bassinet fan? Newborns can certainly sleep in a regular crib from day one. No matter what baby bed you choose in those early weeks and months, just be sure that it meets the latest crib safety gulidelines from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
How can I tell it's time to move my baby out of her bassinet and into a crib?
When your baby moves to a crib depends on several different factors. 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.
How do I transition my baby from sleeping in a bassinet to a crib?
Some babies likely won’t care much about the switch — they will happily sleep wherever you put them. But if you’re worried the change will cause your little one to have trouble sleeping, here are few ideas to help with the transition to a crib:
Make the switch in stages. Let her nap in the crib during the day for a couple of weeks until she gets used to it. Then complete the transition so she’s sleeping in her crib all the time.
Creat a bedtime routine. If you haven't already established some nighttime rituals (bath, book, snuggles, sleep), now's the time. All babies thrive on a solid bedtime routine, so as you repeat these activities each eve, they’ll start to signal to her that her crib — and sleep — await.
Same room, different bed. Transitioning your baby to a crib might be easier if it involves one switch at a time, so consider moving her crib into your room for a few nights. Then once she becomes adjusted to sleeping in a bigger space, you can move it back to its proper location.
Sleep in baby’s room. Another way to ease your baby into the idea of sleeping in her own space is to go with her. No, we’re not suggesting you hop into the crib (that’s dangerous for everyone and it would likely break), but if there’s a bed or a couch you can sleep on or if you have an air mattress, spend a few nights bunking with baby.
Linger for a while. Don't just drop and dash — give your baby a chance to settle down and get comfy while you're still in the room. One tactic to try is the chair method of sleep training. Have a seat or sit on the floor next to the crib as she starts to doze, and then move a little farther away the next night — and the night after that — until you're out the door and she's happy on her own.
Add some comfort. Until your baby is 12 to 18 months old, you’re not supposed to put things (like stuffed animals or pillows and blankets) into the crib, but you can make the room more comfortable by dimming the lights and turning on some white noise.
Don’t let the thought of transitioning your baby from your room to her own crib keep you up at night. It may take some time to adjust, but ultimately this change should be good for the entire family. Your baby learns to sleep in her own space — and you can reclaim your room again.
Jennifer Kelly Geddes. "Moving Your Baby From a Bassinet to a Crib."
Medically Reviewed by Micah Resnick, M.D., F.A.A.P. on August 11, 2020