Transitioning from bassinet to crib — Good Parenting


Welcome to Good Parenting, our weekly online series on parenting advice with Annapolis, Maryland, expert Dr. Deborah Wood.

Headshot2011Transitioning from bassinet to crib — Good Parenting

Dear Dr. Debbie,

I have a 5-month-old whom I’m trying to transition from a bassinet to a standard size crib. However, I’m not sure how to do this. Currently she sleeps well in the bassinet, after I breastfeed her she usually sleeps 6 to 8 hours and then typically 1 to 2 hours more after she wakes up to eat. In preparing to transfer her I put her crib sheet down in her bassinet for a few nights so that she would sleep on it and transfer her scent, and then I put her down for the third night in her crib with the same crib sheet . However, she woke up every 2 to 3 hours during the night whimpering and then crying. And it’s not a frustrated cry, it’s a what’s-going-on-get-me-out-of-here-I-want-to-sleep urgent cry that only turns into screaming if I try to reassure her without picking her up. The only thing that comforts her is breastfeeding — which I had to do multiple times that night and the following night when I tried again. Also, if she’s in the crib and not asleep she rolls from her back to her front and then gets upset and starts crying because she apparently doesn’t want to sleep on her front and also doesn’t know how to roll onto her back yet.

I’ve read that it’s not a good idea to let them cry it out when you’re trying to transition them into a new bed or a new room. It’s very hard on me to wake up every hour on the hour to feed her, but if it’s the only way to transition her then I will do it. I guess I’m just worried that I will create a situation where the baby depends on me to breastfeed her every time she comes out of a deep sleep. In her bassinet, I think she reaches out to the sides of the bed and then falls back asleep. But that’s not possible in the crib obviously. Both the bassinet and the crib are in my room. I am not trying to transition her to a different room yet.

Thanks for your help!

Exhausted Mom in Maryland

Don’t miss last week’s column on messy eaters.

Dear Exhausted Mom,

Bassinets are a cozy transition from the womb. Your baby may still need to feel enclosed in a safe, small space while she sleeps, so what’s the hurry? Is she nearing the weight limit for the bassinet? If she’s still not a master of turning over she’s probably weeks if not months away from being in any danger of pulling herself up on the sides of the bassinet.

It’s possible that her fussiness may be unrelated to being in the crib. She may be growing and hungry. When her growth and appetite slow down again, you may not have as many interruptions to your sleep.

You are following a good instinct about not letting her cry it out. Research bears out the negative effects of ignoring the stress signals of our children.

A couple of compromises could be managed to help you and your daughter get through the night without undue stress on either of you. Is the bassinet bed removable from the frame? While she’s still working out the neural kinks to roll over, you could safely place the bed inside the crib. This combines more of the sensory experiences of both sleeping places. If you fear she is approaching the ability to pull herself up onto the sides, rest the bed on the floor. This works for transitioning from crib to bed, too. Just put the crib mattress on the floor as she adjusts to sleeping without bars around her.

Put her in the crib at nap time after nursing her to sleep (more about this association to come). If she wakes up in an hour, that’s a successful nap. A few days of this may help her to be comfortable for longer and longer stretches in the crib.

Bedtime routines are wonderful for lulling a busy baby, toddler, or preschooler to sleep. Your routine can include singing, rocking, telling or reading stories, and talking about today and tomorrow. Nursing, as part of this routine, helps to bring about a relaxed state through your loving embrace, soothing voice, gentle rocking, and the magic elixir of oxytocin that floods her system as the warm, sweet milk satisfies her body. The oxytocin floods your system, too, so this should help you get back to sleep if she needs more nursing through the night.

Your exhaustion can be addressed with finding opportunities for you to nap. When you can, take a nap when she does. If you have “things to do” you’ll find that you can do them better after at least a 20 minute shut down.

You may also still be transitioning to a different set of priorities about what you should be doing with your precious time as the parent, and breastfeeder, of a 5-month-old. Are you trying to do too much? Sleep does the mind, body, and spirit good. So do exercise, nutrition, and love.
Are there family members and friends to provide you with the love and support that good parenting needs? Who could mind the baby for you? A moms’ club is a good way for you and your daughter to develop relationships that can include moms helping each other out for baby watching. And to share the struggles and successes to be found in parenting.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at [email protected]