How to Help a Baby with Crib Anxiety

"Is anyone else dealing with (or dealt with) sleep / crib anxiety?" asked a PSP member to their baby group. If you are experiencing this too, here are helpful replies to read from PSP members who also experienced this situation. 


As the PSP member's went on to describe: "Lately we’re having major separation anxiety/fomo going into the crib and it’s been escalating for a few weeks now. Clinging, screeching, tears, to the point that she’ll throw up if we don’t pick her back up right away. It’s like she’s suddenly terrified of the crib. Once she’s down it’s all good, but bedtime really sucks right now. Any suggestions? Please tell me this won’t last long!"




Rock, lovey, soothe:

That sounds really hard.  Seems like separation anxiety.  Can you rock her or lay down with her until she's asleep?  Is sleeping in the crib a new thing?  Is she taking a bottle or sippy cup before bed that soothing to her?  Have you tried putting her down in your bed? And also does she have a lovely or stuffed animal that she finds comforting?"


"Not that you can turn the clock back, but what's been a lifesaver for us is we used a few sleep cues when the twins were tiny and continue to use them as part of the routine. My daughter cannot sleep without her lovey, which I introduced at about 5 months and I started using the Baby Shusher when they were weeks old.   When I first started, the shusher didn't seem to be of any use since they were sleeping all the time, but I knew I wanted to make it pavlovian and sure enough, it now is. We place the shusher in a container by the door (to amplify the sound and for easy access) and when either one cries at night, we just reach our hand in the door (crouched low so we're not seen) and turn it on, and they fall back asleep. If they continue to cry, we know they need something else. I don't know if you can introduce it now (doesn't hurt?) but it's been the best money we've ever spent (we even have the phone app to use when we're on the go)."


Leave baby with familiar smells:

"I give [my baby] a t-shirt I’ve worn when putting him in the crib (sounds a little gross, I know, but it seems to really soothe him. Maybe the milk smell?)"


It could improve over time:

"We just went through the exact same thing with my son (10 months old). He sleeps by himself in his crib since he was 2 months old; never had to rock him or spend time before bed with him. About 10 days ago, all of the sudden, he started to freak out every time we were trying to put him down for naps or at night. He screamed and cried to such a degree that he would throw up and his voice was raspy for days.   For few nights and days he would only sleep on me or my husband and there was nothing we could do.   Fortunately, after 4 days like this the situation improved till going back to normal (knock on wood!).  I am not sure how long it will take for her to get over it, but I assume that is a totally normal (unpleasant) phase.  Best of luck to you and hang in there, you’re not alone!"


Related to the previous point, it might be a developmental issue:

"For what it’s worth, right around one year is s wonder “week” (that’s actually more like four weeks), where they’re making big developmental leaps which often translates to fussy times, trouble with sleep, etc. Archer just turned one a week ago and we’ve definitely seen all of that. I’m hoping once he’s through the leap he’ll more or less be back to his normal."


Try having someone else put baby to bed:

"This happened to us over the last ten days. Started when I took [my son] to my parents house without my husband. He freaked out for every sleep time and since I was staying in a room next to my Aunt and Uncle, I gave in and cuddles him til he was asleep or let him sleep with me to not disturb others. When we came back it was the same, though I’d hoped it had just been the unfamiliar surroundings.   What worked for us was having someone else put him to bed. The anxiety was tied to me specifically. The Nanny didn’t have issues during the day and at night, I now leave his room right after bedtime story and prayers and my husband puts him in his crib and he is totally fine. This has worked the last two nights after a week of insane scream-crying that was making bedtime so hard for me. Maybe it’s more connected to one of you than the other and this may help? I’m hoping it’s a phase and I can start putting him down again soon."


Related reading:

Moving your child into their own bed/crib

Sleep regression

Establishing Schedules and Sleeping Through the Night

Cry It Out vs. No Cry Sleep Solutions