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Crying When Entering the Nursery

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Cara Dumaplin

baby upset at the start of bedtime and crying when entering the nursery

Is your baby crying when you enter the nursery to start bedtime? I know this can be so frustrating. Let’s talk about why this happens and what we can do about it. 

Why do babies cry when entering the nursery? 

As your baby gets older, she starts to make connections about routine. She learns, “When I’m in my highchair, I get to fingerpaint with my food. FUN!” or “When we sit in the rocking chair, we snuggle and read books. I love that!” She might also learn, “When I go into my nursery, then I have to sleep. Boring.” 

While this crying when entering the nursery feels tough, it’s a clear sign that your baby is making those important connections. Your baby recognizes a sleep association you've created!

Keep in mind that separation anxiety can also play a role in this. If your baby has tearful goodbyes at other times, this may be a part of what you’re seeing. Check out this blog about separation anxiety for additional tips.

How do we fix it? 

Make the nursery fun. 

Head into the nursery in the middle of a wake window when the room is light and bright and the sound machine is off. Read books, have a cuddle, sing songs, or grab his favorite toy. If your baby has older siblings, include them! Many babies think that their older siblings are the most exciting people at home. Let me show you some of my favorite ideas. 

Hint: Avoid the crib during nursery playtime. It’s best to reserve the crib for sleep.

Double-check your wake windows before bed.

Getting that wake window right can play a huge role in your baby’s ability to fall asleep easily at bedtime. We’re aiming for the sweet spot between overtired and undertired. We want your baby to be tired enough to fall asleep, but not so tired that he’s melting down. 

graphic showing how much awake time babies need before bedtime

Evaluate your bedtime routine

A predictable bedtime routine can be so helpful for cueing your baby’s brain that sleep is coming. But what if the bedtime routine has become a crying mess?

Ask yourself: 

  • Is there some part of your routine that seems to trigger the tears? Consider cutting that part out. 

  • Has your routine become so long that your baby reaches an overtired level? Start the bedtime routine earlier or consider shortening it a bit. We’re aiming for a bedtime routine that is about 15-30 minutes.

  • Does your bedtime routine seem to change every night? Let’s get back to a calm, consistent routine. 

If you can, let the other parent try the bedtime routine.

There are two reasons that this can help. First, a different adult helping with bedtime can be enough of a change to help everything go smoothly. Second, if your typical bedtime parent is starting to feel anxiety about bedtime, your baby may start to mirror those emotions. Giving that parent a break can be a game changer for some families.

I know that this can feel so tough. Give yourself and your baby so much grace and keep practicing. Being consistent is the answer to fewer tears! I know it doesn’t feel like it in the moment, but long-term, consistency is key.

If crying at bedtime isn’t your only struggle, I have classes that can help. I’ll hand you the step-by-step tools to having a great little sleeper. Not ready to invest in a class? I have a free resource to get you started. I’ll give you practical ideas to implement today to make your nights better. If you’re already using Taking Cara Babies class strategies, you can also purchase a phone consult and talk with a member of my team 1-on-1. One of our certified sleep consultants will dive in with you to hear all the details about YOUR family and help you create a plan to move forward!

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