Why babies hate cots and cribs – and what to do instead

Of all the parenting problems I am asked for help with, the following is the most common:

“how do I get my baby to sleep in his cot?”

“I want my baby to sleep in her crib, but she won’t, how do I make her like it?”

“I just want to be able to put him down for naps, help!”

I’ll let you into a secret.

Babies HATE cots and cribs. 

(ps for American readers, in England we call cribs cots – just to confuse you!).

Babies even tend to hate cosleeper cribs (yes, I did say that and no, I have never and would never buy one myself). Most parents I speak with who have a cosleeper crib say something like the following:

“We have a cosleeper, but he never goes in it, he sleeps in my arms instead”.

“We got a cosleeper crib, but she just won’t sleep in it, it’s just an expensive place to store blankets and other stuff”.


Why do babies hate cots and cribs?

1. Because they are just not normal for our species.

Think about it, cots and cribs really are a very bizarre concept. We are the ONLY mammal in this world who invents an artificial containment device in which to place our offspring (away from us) to sleep. All other species sleep like this:

cosleeping, bedsharing, why won't my baby sleep in his cot, why won't my baby sleep in her crib, how to get my baby to sleep in his cot, how to get my baby to sleep in her crib, floor beds, floorbed, floor bed, montessori floor bedcosleeping, bedsharing, why won't my baby sleep in his cot, why won't my baby sleep in her crib, how to get my baby to sleep in his cot, how to get my baby to sleep in her crib, floor beds, floorbed, floor bed, montessori floor bedcosleeping, bedsharing, why won't my baby sleep in his cot, why won't my baby sleep in her crib, how to get my baby to sleep in his cot, how to get my baby to sleep in her crib, floor beds, floorbed, floor bed, montessori floor bed

2. Because when you put them down into the cot/crib you trigger an alerting reflex.

The very act of putting a baby down, into the cot or crib, causes their falling reflex to trigger, startling them awake because of the presence of imminent danger (falling). If you do want to place a baby in a crib or a cot without waking them you need to start from a position that is level with the mattress so that no downward motion is necessary. This is pretty much only possible if you are using a cosleeper cot/crib and you feed the baby to sleep on the attached bed and then move them across into their cosleeper. This is presuming that you have a baby that is OK with point number 1 however.

3. Because they have no control about when they get in, or out of, the crib or cot.

In many ways a cot or crib is like a prison to a baby, if they want to get out of it they are at the mercy of somebody else. If they are tired and want to go in they have to be put in there by somebody else. This would be OK if they could talk and tell us very clearly that they wanted to get in or out, but they can’t.

If we’re tired we can choose to lay down on the sofa, in bed, or on a beanbag. When we’re ready to get up we do just that. If you want to create really good sleeping patterns in your children allowing them control over their own tiredness cues is the way to go.

How can you do this? You give them a sleeping surface that they can choose to go to whenever they want to sleep, or rest and one they can leave at their choosing. Something they have complete control over and don’t need your help with. Check out this great video which shows the concept being used by a nursery:

Meet the floor bed.

Floor beds coincidentally also address points 1 and 2 as well. If your baby is like any other mammalian baby on the planet floor beds allow them to fall asleep snuggled next to you. If you wish you can choose to leave them when they are asleep. They also avoid the need to put the baby down and thus bypass the falling reflex issue. Most importantly of all though they allow the baby some really important autonomy.

floorbed1floorbed2floorbed18mthsnow25floorbed3floor bed, floorbed, montessori floor bed, how to make a floor bed, how to make a floorbed, how to get baby to sleep in cot, how to get baby to sleep in crib, baby won't sleep in cot, baby won't sleep in cribfloorbed2y

How do you make a floor bed? 

It really is very simple. Ditch your crib or cot apart from the mattress, put the mattress on the floor et voila – a floor bed. Some people opt for single mattresses, some prefer padded mats, some prefer kingsize mattresses so the whole family can share a floor bed, like this:


Some use a futon mattress at the side of the baby’s floor bed in order for them to snooze next to the baby, feed or cuddle them to sleep, like this:


Doesn’t the mattress need to breathe?

The jury is out on this one. Does the mattress need some airflow underneath it? Some people use a couple of bed slats underneath the mattress to give it a little bit of airflow, some lift the mattress and stand it against a wall for a couple of hours a day, some just turn it regularly.

What if the baby rolls off?

So long as the room is baby proof we’re talking only a couple of inches at most. This is the beauty of a floor bed. Some people choose to surround the floor bed with a cushioned mat, but often you will find the baby sleeping peacefully on the floor next to the bed if they have rolled off.

How long can you use them for?

Indefinitely. Many people sleep on floor beds forever. Just ask many Japanese families.


Can you ever use a cot/crib again?

In many cases using a floor bed, particularly for naps, is a good transitional step between naps in arms and naps in a cot (for this reason it’s also a good way to transition away from bedsharing too). They help the baby feel more comfortable sleeping alone, which gets around point number 1 in our ‘reasons why babies hate cots’ list. It is quite possible that in time, think a few months, that your baby may be happy to nap in their cot or crib again. Lots of people decide to stick with the floor bed idea though as they see it working so well.

p.s: naps in slings and bedsharing is great too! For the purpose of this article however I have concentrated on floor beds.

I would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to those families who have allowed me to share their floor bed pictures in this blog post!


p.s:  Did you like this post? Want to read more similar content and receive weekly top tips, reader Q&As, hear my take on current parenting research and enter the odd competition? Then why not sign up to my new FREE WEEKLY NEWSLETTER and get the latest in gentle parenting delivered straight to your inbox. I promise I will never share your email with anybody else and if you don’t like what I send you can unsubcribe straight away!

Sign up to my FREE weekly newsletter

About SarahOckwell-Smith

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, Parenting author and mother to four.
This entry was posted in Babies and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Why babies hate cots and cribs – and what to do instead

  1. Mira says:

    I completely agree with all your points about why babies hate cots. There’s nothing more frustrating than spending 20 minutes rocking the kid to sleep only for him to start flailing about the moment his head touches the cot mattress. I think babies also loathe cots because, in the name of safety, the mattresses are rock hard! Not very sleep-friendly! I love the idea of floor beds and have started seeking out futon bases to address the under-mattress air circulation issue.

  2. Anna says:

    Great idea! I think this may be our only solution when we want to stop cosleeping.

  3. graziella213 says:

    I suppose the princple is the same with the bassinet? Overall I like the concept of the floor bed I may try this next baby! or even for my 8 month baby boy.

    The video was excellent too by the way.

  4. Jen says:

    Great article and wonderful video… if only I could find a local nursery like this!

    Also, can anyone tell me what that beautiful song is please? I’ve tried Googling the lyrics I heard in the video but couldn’t find anything…

  5. Jo Jonwood says:

    To state that ALL babies hate cots is completely ridiculous and an absolute load of rubbish. My child (as do most of my friend’s children) sleep happily in their cot. My 13 month old baby goes down awake in his cot and falls asleep himself and happily sleeps from 7pm till 7.30/8am. He has done this since he was 7 months old when we moved him to his own room.

    • Al says:

      Yes but Jo, I’d imagine that either: your boy is not fed human milk and so is therefore in a coma, or you’ve done Crying It Out.

      • R says:

        That’s a ridiculous assumption. My son got Breast milk and I have never applied the cry it out method, and he also sleeps happily, 7 to 7, in his crib.

  6. Taly says:

    My lil one sleeps in his crib at night, no problem, naps however is a whole different story. He’ll only nap on my arms…. It makes no sense to me…

  7. Coop says:

    My son WONT sleep in his cot he hates it with a passion. If I put him in awake he has a panic attack. If I put him in it when he’s asleep he wakes himself up an again panic attack. But if I put him in my bed without me in it he will.sleep so I have done away with his cot now. Each child is different there is no right or wrong way it’s about what works for you an your little one.

  8. JaneP says:

    Does anyone have an opinion or any experience as to what age you could start using a floor bed?

  9. becky says:

    I literally love you! I get a lot of negative feed back about how i do things with littlun. But reading articles from you has really made me stand up tall and proud of what I’m doing. Thank you x

  10. carinerobin says:

    Floor beds is well known from the Montessori teachers/parents who promote independent sleep. I always felt that it was a very natural way to sleep and with a mattress on the floor, such a natural way to bedshare.

  11. Ellie says:

    Sleeping in a bed (double in his room) rather than a cot has transformed my son’s sleep. We had thought of doing it sooner and I wish we had. He still wakes once or twice but instead of instant crying that gets more and more frantic he now either cries a little and literally falls back to sleep the minute one of us goes in or he gets out and comes to get one of us. He is 18 months old and before we did this he was waking up to 7 times if we went through the night persevering with putting him back in his cot with it taking along time to settle him each time he woke. And day time naps would not last if I put him in his cot! Will go the floor bed route with number 2 much sooner if need be!

  12. Jen says:

    I didn’t realize how guilty I’ve felt always letting my baby nap and sleep on me. Everyone says remarks like, “Soon she’ll be napping alone. Then you’ll get so much done.” I actually cried when I saw the pictures of the baby animals sleeping with their mommies. It’s so natural. I love that my baby naps with me. And now it doesn’t feel like I’m doing it wrong!!! THANK YOU!!!

Would you like to comment on this?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s