How to Get Baby to Sleep in the Crib – Pick Up/Put Down Method

Are you having trouble with sleep problems? Wondering how to get baby to sleep in his crib? How to get baby to sleep on his own? Follow the EASY routine outlined by the baby whisperer to get baby sleeping on her own. Use techniques and tools like shush-pat, pick up/put down, wake to sleep and more to fix accidental parenting mistakes that indefinitely get worse with time. Start today. Don't waste another night. Get your sleep back now

Are you having trouble with sleep problems? Wondering how to get baby to sleep in his crib? How to get baby to sleep on his own? Follow the EASY routine outlined by the baby whisperer to get baby sleeping on her own. Use techniques and tools like shush-pat, pick up/put down, wake to sleep and more to fix accidental parenting mistakes that indefinitely get worse with time. Start today. Don't waste another night. Get your sleep back nowWow!  We're already nearing the end of this 6 week Sleep Training Series!  As a sequel to last week's Shush-Pat Method, I'm going to give you the Pick Up/Put Down Method to learn how to get baby to sleep in the crib.

You can catch up on the rest of the series now,

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Pick Up/Put Down (PU/PD from now on), is similar to the Shush-Pat method in that it is used for the same reasons.

  • Reduce separation issues
  • Extend too-short naps/early rising
  • Help baby drift off to sleep on his own
  • Fix disrupted sleep routine
  • Regain trust
  • Learn how to get baby to sleep in the crib

But here's the difference: PU/PD is for older babies.  It's too stimulating for younger ones, which can lead to overstimulation and accidental parenting.  Where shush-pat was used for babies under 3 months, exclusively, now that your child is 4 months or older, you're going to need to try PU/PD, especially if Shush-Pat seems to make him more angry.

At this age, shush-pat can disrupt sleep.  It's important to do what's developmentally appropriate for your baby.

Before we get into that, though, let's look at what exactly PU/PD is.


Pick Up/Put Down is a TOOL for how to get baby to sleep in the crib.

As Tracy Hogg states in her book, The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems: Sleeping, Feeding, and Behavior--Beyond the Basics from Infancy Through Toddlerhood (from which this entire sleep series is derived, highly recommend it), the PU/PD method is the cornerstone of her middle-of-the-road philosophy for sleep training.  She doesn't believe in using props (rocking, nursing, soother) to get baby to sleep, nor does she recommend “crying it out”.  The key to the Baby Whisperer Method is being there for your child and teaching how to get baby to sleep in the crib, stay asleep, and put herself back to sleep.  All in a gentle and loving way.

In less than a week (in most cases), PU/PD will have your baby's sleep issues fixed, regardless of personality.

But only if you stick to the plan!

Ultimately, PU/PD is a teaching tool to help babies learn to self-soothe.  And showing how to get baby to sleep in the crib. You're going to be alongside him as he learns to fall asleep independently.  You'll be comforting him through his tears and guiding him through the process, not leaving him to figure it out on his own.

Here's the hard truth: PU/PD does NOT prevent crying.  It DOES prevent fear of abandonment.

If you've tried other methods prior to this point, you're going to have to work at gaining back your baby's trust.  Yes, they do have trust, feelings and emotions, just like the rest of us.  How would you like to be left in a dark and ginormous room when you're upset, tired, scared, lonely, and in need of comfort?

By using your touch and voice to comfort your child, you'll work at reassuring him and instilling a base of trust that he can fall back on.

It's not magic.  It's a lot of freakin' patience + exhausting work!

And it's not an easy fix.  If you're wondering how to get baby to sleep on his own, and you're at the point of needing PU/PD, I'd be willing to bet that there's a lot of bad habits ingrained in your babe.  You're at your wit's end and looking for the solution to this giant mess.   Well, PU/PD is the last resort you will need.

It is a problem solving tool.

But remember

  • You're changing the way your baby goes to sleep
  • You need to let your child have emotions and recognize them as important.  Listen to and respect your baby
  • You're there to comfort your child through his emotions, not comfort him to sleep
  • Your voice is your most powerful tool

But how can I stop comforting my baby with my boob?!

I can't stress this enough.  Your voice is your most powerful tool.  By using your voice and touch and not putting baby on the breast every squawk he makes, you're allowing him to feel his emotions and experience them fully instead of shutting him up with milk and knocking him out.

If all you ever do is give him the boob, he's going to wake more frequently and still not be able to put himself back to sleep without it.

Why do we use Pick Up/Put Down?

Your baby wakes throughout the night, just as adults do.  The difference is, we know how to go back to sleep – unless our parents didn't teach us, either!  When we wake, we toss and turn until we're comfortable again and fall back asleep.

Babies are too young to understand that.  When they wake up, they cry out of frustration.  They're unable to get comfortable and drift off to sleep again because they were never shown how.  You need to learn how to get baby to sleep in the crib.

So we need to teach them that their bed is a safe place and how to fall asleep alone.  I mean, unless you want to be running in to your child's room every 45 minutes 'til she's, say, 5 or so.  Didn't think so.

When to do Pick Up/Put Down

  • Broken trust due to “crying it out”
  • To extend short naps/early waking (babies need at least an hour and 15 minute nap each nap period.  If not, they will quickly regress and get accustomed to shorter naps.)
  • When there has been Accidental Parenting (misreading baby's cues, using a prop)
  • Cutting out night feeds (at this age, it takes less time because older babies have more fat on their bodies and can stay fuller longer).
  • When sleep problems are causing troubles in your daily routine, or vice versa
  • Switching from a 3-hour to 4-hour routine
  • Eliminating prop dependency (this only gets worse with time!)
  • Starting a routine in older babies, or correcting one that's gone off course
  • When a hand on the back and reassuring words alone don't work.

At this point, I'm sure you're ready to do whatever it takes to get baby to go to sleep on her own and get your time back, so let's dive in.


How to get baby to sleep in the crib.  The steps to PU/PD

Are you having trouble with sleep problems? Wondering how to get baby to sleep in his crib? How to get baby to sleep on his own? Follow the EASY routine outlined by the baby whisperer to get baby sleeping on her own. Use techniques and tools like shush-pat, pick up/put down, wake to sleep and more to fix accidental parenting mistakes that indefinitely get worse with time. Start today. Don't waste another night. Get your sleep back now

Once you've decided to fully commit to teaching your baby to fall asleep on his own, you need to take the time to actually do it.

Remember, it takes a lot of resolve, faith and patience to properly sleep train your child.  It's what is necessary to give your baby the best sleep and wake time possible.

On average, it will take 20-40+ minutes to get a fitful baby to go to sleep.  The good news is, you'll likely only have to do this for a week or so, depending on how bad the situation is, and what type of baby you have.

The important things to remember

  • You're here to help your baby – you need to stick it out for her sake, even if it takes 2 weeks
  • Consistency is key
  • Don't resort back to old habits or create new problems with accidental parenting

How to get baby to sleep in the crib on her own

  1. Get your baby on the appropriate EASY routine for her

2. Follow the 4 S Ritual

3. Lay baby down in her crib.  If she starts crying on the way down, make sure you put her completely down

4. Try to console her in her crib first

5. Pick her up if you cannot calm her down.  Hold her into you with one hand on her back.  Talk to her in reassuring tones and repeat calming phrases.  “It's okay, you're just going to sleep”  “I'm here to help you go to sleep”

*If she is totally freaking out, arching her back and fighting you, put her down immediately and retry.  You will likely be met with a lot of resistance, at first.

6. Put her down the second she stops fussing

7. Repeat as necessary (Tracy has done it over 100x in one session!)

8. She will eventually lose steam, cry less and start to calm down.  Her cry will change from a desperate one, to more of a mantra cry (not as intense, trying to soothe).

9. Keep a hand on her back while she's winding down to let her know you're still there with her.  Do not leave until she is in a deep sleep.

She will likely wake after only 40 minutes of sleep.  Go back in and repeat the process until she goes back to sleep or nap time is over.  It's important to stay in a routine.  If you've allowed 1 1/2 hours for nap time and she only slept for 40 minutes, once you get her back to sleep, nap time might be up.  That's ok.  Keep with your routine.  Next time will be better.

If she is exhausted in the late afternoon, you may need to implement a 30-40 minute catnap at 5:00 until she's back on track.  Just trust me on this one, it's worth it.


But there's more

Yep, it's not that cut-and-dried.  Is anything when dealing with babies?  You need to adapt the general method to the developmental age of your baby.  3 months old are not the same as 9 months old and need to be treated differently regarding sleep training.

3-4 Months

Look at your baby's routine and structure.  Is he currently going through a growth spurt?  Does he not follow a routine?  Waking in the night?  Having too short of naps?  Waking early in the morning?

If you're just starting out with a routine, or looking for help with the one  you have, I recommend the EASY way.  You can download free guidelines here.

An important point to remember when getting your child on a routine is to guide her.  If all you do is follow her lead, you're going to end up as a hostage in your own home.

Up to the 3 month mark, it's essential to use the Shush-Pat method to correct bad sleep habits.  Once you've passed that point, you need to use the introductory PU/PD method.

Here's how to adapt the earlier outlined method to your young baby:

  • Re-swaddle if necessary.  Do this while baby is still in the crib; how to get baby to sleep in the crib
  • Attempt to calm her while she is in the crib
  • ONLY pick up if you can't seem to comfort her with words and touch
  • Hold until she stops crying, but no more than 4-5 minutes (put down and try again)
  • If she is fighting you, put her down immediately – you don't want her to feel helpless and frustrated any more than she already is
  • You may need to combine shush-pat and PU/PD at first

One more point that I can't stress enough:

[bctt tweet=”Controlled crying breaks trust. It takes a lot of work to fix. Don't abandon your baby in his time of need. #sleeptraining #babywhisperer #ferbermethod” username=”hampsandhiccs”]

And here's the good news: it takes less time to fix sleep problems in younger babies, than in older ones.  Remember that.

4-6 Months

At this age, your baby is more mindful of his surroundings.  He's taking it all in and able to recognize his home.  He's also able to notice when things aren't quite how they used to be, which can lead to sleep issues.

Oh, and he's a lot more physically strong, now, so be respectful of his struggles.

If your babe is waking up cranky from his naps, it's time for a PU/PD campaign.  But make sure you adapt it to your ever-aware little one.

  • He may move around a lot in frustration – don't pick him up if this is the case, he's trying to get comfortable
  • Use reassuring words
  • If and when you do pick him up, hold him for no more than 3 minutes (put him down and repeat)
  • Talk through the motions.  He may or may not understand, but the sound of your voice will comfort him
  • Know the difference between a mantra cry (lower and longer, starting to settle) and a genuine fearful cry
  • While he's on his back, you may have to hold his arms in to prevent him from flailing.  Since he is likely not being swaddled, you need to keep his body from jolting around involuntarily

6-8 Months

Now that your sweet one is more active, eating food, teething, and trying to be independent, you'll find the reasons for waking start to increase.  Be sure to rule out signs of gas, upset stomach or other pain before using PU/PD.

At this age, your baby is more likely to be upset when picked up.

  • Allow him to put his arms out to you before you pick him up
  • Immediately cradle him in the horizontal position
  • Repeat soothing words, such as “it's okay, you're just oging to sleep”
  • Do not rock
  • Do not make eye contact – he can't help but engage with you if you do (and then he'll expect it to continue)
  • When the cry becomes more mantra-like, leave him be while still showing your presence and comfort with a hand on his back.  He's starting to self-soothe.
  • It may be necessary to take a step back once he becomes quiet/calms down so he cannot see you.  Some babies, dependent on their personality, will be more disrupted if they see you beside them.

8-12 Months

Accidental parenting at its worst.  By this point, those bad habits are embedded deep into the soul of your very independent baby.  Separation anxiety is a real thing, starting around 7 months for most kids.

You also have to monitor what your child sees on TV and around the public – she's now able to remember images and have an imagination. Which is great!  But it can disrupt sleep hella bad.

Use these tips to help your older baby get to sleep on her own

  • Wait for her to come to you.  Allow her to stand up all the way and reach out.
  • You're just going to do the PD part.  Place one arm under her knees and the other around her back.  Turn her away from  you and lay her down with her face looking away.  Eventually she'll lose steam and sit, then give up all together.
  • Reassure her with comforting words and a firm hand on her back, but never restrain a child

If she doesn't already have a security object, I recommend introducing one.  It might even be a sweater of yours that has your scent.  Allow her to have it with her any time she wants and talk about how she can use it when she's feeling sad or lonely to comfort her.

Another way to build the trust between you two is to give her independent play.  Remind her that you're just going to step out of the room for a moment, but you'll be right back.  Be honest and make good on this.  Remember, you're trying to build the trust she so desperately needs.


12 Reasons why it doesn't work – the dirty dozen

  1. Your baby is too young for PU/PD
  2. You don't understand the reasoning behind PU/PD
  3. You don't realize you have to look at and adjust the entire day.  Sleep training is more than just getting baby to go to sleep
  4. You don't know your baby.  Focus on his cues and cries, and how to watch body language
  5. You don't adapt to your growing baby
  6. Your own emotions [guilt] get in the way
  7. The room isn't ready for sleep
  8. You don't take your child's personality into consideration
  9. One parent isn't ready to commit
  10. You're not coordinating your efforts with your spouse
  11. You have unrealistic expectations.  This takes a lot of work, patience, dedication, determination, faith and tears
  12. You get discouraged and give up

*This sleep training series is derived from the works of Tracy Hogg in her book, The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems: Sleeping, Feeding, and Behavior--Beyond the Basics from Infancy Through Toddlerhood


How to do Pick Up/Put Down Successfully

I've said it so many times in these last few weeks, but it really is the most important factor:

Consistency is key.  Get your child on a routine and STICK TO IT.  This may mean not leaving the house for 2 weeks while you get a proper routine established

There is no short or easy solution to sleep training your baby the proper way.  It takes a lot of crying, and a lot of persistence.  But you're going to be there to comfort your babe every step of the way.  And it is only going to be for a very short time, in the long run.

Eventually, your child will associate your voice with comfort and you'll be able to reassure him with a few words at bed time.  Remember these tips for success:

  • Think through the plan ahead of time.  It's stressful and very hard to do alone
  • Coordinate your efforts with your partner.  Alternate every 2 nights, unless one of you has “poor baby” syndrome (gives in easily) and can't stick it out.  You might need to solicit moral support during this time – someone to remind you that you're doing this for the betterment of your child and your family.
  • Start bedtime 20 minutes earlier than usual to have baby asleep at a decent time
  • You're building trust here, do not abandon your child
  • Don't resort to old props – you'll regret it next week
  • Start any intervention with 1-2 days of observation to learn your baby's habits and cues
  • Start on a Friday so you have the whole weekend to get set up and more likely to have help
  • Use ear plugs if necessary – crying is hard on the ears
  • Don't feel sorry for your baby.  You're helping her become an independent sleeper.  You're giving her a priceless gift.

If you're tempted to quit, ask yourself, What will the situation be if I cave in?  If your child cries for forty minutes and you give up and go back to whatever old habit of soothing you adopted so many months ago, you've made our child have a miserable forty minutes for nothing!  You're right back to where you were before you started, she is no better equipped to soothe herself, and you feel like a failure.   P. 263


Stick it out.  You WILL see results

What is your biggest problem with child sleep issues?  Is there a sleep training method you've tried before? Why didn't it work?

  • See Week 1, Into + 5 Different Baby Personalities, here
  • See Week 2, Sleep Training the EASY Way, here
  • See Week 3, Accidental Parenting, here
  • See Week 4, Shush-Pat Method, here
  • See Week 6, Wake to Sleep, here

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Last update on 2019-10-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

22 thoughts on “How to Get Baby to Sleep in the Crib – Pick Up/Put Down Method”

  1. My 14 month has never slept through the night ever and we really struggle at night although at bedtime she happily goes to sleep herself so has no sleep association at all. This post was very useful and I especially liked that you emphasised that it’s not for younger babies. Thanks for linking up with #DreamTeam

    • I would literally die! You are one strong parent! I hope it helped you. I highly recommend the baby whisperer books – there’s one just for toddlers, too. And good luck!

  2. That’s very similar to the method I used for my baby! And it also was based on the routine and consistency, I guess you cannot deal without it. The method is called Hold With Love and it is without Cry It Out, wich is why I chose it, I’ve found it recommended on other blogs much, and purchased on amazon (https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=susan+urban+guide+in+a+nutshell). It really worked and it worked fast! I was very surprised since my baby was a terrible sleeper and terrible cat-napper as well. But she’s fixed now!

    • I would never leave my baby to cry it out! This hold with love method seemed perfect to me. My baby fully accepted falling asleep on her own in 4 night and I find it amazing.

    • I used the same method. It seemed very similar to picu up pick down I’ve read about earlier but even gentlier. Worked well with no CIO! Just like planned.

      • I used CIO with my first daughter and since I know Urban’s HWL method I regret every minute of CIO. It was not easy, yes – it worked but why to do that if there are wonderful alternatives like this!

      • Yes, Molly, I agree. With my first child, I put her in the crib and tried CIO, but eventually ended up with a co-sleeper crib next to my bed so I could reach her more easily at night and get my own much needed rest. I ended up with the co-sleeper for 6 more of my kids and we are expecting in March. I intend to use the co-sleeper for that one too. We have definitely got our money’s worth out of that item!

    • I used Susan’s HWL not even knowing put up put down exists! It seems pretty similar but better I think. And I really appreciated the form of step-by-step guide, it was a huge help!

      • 6? How do you organise life with 6?! I was worried about sleep training my second baby, having a toddler in the same room (challenging but with Susan’s HWL doable!) but with 6? You are so so brave!

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