Spiked Cradle Syndrome

"As soon as I put him in his crib, he starts to cry." This is one of the most common experiences of those living with spiked cradle syndrome.
Spiked Cradle Syndrome

Last update: 21 January, 2022

“My baby falls asleep peacefully, but every time I set him in his crib, he wakes up as if the mattress had spikes.” This is what many mothers and fathers experience every time they try to put their children to sleep. Undoubtedly, this is a situation that produces a lot of anguish and uncertainty and enhances the chronic fatigue of parents.

Below, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about “spiked crib syndrome.”

What is spiked cradle syndrome?

A baby crying in his crib.

“Spiked cradle syndrome” is a metaphor used to describe the subjective perception of many parents when putting their babies to bed in their respective resting places. Sometimes this situation is also interpreted with some guilt: Is my child still hungry? Am I doing something wrong? These and many more ideas confront parents and produce insecurity.

At the same time, all these nightly worries add to the physical and mental exhaustion that comes with raising a young child. And so the sleep schedule of the whole family is often disturbed night after night.

However, it’s important to note that this varies throughout development for biological reasons. And among the most frequent reasons for this type of awakening, we find the following:

  • The baby lies down in a light sleep phase. Parents sometimes put their children to sleep in their arms and rush to put them in the crib before they enter deep sleep. For this reason, when they touch the mattress, the little ones wake up.
  • The need for physical contact. Infants often fall asleep warm, latched onto their mother’s breast, cradled, and in skin-to-skin contact with their caregivers. This scenario sounds pretty cozy, doesn’t it? So, it’s not illogical to think that children want to prolong this state of satisfaction and that they wake up when it’s interrupted.
  • Nighttime fears Depending on the age of the little ones, fears or night terrors can coexist, which enhance awakenings when they know they’re alone. You should know that this isn’t a manipulation strategy, but the externalization of a feeling of anguish.

Ultimately, if you notice that your baby’s a very light sleeper, observe their behavior during the day. If they show signs of poor sleep, it’s best to see your GP.

Some keys to overcoming “spiked cradle syndrome”

Here are some tips to overcome this difficulty and to help your baby achieve better quality sleep.

  • Try to maintain a sleep routine that includes times and places. This idea is to facilitate certain conditions in order to predispose the child to rest. It’s logical that if you try to sleep your child in a place that’s unfamiliar to them, they’ll feel restless, insecure, or even threatened.
  • Create “transition” experiences. Look for pleasant situations that precede bedtime, such as telling stories or singing songs. That way, you not only give them a nice shared moment but also help them relax.
  • Produce the right environmental conditions. For example, put warm, soft lighting in the room and reduce surrounding noise. Implementing this and other sleep-promoting measures can be of great help.
  • Provides skin-to-skin contact to comfort and reassure them at bedtime.
  • Don’t let them cry it out. Even if they wake up at night, it’s not a good idea to leave your baby alone in their crib when they cry, as this won’t magically end their anguish. The best thing is to accompany them so that they go back to sleep peacefully. Otherwise, they could develop an even greater rejection toward the crib, interpreting it as the place where they’re “abandoned” by their caregivers.

Adjust sleep expectations so as not to get frustrated in your attempts

A baby crying while his mother tries to get him to sleep.

Finally, a tip to keep in mind is that it’s not as easy for some babies to fall asleep. Therefore, it’s important to know that baby in front of you and try to follow their needs and characteristics. This implies adapting yourself to the stage that your child is in.

It’s important to try not to be governed by your experiences with other siblings or by what other mothers tell you. It’s best to be respectful of your own child and offer them what they need. No one sleeps the same way, and remembering this will help you accept that there are no universal rules for all babies.

Finally, you need to understand that children don’t sleep or rest like adults, as this aspect of development isn’t fully mature yet.

Many times, naps and bedtime turn into moments of terror due to the false expectations we bring and the frustration that results from the failure to fulfill our wishes. This blocks us and eliminates any possibility of being creative and looking for our own solutions. Trying to empathize with the situation can be a relief for everyone.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.