How to help your newborn sleep in their bassinet
By Cradlewise Staff
How to help your newborn sleep in their bassinet
By Cradlewise Staff
As a new parent, you put so much thought and care into your baby’s sleep.
Now the bedtime routine is done, the blackout curtains are drawn, the white noise machine is whirring peacefully, and the beautiful bassinet you lovingly ordered is ready and waiting for your newborn to enjoy blissful sweet dreams.
There’s just one teeny-tiny problem: your newborn won’t actually sleep in the bassinet.
Trust me, we’ve all been there. And as perfect as your baby bassinet might be, it’s useless if your baby won’t actually sleep in it. It’s a frustrating experience, but this guide will help you understand why your baby might be refusing to sleep in their bassinet and some tips that might help you all rest a bit more.
Why your newborn won’t sleep in a bassinet
If your baby won’t sleep in their bassinet, just know that you’re not alone — a lot of parents experience challenges getting their newborn baby to sleep independently in a bassinet.
Here are just a few reasons why your newborn may not want to sleep in a bassinet:
1. They’re not comfortable
Discomfort can be a major factor for some babies who don’t want to sleep in a bassinet.
The truth is, not all bassinets are built alike. Some may look pretty on the outside but do not offer a lot of support and comfort for babies to actually sleep on.
Check the mattress your bassinet comes with and be sure to double-check your baby’s weight and height against the recommended sizes for the bassinet. If you have a larger baby, it may be time to size up their sleeping area.
2. You have a gassy baby
Just imagine if you had the worst gas of your life and someone asked you to lay flat on your back and not move — it would be pretty uncomfortable, right?
Not all babies get severe gas or are gassy babies, but babies who are bottle-fed and babies who may have physical challenges with breastfeeding or latch issues may be more prone to swallowing air and developing gas.
If your baby seems uncomfortable, cries profusely in certain positions, or is bunching up their legs a lot, they may have excess gas that needs to be passed.
Try burping them or keeping them upright for several minutes to let their stomachs settle before laying them down.
3. Your baby has reflux
Again, there are differing levels of reflux in babies. Some babies may have only occasional reflux, while others may have more severe reflux that leaves them spitting up constantly and in pain.
You should always talk to your baby’s pediatrician if you suspect your newborn has reflux. (Babies who are born prematurely may be at a higher risk of reflux.)
If your baby is spitting up a lot, not gaining weight, or seems in distress during or immediately after feeding, talk to your baby’s doctor about reflux treatments.
4. Your baby is overtired
Believe it or not, an overtired baby may refuse to sleep. Just like toddlers and even adults, babies can be exhausted but overstimulated and have a hard time settling down to sleep.
To try to calm an overtired baby, create a calming sleep environment by shutting off bright lights and noises, removing any screens, and turning on white noise, like a fan or noise machine.
5. Your baby’s startle reflex is waking them up
The very act of laying your baby down in a bassinet may trigger the startle reflex.
The startle reflex is thought to be a primitive reflex from back in the day when babies would have had to cling to their mothers, much like baby monkeys do as their mom moves through the trees all day.
In modern days, however, the startle reflex can quite literally startle your baby awake anytime you move them or they hear a loud noise or see something bright. To help circumvent the startle reflex, you can swaddle them in an age-appropriate swaddle.
6. Your baby wants to be held
Have a baby that only sleeps when held? You’re not alone — and your baby is not being intentionally difficult, we promise.
Babies naturally want to be closer to their caregiver, and that physical closeness also has a lot of benefits for both parent and baby — it stimulates breast milk production, encourages bonding, and even boosts your baby’s development in everything from language to immune system to brain function.
But of course, that physical closeness is not safe for sleeping, so the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHHD) recommends room-sharing, but not bed-sharing to help you stay close to your baby.
Cuddle with your baby as often as needed, but always lay your baby down to sleep back in their sleeping area before you feel too drowsy.
Your baby may also enjoy physical closeness to you in times they are awake, such as in a baby wrap, to get the benefits of skin-to-skin bonding.
Why should babies sleep in a bassinet?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that the safest way for babies to sleep is on their backs in their own sleeping space, whether that’s a crib, bassinet, or play yard.
If possible, the AAP says that babies should sleep in a separate sleeping area, but that the bassinet or crib should always be in the parents’ room. This practice is called room-sharing and is very different from bed-sharing.
Room sharing allows your baby to still be close to you and know you are near — which many babies need for their development — but still keeps both you and your baby safe.
Babies sleeping on their backs on their own flat sleeping surfaces without any additional items in the bed, such as blankets or stuffed animals, helps decrease the risk of SIDS, suffocation, and other dangers during sleep.
5 ways to get your newborn to sleep in a bassinet
We admit that it can be a big challenge to get a newborn to sleep in a bassinet — some babies just want to be close to you and there’s no if, ands, or buts about it!
It may take some perseverance, but here are a few strategies to help get your newborn to sleep in a bassinet.
1. Don’t give up
Just like the picky eating you’ll probably have to deal with in the toddler years, you may need to introduce your baby to a bassinet several times before they “accept” it.
That means that you shouldn’t give up hope if your newborn immediately rejects the bassinet and is wide awake the second you try laying them down in it. So follow the old adage here and if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
2. Be consistent with the bassinet
It’s also important to keep your baby’s sleep consistent whenever possible — so make sure you’re laying your baby down to sleep for naps and at bedtime in the same bassinet so they can associate it with sleep.
3. Check your bassinet weight limits
My first baby absolutely refused to sleep in the adorable bassinet that we were gifted at my baby shower.
I tried and tried to get her to sleep in it, but eventually, I gave up the fight and moved her to her crib — where she slept soundly for the first time in weeks.
Turns out, the bassinet had been fitted with a flimsy cardboard support under the thin mattress and she simply wasn’t comfortable. Every baby is different, but check your bassinet’s recommended weight limits and if your baby is on the larger size, consider moving them to a larger sleeping area.
4. Try swaddling
As a former OB nurse, I can assure you that swaddling is absolutely a magical tool for getting newborns to sleep in a bassinet.
If you haven’t learned the newborn swaddle yet, watch a YouTube video, find a tutorial, or just ask a nurse in your life, because it’s worth trying.
Some babies have a big startle reflex and just the act of laying them down in the bassinet can trigger it. Swaddling helps mimic the cozy environment of the womb and prevents them from splaying their limbs out and waking themselves up.
5. Consider skipping the fancy newborn bassinet insert
Similar to what happened with my first baby, when I had my fifth baby, I could not for the life of me get her to sleep in her bassinet.
At the time, we were using the fancy newborn bassinet insert that came with a playpen my parents had bought for me, but it wasn’t until we decided to remove the insert altogether that she finally started to sleep a bit better.
Turns out, she was just comfier in the base on the playpen. Remember, every baby is different, so you may have to experiment with what works best to get your baby to sleep in a bassinet.
Q: For how long do newborns need to sleep in a bassinet?
A:Every bassinet will come with its own stipulations for how long it can be used, so follow the guidelines that came with your baby’s bassinet. Usually, once your baby reaches a certain height and weight, you will need to move them to a crib or play pen. Additionally, if your baby starts to roll, you should move them to a larger crib too.
Q: Is it okay to leave a newborn in the bassinet awake?
A: As long as your baby is supervised, it is completely fine to lay your baby down in the bassinet awake. In fact, most sleep experts recommend that whenever possible, you lay your baby down drowsy but awake to help them learn how to self-soothe to sleep.
Q: Is it okay to sleep train a newborn?
A: Newborns cannot be sleep trained because their brains and nervous systems are not fully developed yet. The AAP does not recommend sleep training until around six months old, when babies’ sleep patterns start to regulate.
Q: Why does my newborn wake up as soon as I lay them down in the bassinet?
A: Often, newborns are wakened by things like the startle reflex, gas, or sudden movements when you lay them down in their bassinet. Make sure your baby is fully burped and changed and dry when you lay them down. Additionally, swaddling your baby may help decrease the startle-wake reflex.
Q: How do I teach my newborn to self-soothe to sleep?
A: Babies can’t self-soothe until around 4-6 months old, but you can establish positive sleep habits now by creating a calming sleep environment, creating a bedtime routine, and laying your baby down drowsy but awake whenever possible. You can also practice letting your baby fuss for a few minutes before you pick them up if they wake from sleep. These steps will set the foundation for self-soothing later, when your baby is ready.