What to Do When Your Newborn Won’t Sleep in a Bassinet

What do you do when your newborn won’t sleep in a bassinet? Learn top tips to get your baby to sleep away from your arms and on his back.

Newborn Won't Sleep in Bassinet

Forget the crib—I couldn’t even get my baby to nap longer than 30 minutes in a bassinet. I’d put him down but he’d wake up and cry a few minutes later. I tried rocking the bassinet and even bought one that vibrated, but neither tactic worked. And as much as he insisted on sleeping in my arms, that arrangement wouldn’t allow me to sleep comfortably or him safely.

Bassinets can be a fantastic option when the wide expanse of your baby’s crib is too much for him. Perhaps they’re a more frugal option for you at the moment or you want him to sleep in the same room as you. So, when he won’t sleep in one, it’s easy to feel like you’re simply out of options.

Thankfully, I found a few tricks that helped my baby finally take to the bassinet, both for naps and throughout the night. Take a look at these tips that can help:

Create a conducive sleep environment

Increase your baby’s chances of sleeping well in a bassinet by creating a conducive sleep environment. The more her environment is suited for sleep, the better she can do so.

The first place to start is with a swaddle. With her Moro reflex still in full swing, it’s easy for her to startle herself awake when her limbs are constantly moving. A swaddle not only keeps her limbs contained, but provides the snug conditions she was used to in the womb.

Next, turn on a white noise machine, fan, heater, or even an audio app for constant white noise. This will buffer sudden sounds that could startle her awake had her room been completely silent. And again, the consistent hush mimics the sounds she heard in the womb as well.

Then, keep the room dark. Install darkening curtains to block light during naps and in the early evenings and mornings. And lastly, consider soft music as you lay her down, which can signal that it’s time to sleep.

Free resource: Did you know that how long she’s awake might be affecting how well she sleeps? Join my newsletter and get One Mistake You’re Making with Your Baby’s Awake Time—at no cost to you. Help her fall asleep with this one simple trick:

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Put your baby flat on his back throughout the day

With your newborn curled up in your womb for so long during pregnancy, it’s understandable that she prefers being snuggled in your arms rather than on a flat surface on her back. The best way to ease her out of this habit is to put her on her back throughout the day when she’s awake.

For instance, instead of holding her in your arms while you read a book, place her on a blanket on the floor and lie next to her to read. Play peek-a-boo on the bed or set her down in the crib while you use the bathroom.

Yes, she might whine, but done in short spurts or with you nearby, she can get used to lying down on her back instead of being held all the time. That way, when it’s time to lie down on her back in the bassinet, it won’t feel so unfamiliar.

Warm the bassinet beforehand

Transitioning from your warm, cozy arms to a cold, firm mattress can be enough to startle your baby awake. One way to ease the transition is to warm the bassinet beforehand.

You might place a heavy blanket inside when it’s not in use to keep the mattress nice and warm. Or you can lay a heating pad on the mattress before setting him down, warming it enough to keep it comfortable (make sure to test the temperature of the mattress with your hand).

That way, when it’s time to lay him down, the bassinet won’t feel so cold compared to your arms.

Place (then remove) a familiar blanket

Do you hold your baby with a blanket? This can give her extra comfort and even a familiar scent while she falls asleep in your arms.

Then, when it’s time to put her down in the bassinet, place the blanket on top of her body to help her adjust to her new sleeping arrangement. Babies shouldn’t sleep with a blanket because of the risk of SIDS, especially unsupervised. So, when she’s finally settled in and sleeping well, you can then gradually remove the blanket.

This tip only works during the day when you’re awake and can remove the blanket. But this can be a great way to ease her out of your arms and into the bassinet for naps.

Gradually ease your baby away from your body

It’s no surprise that your baby will only sleep in your arms during the day. Going from your body to the bassinet can startle him baby awake, so one simple trick is to gradually ease him into the bassinet.

To start, hold him in your arms in the same position he would be if he were lying down (as opposed to, say, holding him upright over your shoulder). Then, make your way to the bassinet, keeping him close to your body as you do.

After you set him down, try to keep as much of your chest in contact with him, like bending over so that you’re still touching. As you stand up, keep your hand on his chest or head so that he can still feel your body near his. Finally, slowly move your hands away so that he’s in the bassinet on his own.

By moving away gradually, you lessen the difference between being held in your arms to sleeping flat on the bassinet.

Put your baby down in different napping arrangements

We can make ourselves miserable doing the same thing over and over and seeing the same results, don’t you think?

As frustrating as it is when your newborn won’t sleep in a bassinet, rest assured that this isn’t the only way he can fall asleep. For instance, try putting him down on a blanket on the floor, in the swing, or even in a portable “mini bassinet” you can put on your bed. Take him for a stroll around the neighborhood or wear him in a baby wrap.

Ideally, he’d fall asleep in the same place all the time. But if he’s simply adamant about not being in the bassinet, trying a different sleeping arrangement can be enough to break him out of his rut. That way, when it’s time to put him down in a bassinet, it can feel like any other arrangement you’ve been trying.

Offer a pacifier while your baby is still drowsy

Does your baby start waking up after you put her down in the bassinet? See if you can lull her back to sleep with a pacifier.

Before she has a chance to wake up completely, place a pacifier in her mouth and hold it steady as she starts sucking on it. The motion can help her drift back to sleep enough for you to step away. The trick is to offer it while she’s still drowsy, not when she’s riled up and crying.

And if she starts to wake up again with a pacifier in her mouth, give it a little “tug” as if you were removing it. This can prompt her to start sucking once more in the hopes that she’ll sleep for another cycle.

The bottom line

As temporary as a bassinet may be in your child’s life, it’s often an easier alternative to a crib (or perhaps the only option you’ve got right now). Hopefully, with these tips, you’ve learned that you can help her sleep in a bassinet—all without having to get a vibrating one at that.

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