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 a BassinetForget the crib—I couldn’t even get my baby to sleep in a bassinet. I’d put him down in one, but he’d wake up and cry a few minutes later before I’d even had a chance to fall asleep myself. Feeding him would calm him down and put him to sleep, but the cycle would start all over again when I laid him down once more.

I knew I couldn’t keep putting him down only for him to wake up either instantly or within minutes. As much as he insisted on sleeping in my arms, that arrangement wouldn’t allow me to sleep comfortably or him safely.

I tried rocking the bassinet side-to-side, and even bought one that vibrated, but neither tactic worked to extend his sleep.

What do you do when your newborn won’t sleep in a bassinet?

Bassinets, by their very size, are meant to be temporary. Still, they can be a fantastic option when the wide expanse of your baby’s crib is too much for him to sleep comfortably. 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 your newborn won’t sleep in a bassinet, 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 to help newborn sleep in a bassinet once and for all:

1. Put your baby flat on his back throughout the day

With your newborn curled up in your womb for so long, it’s understandable that she prefers being snuggled in your arms rather on a flat surface on her back. But don’t let this stop you from trying to put her on her back throughout the day, even 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.

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2. Try different napping arrangements

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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 to put your newborn down in the bassinet, rest assured that this isn’t the only way he can fall asleep. In fact, experimenting with different napping arrangements can help make sleeping in a bassinet easier.

For instance, try putting him down on a blanket on the floor, in the swing or crib, 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 carrier or sling.

Ideally, he’d fall asleep with the same sleep routine and in the same place. 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.

Learn how to break the cycle of an overtired baby.

How to Break the Cycle of an Overtired Baby

3. Create a conducive sleep environment

My babies would sleep best in the bassinet when their sleep environment made it easier for them to do so.

The first place to start is with a swaddle. With your newborn’s 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 also heard in the womb as well.

Then, keep the room dark. Install darkening blackout curtains to block light during naps and peeking sunlight in the early evenings and mornings. And lastly, consider soft music for your bedtime routines, which can signal that it’s time to sleep.

4. 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.

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

5. 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. Infants shouldn’t sleep with a blanket because of a 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 for nap time when you’re awake long enough to remove the blanket. But this can be a great way to ease her out of your arms and into the bassinet for naps.

6. Gradually ease your baby away from your body

Going from your body to the bassinet can startle your newborn baby awake. One simple trick is to gradually ease him out of your arms and into the bassinet.

To start, hold him in your arms, but as if he were lying down (as opposed to, say, holding him upright over your shoulder). That way, he’s already in the same position that he would be in the bassinet. 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. You might bend over so that you’re still touching before standing up. Even when you do, try to 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.

Baby Will Only Sleep in My Arms During the Day

7. Offer a pacifier while he’s 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.

And if she starts to wake again, even with a pacifier in 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.

Conclusion

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). And while naps are a bit more flexible, you can’t exactly be up and about in the middle of the night, experimenting with different arrangements.

So, what can you do when your newborn won’t sleep in a bassinet?

First, put him on his back more often throughout the day, and try different napping arrangements to get him used to sleeping out of your arms. Set the room up just right, from adding white noise to swaddling him to sleep.

Try warming the bassinet’s mattress beforehand, and provide a familiar, temporary blanket to ease him in (make sure to remove it soon after). Gradually ease him away from your arms, from holding him horizontally to keeping your hand on his tummy for a few minutes.

And lastly, offer a pacifier while he’s still drowsy—this will help him start sucking and hopefully enter a new sleep cycle.

Good luck, friend! You can help your baby sleep in a bassinet and learn good sleep habits—even if the crib is right around the corner.

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