Babies need a lot of sleep, but getting your newborn to sleep in their bassinet can be challenging. Learn how to get a baby to sleep in a bassinet to ensure they are getting the right amount of sleep in a safe environment.
Every baby is different. The strategy that worked perfectly for your best friend may not work for you and your newborn at all. From simple to creative solutions, this post is full of proven ways of getting newborns to sleep in bassinets.
Understand how baby wake windows change over time and find the best time to help your baby sleep.
Baby Sleep Safety
Bassinets are an excellent, safe sleep option for babies until they are about 4-6 months old. Around this time, babies typically outgrow the bassinet because of weight limitations, or simply no longer being comfortable.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that newborns always sleep in the same room as their parent/caretaker but on a separate surface for the first six months. Boppy Bassinets can easily move from room to room, so your newborn can always be sleeping safely nearby.
- Always put your baby to sleep on their back
- Always put your baby to sleep on a separate surface such as a crib or bassinet
- Keep the crib or bassinet in your bedroom or other shared room
- Keep the crib or bassinet free of blankets, pillows - including nursing pillows, and other items
Why Baby Isn’t Sleeping in Their Bassinet
Commonly, some newborns won’t sleep in bassinets for various reasons. If you are struggling with this, we know it can feel overwhelming, but you are not alone. Also, it does not mean your baby hates bassinets. They may not sleep easily in a crib either.
A baby that will not sleep in a bassinet is trying to tell you something. They may be uncomfortable in their clothes, for example. They may be too warm, too cold, or too hungry to sleep. For newborns, the world is a new place that’s both scary and intriguing. They may be awoken by a smell, sound, or light in the room. Newborns may also struggle more with acid reflux than older babies.
Just like us, babies need to feel comfortable to fall asleep. However, they are not able to provide comfort for themselves, so they rely on us. For the past nine months (give or take), your newborn was living in the womb which is a quiet, warm, cozy environment compared to the world outside the womb. Trying to ease your baby’s discomfort can help them sleep.
Factors that affect a newborn's comfort level with their sleep space:
- Temperature: Babies are not able to regulate their body temperatures much until they are around 12 months old.
- Mattress: The mattress should be firm and fit snugly in the bassinet or crib so that it doesn’t move around.
- Bedtime clothes: Clothes that feel scratchy or too tight may be uncomfortable for your baby.
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Like adults, babies are impacted by sound, light, and smells. A baby not sleeping in a bassinet could be distracted by looking around the bright room or listening to the sounds in the house. While you don’t want your baby sleeping in a pitch-dark room, if it’s too bright, they may not be able to sleep.
You know that feeling when you are about to fall asleep and all of a sudden it feels like your body is falling and you jolt awake? Babies can experience something similar called the startle reflex. It often happens when you are transferring the child from your arms to their bassinet.
If your newborn wakes up when put in a bassinet, they may be experiencing startle reflexes. When this happens, it can be difficult for the baby to go back to sleep on their own.
They’re Used to Sleeping in Your Arms
You love your precious little one more than anything and probably love having them fall asleep in your arms or on your chest. However, you also need to rest, and it is much safer for your baby to sleep in a bassinet. Furthermore, when your baby sleeps on you, it is not a flat surface. A newborn sleeping on a slight incline may get used to that sleep position, and it will be harder to shift to sleeping in a crib or bassinet.
Basic Needs Must Be Met
A baby with a dirty diaper or hungry belly will not be able to settle to sleep. They may also struggle to sleep if they are overtired as being overtired triggers a rise in cortisol. Because your newborn cannot tell you what they need, you must be proactive to ensure that all their basic needs are met before starting your sleep routine.
They Have Acid Reflux
It’s normal for babies to spit up. This is different from acid reflux because it contains milk/food that was consumed and stomach acid. The reflux of stomach acid can be painful. A baby that appears to be very uncomfortable after spitting up may have acid reflux.
Do not attempt to put a baby to sleep yet if they just experienced acid reflux as they will be too uncomfortable.
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5 Ways to Help Baby to Sleep in Bassinet
A baby who is not sleeping as much as they should can take a toll on the whole family. Whether your goal is for your newborn to sleep in a bassinet or crib, you can try the strategies explained below.
Start with the ones that feel doable and appropriate for your baby. Something as easy as heating the room slightly or finding the right wearable blanket could help a lot.
Learn Your Baby’s Wake Windows
It’s helpful to think about your baby’s sleep schedule in terms of wake windows which are the periods when they are awake. A newborn will only be awake for 30 minutes to 1 hour at a time before needing another nap. After a month or so, they may be awake for 1-2 hours before needing a nap.
As they get older, the wake windows get longer. However, in the early months, it’s essential to make sure all your baby’s needs are met during the short wake windows so that they can sleep soundly during the next nap.
Create a Routine
The goal is to signal to your baby when it is time to go to sleep. To reach this goal, establish sleep cues. Common examples include:
- Playing music
- Singing a lullaby
- Reading a story
The key is consistency. What you use does not matter as much, but make sure you use the same cue every time you prepare your newborn for a nap. And, as a bonus, these activities can help boost your baby’s brain!
Adjust the Sleeping Environment
Your precious little one may be very sensitive to their surroundings. Try to tailor their environment as much as possible to what you think will be an ideal sleep space. Getting a baby to sleep in a bassinet can involve a lot of trial and error. If they are still waking often or taking a long time to fall asleep, make minor adjustments to the factors listed below and observe how your baby responds.
Temperature: Your body is likely warmer than the bassinet. If your baby is used to sleeping on you or in your arms, try warming the bassinet before placing them inside. You can do this by placing a heated water bottle or blanket on the bassinet mattress before nap time. Make sure to remove the item and check the temperature with your hand before placing your baby down to sleep.
Conversely, if you’re swaddling your baby, it may be getting too warm. Try a lighter wearable blanket or a bassinet with mesh walls to provide more airflow.
- Sound: White noise can help drown out sounds from other rooms of neighboring apartments. Instead of purchasing a white noise machine, you can easily find free white noise playlists on Spotify, YouTube, and other music streaming services. Explore different playlists and pay attention to how your baby responds.
- Light: A baby will not sleep in a bassinet in a room that is too bright or too dark. Newborns prefer dim lights and neutral colors over bright lights and bright colors. Avoid having computer screens or TVs on in the sleep space. Also, dimming the lights and/or turning on a night light is a great way to signal to your baby that it’s time to sleep.
- Smell: When a newborn won't sleep in a bassinet at night, it could be because there is a stimulating smell keeping them up. Try to keep the odor in the sleep space as neutral as possible. If that doesn’t work, try providing comforting smells such as the smell of you and other parents/caregivers. To do this, sleep with the baby’s sleep clothes or wearableblanket for a couple of nights, so they gain your smell.
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Lay Your Baby Down Drowsy
If your baby won't sleep in a bassinet, try laying them down when they are already drowsy but not fully asleep. Avoid laying them down when fully asleep as they can increase the chances of a startle reflex waking them up as soon as they touch the bassinet.
The best way to achieve this is to create a naptime routine that soothes your baby. Remember, it’s not that your baby doesn’t like bassinets. They simply may be uncomfortable or overstimulated. With the right environment and sleep routine, your baby will be ready to sleep in their bassinet once they are drowsy. Pay close attention to signs of drowsiness to find just the right moment to transfer them to the bassinet. It may take practice to get the timing right, and that’s ok.
Be An Observer
Being an observer means always supervising your baby while they are sleeping and noticing their behaviors as they are falling asleep. It’s also about not rushing to pick up your child when they are crying in their crib or baby bassinet.
While every parent wants to bond with their baby and protect them from distress, you do not want to establish a pattern that you will always pick them up at the first cry. They will get used to this and may have a difficult time going back to sleep on their own for months or years. Instead, wait a minute or two to see if they calm down and fall back asleep on their own. If not, try soothing them from the bassinet.
Some excellent soothing strategies that do not involve picking up your baby include:
- Patting them
- Rubbing their tummy
- Singing softly to them
Plan Feeding Times
Most research recommends having the baby upright for 20-30 minutes after feeding in addition to burping before getting them ready for sleep. Ideally, you will establish a routine that balances your infant’s wake windows and feeding schedule.
Typically, newborns need to eat every 2-3 hours. Try feeding your baby after they have fully woken up from a nap. This tends to be when they are most awake and alert, and they will have plenty of time to digest their meal before laying down to rest. Also, be careful to avoid overfeeding as it can cause sleep difficulties.
Find Peaceful Sleep For Your Newborn With The Boppy Bassinet
Getting a baby to sleep in a bassinet starts with the right bassinet. Choose a high-quality bassinet that is sturdy but portable, breathable, and easy to clean. The Boppy Bassinet for infants under 20 pounds is an excellent choice for any newborn.
It folds flat for easy transport and comes with two mattress covers for no additional cost. It also features a shorter height than most cribs, so it's easier to place your baby down without waking them or tilting their head down too much. You can move the bassinet to your bedside, living room, or office to observe and soothe your baby as needed during nap times and through the night.