Newborns like to be held in your arms a lot so it’s no wonder why it’s hard to put them down to sleep. This post will share how to get your newborn to sleep in a bassinet based on my experience as an infant and child sleep consultant since 2008.
Why Newborns Won’t Sleep in a Bassinet
Before we get to how to get your newborn to sleep in a bassinet, let’s talk about why many babies won’t sleep in a bassinet. Here are the primary reasons:
- Sleeping flat is unnatural when babies first come out of the womb. Although it’s safest to place your baby on their back to sleep, it doesn’t mean they’re going to like it, at first.
- Newborns seek comfort from their primary caretakers every chance they get. Being held is a natural desire by most humans and they were “held” in the womb for 9 months.
- Your baby may be colder in the bassinet. Even if the bassinet is warm, it might not be the same as the feeling they have when they are in your arms. Of course, be careful NOT to overheat the baby!
- And, sometimes, your baby just doesn’t know there’s another way to sleep. When your baby is first born, you may get in the habit of holding them and when family and friends come to visit, they may get your baby used to it. Sometimes, we simply need to show babies there is another option.
Why Put Baby in the Bassinet to Sleep
If your baby won’t sleep in a bassinet, why should you bother changing this habit? Well, for starters, your baby needs to sleep 14-16 hours a day for YEARS. If the only place your baby can sleep is in your arms, the stroller, or the car, that is a lot of time you’re spending holding, pushing, or driving! Teaching your baby to sleep in their own sleep space is a great long-term “investment!”
Second, it is safest for your baby to sleep on their back in a separate sleep space. This reduces the risk of SIDS and is worth the effort.
And, finally, once your sleepy newborn starts waking up to the world, they may not be able to sleep for long restorative naps if your baby can’t sleep through noise. No one wants to sit in the super-quiet nursery for 3-4 hours a day. But, if your baby is sensitive to noise, you won’t be able to let them nap in your arms while you watch TV, for example, or visit with friends.
How to Get Your Newborn to Sleep in a Bassinet
Getting your newborn to sleep in a bassinet can take anywhere from a few days to two weeks but with consistent effort, you can make progress. Here are 7 Tips just for you:
1. Put Your Newborn on a Schedule
Newborns generally can’t be on a strict clock schedule but one of the most important things you can do for a baby of any age is to make sure they are NOT awake too long before their next sleep period. We call these wake windows. The amount of time a newborn can stay awake before they become overtired and overstimulated is usually less than 1-2 hours long. If your baby is awake too long, they are more likely to wake more frequently at night and take shorter naps.
Your newborn’s schedule will vary by age, stage of development, and how much they drink at a time. Following your baby’s sleepy cues is one of the best things you can do when they’re young though those cues become more unreliable as they get older. Also, you should know that newborns usually go to bed late since their nighttime sleep doesn’t extend to 11-12 hours at night until they are 6+ weeks old. The right schedule can go a very long way to better sleep for a child of any age!
2. Swaddle Your Newborn
Most newborns still have their moro reflex or startle reflex which can cause them to wake up when they should be sleeping. Swaddling your newborn baby can lead to much longer stretches of sleep both during the day and at night.
3. Turn on White Noise
Inside your womb were all types of noises for your baby to hear. If you put them in a quiet nursery to sleep, the quiet can be deafening and unnerving. Be sure to have your newborn sleep with white noise to help with this. The white noise should be about the volume of a shower running and you may need to experiment with different sounds. For me, the sound of waves hitting the shore isn’t monotonous enough, for example, but some people love it!
4. Use a Rocking Bassinet
You may want to consider trying a rocking bassinet which can help your baby stay asleep in the bassinet.
The SNOO Smart Sleeper Bassinet, created by Dr. Harvey Karp, costs over $1600, but now you can rent one! The big benefit here is that it’s “smart” in that it doesn’t move the entire time, but reacts to your baby’s crying by starting the motion and increasing the white noise volume. This can buy you precious hours of sleep! You would not want to skip necessary feedings, but this moving bassinet can help keep your baby asleep for longer periods of time since it doesn’t require you to activate it. You can review our full review here: Is the SNOO Worth It? And, alternatives. With a SNOO, you can also combine the swaddle, white noise, and bassinet all in one!
The Fisher Price Rock With Me Bassinet has a soothing swaying motion and vibrations that can be used to soothe your baby to sleep or back to sleep. It also folds flat making it easy to take with you wherever you go!
These bedside bassinets can be well worth their money if lack of soothing is the main reason your newborn won’t sleep in a bassinet.
5. Start Bedtime and Naptime Routines
Cueing your baby that sleep is coming can go a long way to being able to put them down. If they become accustomed to a few short steps before they are put down in a bassinet, they may be more welcoming of sleep. A newborn bedtime routine doesn’t have to be very long. 5 to 10 minutes is all you need. A quick example would be some lavender lotion, a fresh diaper, a feeding, a few lullabies, and a few minutes of a little soothing/rocking/swaying.
6. Sleep on the Sheets
Your scent can be very soothing to your newborn! Of course, giving your baby a t-shirt is NOT safe while unattended. Instead, sleep on your baby’s bassinet sheet for a few days or put the sheet in your shirt for several hours to several days. Do NOT spray perfume or anything. The idea is to have your natural scent transferred to the sheet.
7. Use Gentle Sleep Coaching Techniques
Last but not least, if all of these other tips don’t get your newborn to sleep in a bassinet, you can try some gentle sleep coaching techniques. With gentle sleep coaching, the idea is that you put your baby down awake and coach them to sleep in the bassinet. The goal of this is to help them associate their bassinet as their sleep space and not your arms, chest, stroller, car seat, etc. As of right now, your baby may not KNOW they are “supposed” to sleep anywhere else. By gently guiding them to fall asleep in their bassinet, you can help them learn new and healthy sleep habits. However, keep in mind that sleep training newborns is not always easy. You may need to wait until 6+ weeks old and take it really slow.
I hope these tips have successfully helped you with your newborn’s sleep! If you need more help, review the resources below!