Why won’t my baby sleep in their bassinet?

Nov 15, 2021
7 min read

In this article:

  • Intro
  • Causes - Why won’t my baby sleep in their bassinet?
  • Solutions - How can I get my baby to sleep in their bassinet?
  • Settling them in their bassinet
  • Safe Sleep Environment
  • Tips and Tricks
  • Further Reading

You have brought your precious newborn home, changed them, fed them, winded them and finally got them to sleep. Hoping to rest your eyes too you carefully place them into their bassinet and as you tiptoe away...they wake! 

It doesn’t matter how many times you try to get them to sleep in the bassinet, their eyes spring open and the whole process starts again.

It’s frustrating. Your baby just won’t sleep in their bassinet. 

Let’s look at some of the reasons why they may be waking.

Causes - Why won’t my baby sleep in the bassinet?

There are many reasons that may explain why your newborn baby won't sleep in their bassinet and lots of them can be easily resolved. For the past nine months your baby has been snuggled up, nice and cosy inside you. Now they are here in the big wide world, everything is cold, bright and can seem harsh in comparison. They long for the warmth, comfort and sounds that they were used to. 

Here are some reason why your baby may be waking in their bassinet:

  • Temperature - Babies aren’t able to effectively regulate their temperature until around 12 months so check that they aren’t too hot or cold for the room temperature.
  • Startle reflex - Babies startle reflex, also known as the moro reflex can cause babies to wake when they are placed in their bassinet or cause them to wake between sleep cycles. 
  • Hunger - If your baby is due a feed then they will likely be difficult to settle or will only fall asleep for a short amount of time before waking due to hunger.
  • Undertired - Your baby hadn’t had enough awake time before you tried to put them to sleep and so they have woken soon after being put into their bassinet as they just aren’t tired enough to sleep for longer.
  • Overtired - Your baby had been awake for too long before going to sleep and a build up of cortisol, the stress hormone, has caused them to wake sooner. 
  • Light - The room your baby sleeps in is too bright so when they wake they are too interested in looking around rather than going back to sleep.
  • Noise - Unexpected noises can wake them when they are in a light sleep phase. We’ve all had those moments where you’ve finally got the baby to fall asleep and someone rings the doorbell or the dog starts barking. 
  • Uncomfortable - They may have wind, be suffering with reflux or even a dirty diaper can mean your baby just can’t get comfy enough to sleep.
  • Habit - If your baby is used to sleeping on you they may wake when you put them down in their bassinet as they went from a warm, comfy body with a soothing heartbeat to a cold sheet with a firm mattress. 

As you can see there are lots of causes that could be affecting your baby’s sleep and making it difficult for your baby to sleep in their bassinet. Our Sleep Program can help to tackle these causes and can help guide your baby to better sleep. 

Now we have identified the potential reasons your baby won't sleep in their bassinet. Let's look at what we can do to help your baby to fall asleep.

Solutions - How can I get my baby to sleep in their bassinet?

You spent months researching cribs, cots and bassinets. Lovingly choosing just the right one for your darling baby, but your baby clearly didn’t get the memo as they are not interested in sleeping in it. Let’s start to get them used to sleeping in their bassinet. Here's how: 

  • Ensure the room is the ideal temperature, 16 - 20 degrees is recommended.
  • Dress your baby appropriately for the room temperature. A room thermometer is a good idea to help you know how to dress them.
  • If your baby isn’t rolling then consider swaddling them to help recreate the feeling of snugness from the womb. It also helps inhibit the startle reflex meaning they are less likely to wake. 
  • Change their diaper before you start to get them ready to sleep.
  • Feed and wind them to make sure that they are full and comfortable. Wind pain is often worse when lying down.
  • If your baby has reflux then try to keep them upright for 20-30 minutes after a feed before settling them to sleep. 
  • Settle them to sleep in a dark room with white noise. White noise mimics noises babies would have heard in the womb so it is very comforting and can help your baby to fall asleep by drowning out background noise.
  • Try to settle your baby to sleep in their bassinet rather than on you. Babies are more likely to wake when being placed down. 
  • Make sure they are having the right amount of awake time between naps so that they aren’t under or over tired. 
  • Babies need a delicate balance of naps and awake time during the day. Our Sleep Program will help take the guesswork out of how long they should be awake for between naps.

Download our FREE e-book to get started on better sleep. You'll receive our best advice for napping, night sleep, sleep environment and self-settling.

Settling them in their bassinet

Now we know how to help your baby to sleep in their bassinet but how does this really look in practise? Let’s go through how you can get your baby to sleep in their bassinet. 

Firstly make sure they have a feed during their awake time and wind them well after this. While feeding them right before their nap can make them sleepy you want to avoid feeding them to fall asleep. So feed them soon after they wake when they are bright and alert. 

After the appropriate amount of awake time take them to their room or where their bassinet is set up and change their diaper. Swaddle them or pop them into their sleeping bag. Then begin your wind down routine to get them ready for their nap. This may be singing some songs or reading a book, having a cuddle. Whatever it is make sure you do this before each nap as the repetition will help your baby to start to understand when it is time to sleep. 

Your baby should now be relaxed and getting sleepy so put them into their bassinet, make sure the room is completely dark and turn the white noise on. Start to settle them to sleep. Be consistent with your approach. If your baby is upset then pick them up and reassure them. Once they are calm then place them back in their bassinet and try again. 

If you’ve tried to settle your newborn to sleep in their bassinet and after 15 minutes you haven’t had any luck then settle them all the way to sleep and try again next time. This will stop them from becoming overtired, as an overtired baby will struggle to fall asleep. 

A Safer Sleep Environment

A bassinet is a great place for your newborn to sleep until they are around 4 months old. It is easily transportable so you can move it from one room to another around the house. This is important as safe sleep guidelines recommend that your baby sleep in the same room as you for the first six months. 

After 4 months babies are stronger and more active so depending on the type of bassinet you have it may be time to transition them to a crib. Refer to your bassinet’s manual for more information on this. 

Make sure that your bassinet has a clean, firm mattress that leaves no gaps between the mattress and the bassinet. Ensure that the mattress sheets are snug so there is no loose bedding, this will help to keep your baby safe while they sleep. 

Remember that your baby should be placed in their bassinet on their back to sleep to keep their airway clear, with their feet at the end of the bassinet so babies cannot wriggle down under bedding. 

If your baby is falling asleep on you do ensure you are alert to their needs, if you are feeling tired then put them down in their bassinet or ask someone else to take the baby. 

Tips and Tricks if your newborn won't sleep in their bassinet

So you’ve ruled out all the causes, tried all the solutions and still your newborn just doesn’t want to sleep in their bassinet. 

Here are some tips and tricks that helped me to gradually teach my little one to sleep in her bassinet during the first few weeks.

  1. 1. Warm the bassinet with a hot water bottle or beanie before you put your baby down. If your baby is falling asleep on you then the change of temperature may be causing them to wake. By warming the mattress it can help keep them asleep. Remember to remove the hot water bottle before you put your baby down and check it isn’t too warm.
  2. 2. If your baby falls asleep on you, wait 10-15 minutes until they are in a deeper sleep before putting them into their bassinet. If your baby has only just fallen asleep then they are likely to wake when you move them.
  3. 3. Place them down into the bassinet feet first rather than head first. Putting them down head first can cause them to startle awake due to feeling like they are falling. You know the feeling when you are falling asleep only to jump and wake yourself up again!
  4. 4. Sleep with the mattress sheet for a couple of nights so that it smells like you. Newborn babies have a highly developed sense of smell. When they are born they can’t recognise you by sight yet but they can by smell. Your smell is very comforting to babies and makes them think you are close by. 
  5. 5. Put them in the bassinet when you need to. If your baby wants to be with you constantly it can be hard to get a minute to yourself. But your needs are important too. If you need to use the bathroom, make yourself a drink or some food or brush your teeth then the bassinet is a safe space to put your baby while you do that. 

            Having short periods of time in the bassinet while your baby is awake will help your baby to become more familiar with the space and can help them to settle better in their bassinet when it is time to sleep.

            Your newborn baby is learning, they had 9 months of sleeping with you so it may take them a little while to figure out how to sleep without you but you will both get there. Our Sleep Program will help take the guesswork out of awake times, allowing your baby to settle easier and sleep better.


            Further Reading

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