Why won’t my baby sleep in their bassinet?
In this article:
- Causes - Why won’t my baby sleep in their bassinet?
- Solutions - How can I get my baby to sleep in their bassinet?
- Settling your baby in their bassinet
- Safe sleep environment
- Tips and tricks
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 when, no matter what you do, your baby just won’t sleep in their bassinet!
Let’s look at some of the reasons why this may be happening...
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.
- Startle reflex - A baby's startle reflex, also known as the moro reflex, can cause babies to startle awake when they are placed in their bassinet or cause them to wake between sleep cycles if they are not swaddled.
- Hunger - If your baby is due for 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 - If your baby hasn’t had enough awake time before you tried to put them to sleep, they will likely wake soon after being put into their bassinet as they just aren’t tired enough to sleep for longer.
- Overtired - If your baby has been awake for too long before going to sleep, a build up of cortisol, the stress hormone, can make them hard to settle or cause them to wake sooner.
- Light - If the room your baby sleeps in is too bright, they will be more interested in looking around than going to sleep.
- Noise - Unexpected noises can wake your baby when they are in a light sleep phase. We’ve all had those moments where you’ve finally got the baby to sleep and someone rings the doorbell or the dog starts barking!
- Uncomfortable - Your baby may have wind, be suffering reflux or even have a dirty diaper. It might be that your baby just can’t get comfortable enough to sleep.
- Habit - If your baby has been 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 a lot of potential causes that could be making it difficult for your baby to sleep in their bassinet. Our Little Ones App can help to rule out some of these causes and guide your baby to better sleep.
Now that 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! Once you've made sure that everything is lined up to give your baby the best chance at settling and sleeping well, here's how you can start to get them used to sleeping in their bassinet:
- Ensure the room is the ideal temperature, between 16 - 20 degrees Celsius is the optimal temperature for a baby's room.
- Dress your baby appropriately for the room temperature. A room thermometer can help you figure out how to dress them for sleep.
- If your baby isn’t rolling then consider swaddling them to help recreate the feeling of snugness from the womb. Swaddling also helps inhibit the startle reflex meaning they are less likely to startle awake.
- Change your baby's diaper before you start to get them ready to sleep.
- Feed and wind your baby 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 your baby to sleep in a dark room with white noise. White noise mimics the noises babies would have heard in the womb so it is very comforting and can also 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 in their bassinet so if you can put them down first, then settle them to sleep, they are less likely to wake.
Settling your baby in their bassinet
Now you know how to encourage your baby to sleep in their bassinet, but what does this actually look like 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 sleep. Remember, the aim is to have them fall asleep in their bed, rather than on the breast or in your arms. 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 wherever their bassinet is set up) and change their diaper. Swaddle them or pop them into their sleeping bag and then begin your wind down routine to get them ready for sleep. This may be singing some songs or reading a book, or 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 for 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 using a form of touch like patting, side-settling or stroking their hair. Be consistent with your approach. If your baby is upset, pick them up and soothe them. Once they are calm, place them back in their bassinet and try again.
If you’ve tried to settle your newborn to sleep in their bassinet and haven't had any luck after 10-15 minutes, settle them all the way to sleep in your arms and try again next time. This will prevent them from becoming overtired, as an overtired baby will definitely struggle to fall asleep.
Don't be disheartened if you haven't had success on the first day or even in the first couple of days. Consistency is the key - if you keep trying at the start of each nap and bedtime, it will happen!
A safe 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 though, 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 that they cannot wriggle down under bedding.
If your baby is falling asleep on you for naps, do ensure you are alert to their needs. If you are feeling tired yourself, it's best to put them down in their bassinet or, better yet, ask someone else to take the baby so you can get some rest too!
Tips and tricks if your newborn STILL won't sleep in their bassinet
So you’ve tried everything we've mentioned here and STILL your newborn just doesn’t want to sleep in their bassinet?!
It happens! If your baby has become used to sleeping on you or in your arms, it's going to take a while for them to adjust to being settled to sleep in their bassinet instead.
So, 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. 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. If your baby falls asleep on you, wait 10-15 minutes until they are in a deeper sleep before lowering them into their bassinet. If your baby has only just fallen asleep, then they are likely to wake when you move them.
- 3. Place your baby down into their bassinet feet first, rather than head first. Putting them down head first can cause them to startle awake because they feel like they are falling. (You know the feeling when you are just falling asleep, only to jump and wake yourself up again!)
- 4. Sleep with your baby's 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 know your smell. Your smell is very comforting to them and makes them think you are close by.
- 5. Put your baby in the bassinet during the day 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! So if you need to use the bathroom, make yourself a drink or some food or brush your teeth, 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.
Try to remember that your newborn baby is still adjusting to this big, new world around them! They had 9 months of sleeping with you, so it may take them a little while to figure out how to sleep in their bassinet without you - but you will both get there.
Our Little Ones App contains all the information and tools you need to help your baby to settle easier and sleep better in their bassinet. You'll also have access to ongoing, personalised support from our certified sleep consultants in the Little Ones Village.
Lullaby Trust. (2021). The best mattresses and bedding for your baby. https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk/safer-sleep-advice/mattresses-and-bedding/
Ministry of Health NZ. (2020). Keeping baby safe in bed: the first 6 weeks. https://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/pregnancy-and-kids/first-year/first-6-weeks/keeping-baby-safe-bed-first-6-weeks
NHS Choices. (2022). Helping your baby to sleep.