What To Do If Your Baby Won't Sleep In Their Bassinet

Picture of Robyn Rosenblum, MD, FAAP

baby won't sleep in bassinet

We know that sleep is a hot commodity for the bleary-eyed parents of newborns. When both you and your baby are losing shut-eye because your baby won’t sleep in their bassinet, you may start to feel desperate to get your little one down for some good rest.

If your baby would rather sleep anywhere than in their bassinet, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll share a few possible reasons why this happens and offer tips that might help.

Table Of Contents

Why Sleeping In A Bassinet Is Important

As much as you want your baby to get their needed shut-eye, you don’t want them falling asleep just anywhere. For instance, some places are perfectly safe for little ones to be when they’re awake but are not appropriate for sleep.

Recent U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission rules make it clear that babies five months and under should not sleep on any surface that has an incline greater than 10 degrees. You don’t want your little one falling asleep in a swing, lounger, sleeper, or car seat, for example.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), babies should sleep on a firm, flat, non-inclined surface that meets the standards for safe sleep. That means a compliant crib, travel crib, or bassinet is A-OK.

Beside bassinet

For nighttime, the AAP further recommends that infants sleep in their parents’ room for the first six months to a year of life — but should not share a bed.

Depending on the amount of space you have, it may be hard to squeeze your full-sized crib into your bedroom. You’ll want something compact enough to fit in your room, and even better if it’s portable. A bassinet perfectly fits the bill!

Just remember, depending on the type of bassinet, you may have to switch to a crib at about six months, or when baby can roll, push up, or sit. Be sure to check the details of your bassinet so that you have your baby’s sleep plan well in hand.

What To Expect When It Comes To Sleep

Now that you know a bassinet is the ideal place for a baby to nap, let’s talk about how much this mini-bed will get used in the first months.

The answer is a lot. Babies one to two months old will sleep 16 hours a day, in one- to two-hour increments.

As they get older, the amount of sleep they need decreases a bit, but they still take tons of naps. With all of that napping, it’s going to be important to come up with a predictable, easy routine that you can do again and again, with the least muss and fuss.

Although every new parent’s naptime routine may be a bit different, there are a few things that are non-negotiable, when it comes to sleep safety.

  • Be sure when putting baby down for a nap that their bassinet is completely clear. That means no soft bedding or blankets, toys, or anything else that could pose a danger.
  • You also always want to put your little one down on their back, as this is the only safe position for sleep.

Now that you know why a bassinet is best, and you’ve reviewed a few safe sleep tips, let’s try to better understand why a baby would have trouble getting their zzz’s in the bassinet in the first place.

Reasons Your Baby Won’t Sleep In Their Bassinet

There are several reasons why your baby might be resistant to getting their needed shut-eye. If your baby won’t sleep in their bassinet, the first step is to pinpoint the problem.

They Are Uncomfortable

Your baby may raise a fuss about being put down in their bassinet, but it could have less to do with the bassinet itself and more to do with their general discomfort.

If your baby is under the weather or dealing with gas, sleep might be hard to come by. Period.

Add to that the fact that your arms are more comforting than a bassinet, and it all makes sense. That brings us to our next point.

You Are More Comfortable

Mom holding a baby that won't sleep in bassinet

Your baby knows how comforting and comfortable you are. They love to be cozy in your arms, on your chest, or in a carrier where they are snuggled up close to you.

Simply put, being in your arms is more comfy, cozy, and comforting than being a bassinet.

Habits Are Hard To Break

Your baby thinks you’re great, and the feeling is mutual!

There’s nothing better than having your snuggly, sleeping baby in your arms. However, this could also mean that your baby is simply in the habit of sleeping while being held or rocked.

If you have a hard time putting your sweet one down, they may have learned to fall asleep in your arms. That means learning to fall asleep elsewhere — specifically, the bassinet — will take a little effort.

Your Baby Has The Terrible Toos

You’ve heard of the terrible twos, but what about the terrible toos? If your little one’s sleep space is too much of something they don’t like, they may be asking you in the only way they can to please change it.

If your baby won’t sleep in their bassinet, find out if one of the below toos is to blame.

Too Hot Or Too Cold

This one’s simple: Look at the temperature to see if your baby is telling you it’s too hot or too cold in the nursery. Who wants to fall asleep shivering or sweating? Not your little one!

Too Bright

It could be too bright in the nursery. Although the shades are drawn, the room may be too light. Seeing that it’s daytime outside can be confusing for your little one.

Too Loud Or Too Quiet

Think of your baby like Goldilocks. The nursery may be too loud or too quiet. Like the baby bear’s bed, they want it to be just right.

Your Baby’s Needs Are Not Met

Just as it would be hard for you to fall asleep with a hungry tummy, it can also be hard for your baby to snooze if their basic needs are not met. This applies whether they are sleeping in their bassinet, on the go, or in their crib.

If your baby is hungry or they have a wet or dirty diaper, settling down might be difficult.

The Startle Reflex Appears

Newborn babies have a startle reflex called the Moro reflex. While this is a good and normal reflex, sometimes it can startle them awake when you put your sleeping baby down in the bassinet.

Your Little One Is Overtired

For parents who are searching for tricks to get their little one to sleep, it can be tempting to keep your baby up to try to make them extra tired.

If they’re exhausted, they’ll fall asleep and sleep like a baby, right? Not necessarily.

If your baby is overtired, it may actually be harder in the long run to get them to calm down and fall asleep.

Your Baby Is Undertired

Babies don’t only get overtired; they can also be undertired. This means they are not ready for a nap. Think about when they napped last. Maybe it’s just too soon.

Your Anxiety Is Contagious

Every time you hear them rustle or cry, do you go running to the crib to pick them up? We get it: You’re a new parent. But all of this attention could be getting in the way of your baby’s sleep.

Little ones are sensitive, and they can react to your emotions. If you’re nervous or anxious, they will pick up on that and feel nervous or anxious, too. If you’re calm and collected, there’s a better chance that they’ll follow suit.

baby won't sleep in bassinet

For any combination of the above reasons, your baby won’t sleep in their bassinet. No problem, right? If your baby won’t snooze in a bassinet, isn’t it fine to let them sleep wherever they want? As we mentioned earlier: no.

The safest place for your baby to sleep for naps and nighttime is not in your arms, on your chest, or in a swing, but in their bassinet or crib. You can read more about baby sleep safety here.

That said, let’s jump straight into what to do if your baby won’t sleep in the bassinet, whatever the reason.

What To Do If Your Baby Won’t Sleep In Their Bassinet

baby won't sleep in bassinet

Provide A Safe Place To Sleep

Resist the urge to make your baby’s bassinet more “cozy” or “appealing.” Blankets, pillows, crib bumpers, and stuffed animals may be cute and seem comfy, but it’s not safe for your little one to sleep with them.

For the safest sleep, the only things that should go in your baby’s bed are a firm mattress, a fitted sheet, and, of course, your little one. Yep, that’s all!

For ultimate comfort, go with a cute (and safe) fitted sheet with Newton Baby Organic Cotton Sheets. Our organic muslin cotton is certified to the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS), soft, machine-washable, and 100% breathable. Newton Baby Organic Cotton Sheets

Sleep With Your Baby’s Sheet

Speaking of your baby’s crib sheet, here’s another tip. To help your baby love their bassinet, try sleeping with your baby’s crib sheet (yes, you) before making their bed with it.

This will provide your little one with the comforting scent of you as they doze off.

Make Your Baby Comfortable

For the best chance of success getting your baby to sleep in their bassinet, make sure they are comfortable and their basic needs are met. Put them to bed with a full belly.

You’ll also want to check the temperature in the room. While there’s no hard and fast rule, somewhere between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit is recommended for a sleeping baby.

And, as far as the clothes your baby wears to sleep, one layer more than you are wearing typically does the trick. For example, dress them in pajamas and then wrap them in a swaddle or put them in a sleep sack. Choose breathable materials for maximum comfort.

Do not cover their head with a hat as it can cause them to overheat and can be dangerous.

As for their bed itself being comfortable, remember that a firm mattress is the safest way to go. But firm doesn’t have to mean uncomfortable! When your baby graduates from their bassinet to their crib, put them to sleep on a Newton Baby breathable Crib Mattress.

Newton Baby breathable Crib Mattress

This innovative mattress is made of 90% air and 10% material that yogurt cups are made of, providing just the right firmness for babies and comfort for toddlers.

Plus, it’s certified for low chemical emissions and much more breathable than leading organic mattresses.

Create A Bedtime Routine

Dad holding baby

It’s never too early to start a bedtime routine! When you stick to the same activities before bedtime every night, your baby and their body will start to clue into the fact that it’s time to settle down and snooze.

Your baby’s bedtime routine could include putting pajamas on, a gentle baby massage, reading a book, singing a song, and a goodnight kiss. You want to do this before every nap as well.

Change Baby’s Diaper

As we mentioned earlier, your baby could be having a hard time sleeping thanks to a wet diaper. It’s best to change their diaper a little before nap time so that they’re more comfortable.

Get A White Noise Machine

The best thing to do for a sound-sensitive tot is to get a white noise machine. A noise machine will replicate the sound of the womb, making them calmer, and helping them fall asleep faster.

Try A Blackout Curtain

If your baby is reluctant to sleep because the sun is streaming into their room, try a blackout curtain to block the light. This will prevent your little one from being overstimulated, and lessen the likelihood of them waking up early.

Some blackout curtains can regulate temperature as well.

Warm The Bassinet

We all know the feeling of crawling into bed and being surprised by how cold the sheets are. Babies like cozy beds, so if the sheets are chilly, you might want to warm them with a heating pad or maybe give them a quick spin in the dryer.

Just be careful to turn the heating pad off before putting your little one down so it doesn’t get too hot while they are sleeping.

Wind Down The House

What are you doing once you put your baby down for a nap? Do you nap, too? Or do you turn on lights, music, or the TV?

It might be that your little one hears you up and about and wonders what they’re missing out on. It’s best to keep a quiet house to give the best chances of a successful rest.

Swaddle Your Baby

To help combat the startle reflex and the possibility of your little one waking when you put them in the bassinet, wrap your baby like a burrito. Just make sure baby’s hips are loose and flexed.

Swaddling not only helps to calm the startle reflex but can also play a part in regulating your baby’s body temperature, prevent them from scratching, and help them sleep.

If you have no idea where to start when it comes to wrapping your little one, read our article here. Which brings us to an important safety point: Once your little one can roll over, it’s time to stop swaddling.

Swaddled baby yawning

Set Them Down Feet First

You may be cuddling with your baby and then poof they’re asleep. If this happens, don’t put them down right away. Wait until they’re in a deeper sleep and then slip them feet first into the bassinet.

Watch For Sleep Cues

If your baby is pitching a fit about being put in their bassinet, you’ll want to do everything you can to facilitate sleep in general.

Avoid an overtired baby by putting your little one to bed when they begin to show signs of being tired — these signs are called sleep cues.

It’s important to learn your baby’s particular sleep cues, such as jerky movements or waving their arms and legs, yawning, crying easily, losing interest, or fussing.

Mom touching baby through a bedside bassinet

Put Your Baby Down Drowsy

Help your baby get used to falling asleep by themselves (and in their bassinet) by putting them in bed when they are drowsy but still haven’t quite dozed off. This gives them the chance to fall asleep when they are in their bed rather than in your arms.

Of course, your newborn still needs to be comforted when they are having a hard time! That brings us to the next point.

Comfort Your Baby

When your baby fusses about being in their bassinet, comfort them. Pat them, gently rub them on their tummy, and assure them that you’re there.

Give your little one a minute to see if they will settle with just the touch of your hand.

Try A Baby Massage

You may want to try infant massage in order to help your baby relax and sleep better. When massaged, babies release oxytocin, which calms and soothes them. Massage also causes the stress hormone cortisol to decrease and sleep-regulating hormones like melatonin to increase.

Both mom and dad can be the masseuse — it’s a great idea for extra bonding. Be sure to follow your baby’s lead with this and be extra gentle. Start from the feet and the legs and work up. If you’re not sure what this should look like, find a class in your area or ask your local hospital.

Try A Pacifier

If an infant massage doesn’t do the trick and they’re still fussy, you might want to try a pacifier. They’re not recommended for the first couple of weeks because you want your little one to adapt to their nursing routine.

But once that’s settled, the sucking action of a paci can be very calming.

Determine If It’s Acid Reflux

Your baby might be having a hard time settling down because they are suffering from acid reflux. This generally feels worse when lying down, as stomach acid can move back up the wrong way into their esophagus, throat, or to the back of their mouth.

One way to protect against reflux is to not put them down until 20-30 minutes after feeding them. You should also burp them well before setting them down to sleep.

If you have concerns that your baby’s sleeping troubles could have to do with reflux or illness, talk with your pediatrician.

If your baby deals with something like reflux, this can make them extra uncomfortable, which may mean they have a harder time leaving your arms to sleep in their bassinet.

Back To Sleep In The Bassinet

If your baby won’t sleep in their bassinet, nights can be long and nap times can be frustrating. Remember there are several possible reasons that your baby is putting up a fuss.

Do what you can to help them rest easy in their bassinet by following the tips we listed in this article. Create a bedtime routine, make sure the bedroom is sleep-ready, watch for sleep cues, put them down drowsy, comfort them, and calm their startle reflex.

baby sleeping in bassinet

A Newton Baby breathable bassinet and bedside sleeper is an excellent choice for an easy, safe sleep space during those first months when sleep is so important. It features the same Wovenaire® technology as our award-winning crib mattress and can even be used for travel.

And don’t forget to make safety a priority by keeping the bassinet free of anything except a mattress, fitted sheet, and your little one! When they make the switch from a bassinet to a crib, provide them with comfort and safety with Newton Baby’s breathable Crib Mattress.

With the tips in this article and a little luck, you’ll soon be putting your sweet one back to sleep in their bassinet.

Sweet dreams, baby!

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