How to Get Your Newborn to Sleep in a Bassinet (Tips from a Sleep Consultant)

Bassinets can be a convenient place for your newborn to take a nap during the day or snooze overnight. But, what if they don’t want anything to do with it? A sleep consultant shares tips to get your newborn to sleep in a bassinet.

It can feel overwhelming as a new mom when your sweet little bundle only wants you as their sleep space, not their bassinet. While soaking in those contact naps with their sweet smell is bliss, it is also important to balance time for you and prioritize safe sleep.

During the day, we can wear our little newborns and hold them while we’re awake but come nighttime, when we need our sleep as well, we want to know we have a safe space to lay them to rest; one of those places is their bassinet. 

mom putting her newborn to sleep in her bassinet

Why won’t my newborn sleep in his bassinet?

Newborns can be pretty selective about where they sleep, and their bassinet may need to be added to that list of preferred places.

One way to help your newborn accept their bassinet is by using their senses to help comfort them when it comes to soothing them and supporting sleep. Here are some ways to support them in accepting their bassinet as their sleep space.

6 tips to get your newborn to sleep in a bassinet

1. Surround them with your scent

Scent can be a powerful tool to help elicit a memory or emotion; think of a scent that, when you smell, brings you joy and comfort.

The same is true for your newborn, which means your scent can help them feel safe and secure in their sleep space when they’re not on you. 

But how to do this without you being right in their bassinet? Try these steps out to transfer your scent to their space:

  1. Take their fitted bassinet sheet,
  2. Place it under your clothes (don’t worry if your milk gets on it),
  3. After some time with it than place it on their bassinet mattress,
  4. Every couple of days, retransfer your scent. 

2. Warm their space before sleeping

There’s nothing better than cuddling up on their parent and feeling warm skin on their skin. One way to replicate your temperature that lulls them to sleep and helps provide warmth to them is by warming up their bed.

Use a heating pad or warm water bottle to warm the bassinet for them, so when you transfer them, they are lying down in a warm space instead of being startled by coldness.

Place the heating pad or water bottle on the mattress as you complete your sleep routine, remove it from the bed and immediately feel it. Again, we want the surface to be warm, not hot. 

mom putting her baby down in a bassinet

3. Be aware of the lighting 

Newborn sight is clear around three months, then 20/20 vision around six months; this means they may only be able to see things around them if they’re close; however, one thing they can see is shadows and light. 

One way to support night sleep in the bassinet is to make the room dark, like cave-like darkness; this can help the body learn the difference between day and night.

During the day, have the bassinet out in a common area close to where you will be, and have it bright to signal it is daytime (don’t worry, newborns are not affected by light, similar to older babies)

4. Use your touch to soothe

Transfering your newborn to their bassinet can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be this overwhelming process. We recommend early on to transfer them completely asleep and to use your touch to help support them to sleep and stay asleep in the bassinet. 

When laying them down, put them down their bum first, then back, legs, and head. Another option is holding them close and gently rolling them from their side onto their back. 

After they are lying in the bassinet, immediately place your hand on their chest, firm but not hard, so that they can feel you. If they begin to fuss, immediately shush and rub/pat/gently jiggle them back to sleep.

During sleep, if their bassinet is next to you during naps beside the couch or next to your bed for nighttime sleep, you can have your hand on them or hold their hand to help them feel safe by your touch. 

baby playing in a bassinet

5. Use a sound machine and natural sound

It’s all in the small details that help make a big difference in sleep. For example, having a sound near your newborn can help them stay asleep as it mimics the womb for them. The womb was a loud place with the sounds of your blood whooshing by, your heartbeat pitter-pattering, and your stomach growling. 

Silence is not your newborn’s BFF; believe it or not, the sound is. So during the day, don’t worry about tip-toeing around and not making sounds, have their bassinet in the most common place you will be, such as the living room.

During the night, use a sound machine that plays white, pink, or brown noise or other sounds such as water or rain that is a constant sound and does not have peaks and valleys in the tone to avoid waking them. 

Keep the sound machine at least 5-10 feet away from them, and have the sound level no louder than 50-55 decibels to help protect their hearing. We recommend having the sound machine on for the entire nighttime sleep and for naps (if you want to use it for naps)

Final thoughts on getting your baby to sleep in a bassinet

Lastly, something essential to know is that while some newborns will take a liking to their bassinet immediately, other newborns must be warmed up to the idea that it is an excellent place to be. As you move through these early months, remember that sleep is about progress over perfection. 

Some days your newborn will rock sleeping in their bassinet, while other days, they will crave your skin-to-skin and warmth; both are 100% okay. Take one nap at a time and one wake-up at a time. 

If your newborn does not like their bassinet, there is nothing wrong with them; they may strongly prefer to be with the person they were attached to for ten months or heard while in the womb. 

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Kensey Butkevich

Mom/Co-founder and CEO of Sleep Easy Clinic

Kensey is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Certified Child Sleep Consultant with over 12 years of clinical experience in parent coaching. She empowers parents in supporting their children's sleep needs, considering a child's temperament, development, and parent values and goals. Kensey believes that sleep shaping is about helping children in a way that complements their unique progressions so you can feel rested, not stressed. She lives in Ontario, Canada, with her son and partner.

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