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Help baby learn to sleep in a bassinet with these expert sleep tips

baby sleeping in bassinet with zen sack premier on

The joy of bringing your baby home to a nursery you spent months making just perfect - is really exciting! I know firsthand the magical feeling of cradling their sweet little head in your arms, rocking and swaying them to sleep. Those memories I will cherish forever.

Then I laid her down in her carefully-researched, highly-recommended bassinet and the whole neighborhood knew: She was not having it. Despite my best efforts, there was absolutely no way my baby was going to sleep in a bassinet. 

Naturally, the early magical snuggles turned into severe sleep deprivation and I knew this wasn’t sustainable long-term. The whole household desperately needed sleep. Real, rejuvenating sleep.

In this article, we’re going to talk about the importance of baby sleeping in a bassinet, potential reasons why your baby may be refusing to sleep in a bassinet and share solutions (hooray) so you can finally catch those zzz’s.

Why sleeping in a bassinet is important

baby sleeping in zen one in a bassinet

Sleeping in a bassinet is important for newborns because it is safe and helps them develop healthy, sustainable sleep habits.

Safety

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents put their baby down to sleep in a crib, cradle or bassinet with a firm mattress covered only by a fitted sheet: No soft blankets, pillows or stuffed animals. The AAP also recommends that babies share a room with mom and dad - but not the same bed - for at least six months.

Sleep habits

Babies are used to the rocking motion of the womb which explains why they don't want to be alone. They prefer having you close by, for comfort and security. However, some babies will become so accustomed to sleeping in their parent’s arms that they don’t know how to fall asleep when placed on their own into the bassinet.

Sleep deprivation

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) reports that only 10% of new parents get adequate rest each night. This is due in large part because either baby is up crying, nursing or you're lying awake worrying.

Sleep deprivation puts new parents at risk for developing anxiety, postpartum depression and...mommy brain (that actually explains a lot.)

Causes: Why baby won't sleep in a bassinet

Because babies can’t verbally express what’s wrong, their cries can indicate a number of things. Often, what's upsetting them is unrelated to the bassinet itself. Here are five possible causes why a baby won't sleep in a bassinet.

Seeking Comfort

Your baby may be experiencing reflux or gas, which will give them trouble while laying on their back. This explains why when you lay them in the bassinet, the shrill siren sounds.

A comfortable baby is a happy baby. When getting your little one to sleep in a bassinet, you want to make sure they’re as comfortable as possible. A big part of that is creating a cozy sleeping space in their bassinet.  - Wonder Baby

Note: A little gas and spit up is to be expected as your baby’s digestive system is learning the works. But, we encourage you to speak with your physician about safe sleeping options if you suspect your baby is experiencing colic or reflux.

Startle Reflex

The Moro reflex, also known as the startle reflex, is a baby's natural response to sudden movement, loud noises or drop in altitude - like being placed in their bassinet. As the baby gets older (month 5 or 6) this reflex goes away.

Read more about the moro reflex and how swaddling can help.

Environment

Consider your baby's sleeping environment. If there is too much noise or if it's too quiet, they will have a difficult time going to sleep, just as we do. The lights are too bright, the room is too hot, the mattress is uncomfortable...all of these things can contribute to restlessness.

Day or night

Believe it or not, we are not born automatically knowing that night is for sleeping and day is for being awake. That is something we learn as our bodies naturally sync to our environment. An unpredictable household schedule may cause a baby to refuse sleep.

Sleep regression

If you find that your once good sleeper is suddenly refusing to lay down or waking frequently during the night this may be due to a very normal problem called a sleep regression. The most common sleep regression occurs between 8 weeks old and 5 months old.

If you suspect this may be why your baby is suddenly refusing to sleep, check out our 10 tips for surviving the 4 month sleep regression.

Solutions: How to get baby to sleep in a bassinet

baby sleeping in zen swaddle premier in a bassinet

Try not to get discouraged when your baby won’t sleep in a bassinet right away. While there are no quick fixes, there are ways to help your baby feel safe and secure in their new home. Here are some tips on how to get baby to sleep in a bassinet.

Comfort

It is totally normal for your baby to want to be in your arms at night. They did just spend 9 months being carried in mom’s womb and hearing dad's voice. As they grow older, babies will become more independent. 

In the meantime, you can help your baby get used to sleeping in a bassinet by sleeping with the mattress sheet for a few nights. Keeping your scent nearby may help them feel close to you. You can also try a gently weighted swaddle to keep baby snug and comforted. Nested Bean’s Zen Neo™ is specifically designed to ease transition from womb to world.

Prep the space

Sleeping in a cool, quiet and dark room helps babies to associate those conditions with sleep. Consider positioning the bassinet away from the window and keeping the bedroom temperature between 68° and 72°F. 

In addition, you’ll want to keep the bedroom quiet and calm by removing any electronic devices and distractions. If you have noisy neighbors, or rambunctious siblings, you may want to pick up a white noise machine. White noise machines are great baby sleep aids - or as I like to call them sanity savers. If you live in an urban environment, don't forget the blackout curtains. Blackout curtains will block artificial and natural light from streaming through the windows.

How to lay your baby down

After you have finished their nighttime feeding, changed their diaper and wrapped them in a swaddle, it’s time to get your newborn to sleep. Aim to lay your baby in the bassinet while they are drowsy, but still awake. 

To do so, lower your little snug bug into the crib feet first, placing their bum down and then lay his/her head down. You know that old summer camp “trust fall” game where you trust your friend to catch you when you fall backwards. That falling sensation is what babies feel when you put them down headfirst in their bassinet, yikes. So remember, bum first - head last.

Once your baby is in the crib, don’t rock the bassinet immediately. Instead, sing, speak, or read to soothe your baby with your voice. They’ve heard your voice for months, your voice is calming and lets them know you’re still present. Reserve rocking the bassinet for when they need extra comfort and soothing instead of building a sleep habit that’s dependent on it.

Baby won't sleep in bassinet: Key takeaways

Just in case you’re as blurry-eyed as I was those first few months - here's a quick recap of the main points this article addressed for how to get a baby to sleep in a bassinet:

  • Keep your scent nearby.
  • Cool, quiet, and dark room.
  • White noise machine.
  • A weighted swaddle is your best friend.
  • Bum first - head last.

Other Resources

Food and Drug Administration: Do Not Use Infant Sleep Positioners Due to the Risk of Suffocation

American Academy of Pediatrics: Safe Sleep

Mayo Clinic: Toddler Health

Athena S.

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