The newborn phase is challenging, particularly since your little one wants to sleep only on you. Here’s how to get your baby to sleep in a bassinet, rather than being held in your arms. If you’re reading this one-handed while your newborn is snoring on your chest and you’re desperate to go pee/relieve your sore neck/feed your growing stomach, or lay down and rest a bit, you’re in the right place! You need to learn how to get your newborn to sleep in his bassinet.
Moments like these are of course worth cherishing, and you do cherish them. But wouldn’t it be lovely if your sweet angel would take a nap in that beautiful bassinet you carefully selected? Every now and then?
You are almost done trying because you never succeed in transferring your baby to a bassinet, and your newborn wakes up as soon as you put him down. Those tiny eyes pop open, beseeching you to hold them against your chest or to nestle them into your arm. Then you continue to sit, motionless with your coffee out of reach and your neck awkwardly pushed to one side, sweating under that tiny furnace of a human….and you wait.
But, no need to be alarmed, there are finally some solutions that work. If you’ve been struggling to get your newborn to sleep in a bassinet, this post will give you the solution. So, keep reading this and grasp the knowledge we are going to provide you. C’mon, let’s dive to get that knowledge!
My Newborn Won’t Sleep In A Bassinet – Why?
First, we will examine what makes your baby prefer to sleep in your arms rather than a bassinet. When you consider these reasons, the bassinet will seem unfair. It is all to do with the stark contrast between the pre-birth environment of your baby and the world in which it will grow up.
- Inside you: Warm and coiled inside, your baby was soothed by the constant rhythmic sounds of your body in the pitch black.
- Out in the big wide world: You expose your child to bright lights, cold drafts, and just so much freedom to flail his or her arms and legs. Added to that, lots of smells.
The bassinet probably resides in a cozy and warm room, and you probably dim the lights for a calm baby-induced environment. But, the feeling of warmth and snugness in your arms, the sensation of your beating heart, and the rise and fall of your chest, on the other hand, is a far cry.
To answer the tricky question of how to get your baby to sleep or nap without holding them, you need to try to mimic those calming and soothing sensations that kept the baby so happy in the womb. Later, we’ll discuss what exactly these are like.
How The “Fourth Trimester” Impacts The Ability Of The Baby To Sleep And Fall Asleep
You say you are in the fourth trimester, aren’t you? Yes, your newborn’s world has been turned upside down at birth, but it’s widely thought that he or she would have done better staying in the womb for an extra three months. By doing so, more time can be allocated to development, resulting in a smoother transition.
The baby needs constant nourishment and nurturing during the first three months, which is commonly known as the “newborn phase“. In the fourth trimester, which is an extension of gestation outside the womb, the baby requires almost constant care. Dr. Karp, a well-known pediatrician, coined the term “fourth trimester” to describe this period.
Based on the developmental progress a newborn makes during this period, this early entry into the world poses a considerable challenge to the baby, as well as to the mom (Although we probably won’t be leaping to our feet and running away from predators at the 3-month mark, it’s a start…)
In the first few days after birth, the baby has difficulty concentrating and tracking objects
Within 3 months: Objects and people can be focused on, followed, and recognized
Movement and coordination
At birth, newborns’ reflexes provide controlled movement when they are exposed to certain stimuli, but another movement is erratic by nature, with no coordination
Three months old: Can use hands and eyes in coordination – clasping and grasping, bringing hands to mouth – can raise head when lying on stomach and support it when lying on the back.
Tears are a means of communicating needs at birth.
Babies learn to smile when they’re happy, imitate, and babble within three months (the first signs of learning to talk), and show a “windy” smile before they’re socially smiling.
At birth the newborn has irregular sleep patterns (short naps, long naps, and everything in between), a lot of “active” sleep (the equivalent of REM sleep in adults when the brain does a lot of activity), so the baby is easily woken, and the baby drifts from a nap to nap with ease.
During the third and fourth months, the baby’s sleep pattern becomes more predictable; cycles have a little less “active” sleep, however, he or she is likely to enter full consciousness between cycles (so sleep often regresses during this maturation).
Self-Soothing (A baby’s ability to soothe himself when distressed and to settle himself to sleep)
At birth: Baby may need help to soothe himself if upset, and will frequently need help falling asleep and re-sleeping after waking up.
About 3 months: baby starts to soothe himself (by actively sucking on fingers, thumbs, pacifiers, and turning head away, and staring into space) and falls asleep by himself (although it may take some encouragement at first).
Why do young babies have such a difficult time getting through the fourth trimester?
Well think about it for a moment: if you thought childbirth was tough, can you imagine the extra 3 months of growth before you actually get started? Neither could I imagine it. It’s inevitable that we’ll have to take an early exit due to those big brains we have.
How To Get A Newborn To Sleep? — The Principles Of Settling & Soothing
As a new parent, you may be anxious to know whether you should place your newborn in a bassinet instead of your arms. Also, how can you prevent him from waking up while you lay him down? But, you must first understand how exactly to recreate those womb-like sensations that soothe, calm, and help settle a baby to sleep. Getting your baby to sleep anywhere you choose, including in a bassinet, starts with this.
Sensation by sensation – Calming and soothing versus stimulating and irritating
During pregnancy, the baby is exposed to almost no light.
Soothing on the eyes
Muted colors, soft pastels, and low lighting.
While bright colors or bright lights irritate newborns, they enjoy looking at shapes or contrasting images (particularly faces), and they will learn to focus by doing so.
The sound of your heartbeat and the gurgling, whooshing inside your body is clearly heard by the baby inside you. It is said to be a bit noisier than a vacuum cleaner.
Rhythmic sounds and white noise of a dull consistency.
Loud noises and irregular sounds can irritate and stimulate.
During pregnancy, the baby is enclosed in the warm and cozy confines of the womb.
Deep-touch pressure, especially to the back, but at a comfortable temperature.
- Rough textures
- Soft touches
- A light breeze
- Hot and cold touches
- Unfamiliar touches
During pregnancy, the baby is constantly moved and rocked with both large movements when you move around and smaller movements 24/7 as your diaphragm contracts and expands when you breathe.
The gentle, rhythmical movements will be soothing, especially when positioned on the front or side.
A jerky movement or an irregular one will also irritate.
TASTE AND SMELL
Amniotic fluid has a neutral scent and flavor that becomes familiar to the baby.
Soothing taste and smell
The sweet taste of breast or formula milk.
Mother and mother’s milk (or before mother’s milk comes in, colostrum, which is the precursor to milk), father’s scent, and even the baby’s own smell and saliva.
Smells that are new and different will stimulate your baby, but can also irritate him. You might notice that your baby suckles more, cries more, or breathes faster if there is an especially strong or unpleasant smell.
The baby only drinks milk, so it doesn’t matter what the taste is.
As the baby grew, the position of the baby in the womb altered and obscured, mostly side-lying and stomach-lying. When nearing delivery the baby usually moves to the head-down position.
Positions such as side or stomach lying are most similar to the position a baby was in during pregnancy, and also reduce discomfort from gassiness.
Irritating or stimulating positions
The recommendation is to “Back to Sleep” since lying on the front and side sleeping increases your risk of SIDS.
Laying on the stomach to soothe and calm is only appropriate when the child is asleep. Then, gently roll him onto his back.
While sucking is not a sense in itself, it does combine several soothing sensations that can be very effective at soothing and settling a baby. Finger and thumb sucking can start as early as before birth, which is incredible.
As the fingers and thumbs come into contact with the mouth, the rooting and sucking reflexes are stimulated. Added the taste of breastmilk and the smell of mom/another caregiver close by bringing you that liquid gold makes that sucking motion very calming and soothing.
Getting your Newborn to Sleep in his Bassinet – A Simple Guide!
#1 Swaddle – A burrito-like wrapping
After being tightly curled up in your womb for so long, your baby will feel very insecure when you give him or her complete freedom of arms and legs. The baby feels calmer and more relaxed when swaddled due to the restriction of movement and deep pressure touch. In this way, you re-create the cocooning feeling babies experience in the womb.
In addition, swaddling has a secondary function: it prevents the Moro reflex, a newborn reflex that has little practical use in modern life and can wake your baby in an instant.
It is definitely possible that your newborn can wake up as soon as you place him down in the bassinet if he is not swaddled neatly and snugly. Therefore, get swaddling!
Tips for swaddling
- An effective swaddle should be snug and secure with just enough room for 2 fingers to fit at the chest
- Practice on a friend’s baby, a doll, or while your own baby sleeps.
- Swaddling new babies often sends them into a fit of hysteria, but that doesn’t mean they dislike it. Once you have the sling on snugly and securely, you should find that the baby calms immediately.
- When swaddling your tiny escape artist, make sure the arms are straight and flat to the baby’s side, or try double swaddling
- Are you constantly mucking up your baby’s burritos? Try a fancy swaddle that does all the work for you – there are plenty of options available.
- Swaddling that is hip-healthy must allow plenty of movement around the hips and legs.
#2 Make sure the sleep environment is conducive to the baby’s sleep
As a way to mimic the visual and auditory sensations experienced in the womb, the nursery, or room where the bassinet is placed, should be pitch black with white noise.
Dark enough for you to not even see your hand in front of you, in other words, pitch black. Since the baby came from a dark place, the dark is comforting. Even in the daytime, the baby needs to sleep in a pitch-black room – it won’t interfere with their learning the difference between day and night.
The white noise is the best at replicating your baby’s womb experience in terms of intensity and type of sound.
White noise, however, does not all equal itself; it needs to:
- Low-pitched (think the low rumble and monotonous drone of the car engine).
- But loud around 60-75 decibels (think of a vacuum cleaner or a loud shower).
Streaming services like Apple Music and YouTube have plenty of white noise options specifically designed to calm, soothe and create a perfect noisy sleep zone for babies.
Here’s one from YouTube. Don’t forget to turn it up!
White noise machines are available too.
#3 A good wind-down routine is essential
You want to wind down your baby for a few minutes before a nap or sleep time, or when you see signs of fatigue in the baby. A wind-down can be short and sweet, calm and relaxing, and something that you can repeat so that over time, it will help your baby realize when it’s time to sleep.
Getting baby nicely wrapped up is the first step to setting up the dream sleep zone:
- As you wind down, take the baby to the bedroom where he will sleep, or another calm place, keeping the lights dim.
- Change diaper if necessary
- Swaddle baby
- Turn the white noise on
- Add a bath to your wind-down once you’ve started bathing your baby daily – the above steps would proceed from the bath.
Additionally, use motion and scent that provide soothing sensations to baby, as well as allow him to suck, if he’s a sucky baby who enjoys it:
- It’s almost certain you’ll be rocking baby, swinging and swaying, and holding him close anyway since motherly instinct leads us to do these things naturally.
- Provide a final breastfeed, bottle feed, or pacifier to the baby.
It is okay to do this as long as your baby is still awake but drifting off or until he is fully asleep.
There’s no need to worry about sleep associations building during the fourth trimester – these only form after the baby’s sleep begins to mature at the 3-4 month mark.
The final step:
- Put the baby in his bassinet, say good night, and leave his room quickly, quietly, and stealthily.
Of course, this is where you are coming unstuck – but this is what you are aiming for and you’ll get there.
#4 Try triggering the “Calming Reflex”
Oftentimes, standard wind-down techniques won’t work with a fussy, uncomfortable, or overtired newborn baby. In other words, you might get your baby to sleep in your arms perfectly well, but he will wake up as soon as you put him down.
A combination of touch, sound, visuals, taste, smell, and positioning causes the so-called “calming reflex,” which quickly calms and soothes even the fussiest babies. This reflex is thought to have been switched on throughout the womb, keeping the baby alert and fuss-free.
Now that your newborn is here, you simply need to find the on button. Sounds simple, right? Surprisingly, it usually is.
Dr. Karp’s 5 S’s
The five simple steps, referred to as the 5 S’s by Harvey Karp, should trigger a newborn’s calming reflex when performed in certain sequences and ways. Basically, it sends the baby into a trance, which calms them instantly and induces sleep.
Here are the 5s:
- Side or stomach position
Those magical sleep zones and calming moments involve swaddling, shushing (by making white noise), swinging motions, and sucking. Despite this, Karp’s swing is incredibly precise.
Swinging or “Jell-O head jiggling”
Slow, gentle movements won’t suffice to calm a fussy baby, Dr. Karp says, but small, quick movements will. He calls this maneuver the Jell-O head jiggle:
“Many babies find that Jell-O’s head jiggle (like a bobblehead) calms them down. When doing so, always support your head/neck, keep your motions small, and do not move more than one inch back and forth.”
The 5 S’s might work so well in settling your baby to sleep that you’ll be able to transfer him to his bassinet more easily. If not, do not fear – there are more things to try.
To Get Your Baby To Sleep In His Bassinet, Put Up The Soothing Within It
#5 Put your and your baby’s scents in the bassinet
In accordance with the safe sleep recommendation, there should be no loose items in the bassinet, you can easily add your familiar scent to the bassinet by using an unwashed pillowcase or a large shirt you have as an extra sheet within the bassinet. Your baby will be lying on top of the burp sheet, so you should wrap it around the sides.
If your baby spits up a lot or suffers from reflux, the top sheet can also be used as a burp cloth. Rather than having to change the whole sheet, you can usually just replace the top sheet, the pillowcase, or even the T-shirt.
Your Baby’s Smell
Not only do babies find mom and dad’s smell soothing and comforting, but their own smell can also do the trick. Here the trick is to not overwash the bedclothes and jammies of your little one.
You definitely do not want sour milk smelting in your bassinet, but a few dribbles here and there can provide that familiarity the baby needs to sleep. Furthermore, ease your baby into the bassinet at other non-sleep times. This will allow him to transfer a bit more of his bodily functions into the bassinet and also help him get acquainted with the specific environment.
#6 Try warming the bassinet with a washcloth
In spite of a nice cozy swaddle, the lack of your warmth could contribute to your baby waking up soon after you put him down. If you plan to transfer the baby, please warm the bassinet with a hot water bottle before doing so – The hot water bottle must be removed before placing the baby into the bassinet.
What if you don’t have time for a hot water bottle? The most critical part of a coolish bassinet will be where the baby’s head lies, which is bare. Washcloths can be of great assistance in these situations.
You can place a small washable wipe between your hand and baby’s head while he is falling asleep in your arms, head in your hand – the wipe will be warm in your hands. Whenever you transfer a baby, slide your hand from under the head and leave the warm wipes in the bassinet. But, you must remove these items before leaving the room. Let the baby settle in the bassinet, warm it up with his own body heat before removing the wipe.
#7 After the baby is placed in the bassinet, raise his legs into a fetal position
In order to reduce the risk of SIDS, the back sleep position is essential. However, if you encourage your child to adopt a fetal position, he should be a little more comfortable and less likely to wake up.
Keep loose objects out of the bassinet as another key safe sleep guideline for your newborn – this is tricky, but important if you’re trying to figure out how to get your infant to sleep without being held. Put a towel inside the swaddle, folded into a square, under your baby’s legs.
This is the hardest part of the maneuver since you can only do it easily once the baby is sleeping in the bassinet, and you are not guaranteed to get to this point. In addition to putting it inside the swaddle, you may choose to place it under it, so that it is a loose item in the bassinet. You’ll have to stay nearby for the duration of the nap, in that case.
Pointless! It seems like not much of an advantage for a baby to sleep in your arms, right? It will only take a few days for your baby to become accustomed to sleeping in the bassinet, after that, the towel can be removed.
#8 For extra deep pressure, try a sack of dry rice
On Pinterest, one can see a few pictures of this one in use – a rubber glove filled with dry rice lying on top of a sleeping baby, free of the mother’s arms. A fully enveloped hold or a hand resting on the baby is mimicked by the dry rice, which intensifies the deep pressure touch. So, this one is a must-try if your baby wakes up when you remove your hand from him or from separation anxiety.
Despite the fact that it makes a great picture, the rubber glove is not necessary – an unopened or partially opened and a well-sealed bag of rice wrapped in a towel works just fine. In any case, this is definitely an instance where safe sleep guidelines must be disregarded, so you will need to be patient for a few days and wait until the child starts sleeping in the bassinet regularly.
#9 Give the tissue trick a go
This is a bit random – and there’s no way to make the bassinet more comfortable or more womb-like, either. The fact is, I am not entirely sure why or how this works, but I had to add it when I stumbled upon it by chance. As such, for whatever reason, a tissue placed over a newborn’s face is often effective at putting the baby to sleep.
Watch the video to find out how.
Products That Can Help Get Your Newborn To Sleep In His Bassinet
#10 A Sleep Nest
A sleeping nest, not a sleep positioner. Sleep positioners usually feature a wedge and/or extra padding that can be adjusted to put your child in a certain position that does not comply with safe sleep guidelines. If any of the paddings comes unstuck, there’s a higher risk of SIDS from suffocation if the baby manages to move from that position.
A sleeping nest is ergonomically shaped mattresses that allow children to lie on their backs in fetal positions, like the way they would in a mother’s womb. Simply placing it inside your baby’s bassinet will be all that is needed to get him sleeping consistently. Using this sleeping nest not only can you keep your baby staying asleep when you put him down, but also he will stay asleep for longer periods of time.
Additionally, they are extremely portable, perfect for train and plane rides when you desperately need to lay your baby down, but there are no safe places to do so except a dirty floor. Several sleeping nests are available in the market. You can go shopping for them according to your budget and brand choice. It is very important to check out sleep products very carefully and make sure they comply with safe sleep guidelines.
#11 A swinging bassinet that sings and dances
So, many simple bassinets swing available in the market but normally stop as soon as the push is removed. Let’s look toward the Bugatti of bassinets: the Snoo.
These are not my own experiences, but based on the opinions of satisfied customers and sales information. As well, the above link is a non-affiliate link.
Basically, the Snoo bassinet sings and dances. Well, it’s all shushing and swinging. It comes with five different sound and motion combinations, so your infant will rest peacefully (and your hands can do other things). Normally, this level of superiority comes with an eye-watering price tag (think $1.000+), but you now have the option to rent one for $129 per month, an extremely reasonable rental fee. It’s still a bit of an ouch. But the pain of close to no sleep with a baby who sleeps only in your arms would probably push you to give it a try.
So, hold your horses, and keep your money in your purse at least until you have tried the 12 hour and final solution to get your baby in his bassinet instead of your arms.
Relaxing and calming your newborn IN the bassinet instead of holding them – eliminating the “put down”
Here’s the best tip I’ve got for you – if you can put this one into practice, you’ll be a champ. This one eradicates the need for “putting the baby down” literally or metaphorically. Retrospectively, it makes total sense:
Why not put your newborn in his bassinet and then help him get settled, instead of attempting to move him while he’s asleep?
#12 Settle your newborn in the bassinet, then there’s no need to transfer the baby once asleep
In practice, this might not be an easy ride, but it will be worth it in the end.
To begin with, get back to the basics by swaddling, dimming the lights, and playing white noise. Let me tell you what to do now:
- Baby should be positioned on his side in his cot.
- Pat his bottom rhythmically as you hold him in this side-lying position, in time with your own heartbeat (or approximately). This recreates the sensation the baby would have experienced during pregnancy when he was head down, bum up.
- Swing the bassinet at the same time if you can.
- Stop patting your infant periodically and just put your hand on him.
- Put the hand down and swing while gradually reducing and stopping the patting.
IN ACCORDANCE WITH SAFE SLEEP GUIDELINES, GENTLY ROLL THE BABY ONTO HIS BACK ONCE ASLEEP.
Newborn Sleep Habits & Sleeping in a Bassinet: Common Questions
1-When it comes to sleeping in a bassinet, is it OK to leave the newborn awake?
Absolutely. Not while you’re at the stores, but this is a perfect time for the baby to get acquainted with the bassinet, and for his own smell to fill the bassinet since newborns are soothed and calmed by their own scent. While your baby is awake for short periods outside of eating, you can let him stretch and kick his legs in the bassinet, or do some tummy time while you’re near him.
2-The moment I lay my newborn down in their bassinet, he wakes up. Why is that?
I think it’s a combination of factors relating to the immense change in the environment your baby experienced when he/she was born. The baby was snugly cocooned within you in the warm and dark, swooshing and wooshing amidst the loud sounds of your womb. You keep that “calming reflex” on almost permanently while being rocked, swayed, and jiggled.
In the big wide world, sleeping on your chest or in your arms is the next best thing, as it offers several similar sensations that will ease your baby’s sleep and keep him calm and comfortable. Sadly, nowhere else is significant – even the bassinet – so your baby often wakes up when you put him down.
If you have tried at least a few different things to try and get your newborn to sleep in a bassinet, by now, you should at least have a good idea of what to do. Remember, don’t accept that your baby will sleep in your arms just yet.
3-My baby only sleeps when I hold him — Help!
You just need to follow the following steps in such a situation.
- Take it in turns. Switch off holding the baby with your partner (don’t fall asleep with the baby in your arms – it’s easy to forget).
- Use pacifiers
- Get moving
- Plus, much more from The Bump
4-Does swaddling prevent SIDS?
Babies who are swaddled are less likely to suffer from sudden infant death syndrome and suffocation. Due to their extremely low SIDS rate, wrappings might be effective in preventing the death of babies from suffocation. Researchers in Australia and New Zealand also found that swaddled babies (those who sleep on their backs) are 33% less likely to die from SIDS.
5-What is the approximate time for newborn babies to use or sleep in a bassinet?
There is no hard and fast rule – as long as your baby fits comfortably in the bassinet, this is all that matters. It depends on how large your baby is, how fast he grows, how big the bassinet is, or how much weight it can support. As a general rule, you can expect your child to be ready to transition to a crib between 2 and 3.5 months.
In other words, if you see the baby bumping against the side of the bassinet, and the baby looks cramped and, once out of the swaddle, the baby’s hands are pressing against the bassinet, you may want to consider a crib.
6-Do you have any tips to help teach my baby to self-soothe?
The newborn phase or fourth trimester is a time when your baby may not be ready or able to learn this ability; this comes around the three-month mark. As long as the baby is still developing, it is not appropriate to try to teach him how to calm himself. Instead, simply encourage him by:
When your baby stirs, cries out, or opens his eyes, pause for a moment or two for two reasons:
- Baby’s are very restless sleepers, so he may not even be awake at all, so being too aggressive, rushing in, or picking him up will only disturb him.
- The transition between sleep cycles is accompanied by plenty of waking up in newborn babies, but this doesn’t mean that they need to eat or that they aren’t done sleeping. It’s entirely possible he’ll fall back asleep, but only if you give him the chance! Having self-soothed or settled, he will fall back to sleep on his own if that happens. As time progresses, this will become a well-established habit and skill.
STARTING A WIND-DOWN ROUTINE
The wind-down routine helps prepare your baby for and signal to him that it’s time to sleep along with that magical sleep zone (blackout, white noise). By following the same routine every night, you will find that eventually, it will become natural to fall asleep, which means you can.
PLACING SLEEPY BUT STILL AWAKE BABY IN BASSINET
Ultimately, the baby will learn how to fall asleep all by himself, and with time it will become a well-established habit and skill.
The Takeaway — Don’t Give Up If You Are Having Trouble Getting Your Baby To Sleep In His Bassinet!
While I recognize that it’s easier said than done, maintaining consistency and perseverance will pay off in the long run. The key to it all is to try and replicate as many of those womb-like sensations as you can by setting up the right sleep environment and winding down properly before bedtime. Once that’s done, make the bassinet feel incredibly welcoming.
The last, but certainly not least option is to place your newborn in the bassinet and then settle him as described at #12 – he’ll be asleep by the time you put him down, and won’t wake up. Remember not to panic if your baby won’t sleep in the bassinet – take a break from trying if you have to, then try again. As time passes, you will be able to let your baby sleep in his bassinet instead of your arms.
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