Issues Sleep

Help! My Newborn Won’t Sleep In Bassinet (Causes & Solutions)

Sleep – both your own and your baby’s – is extremely important for babies and parents alike.

For mom and dad this is perhaps the only opportunity you’ll get to press on with things like essential household chores, other urgent commitments or if you’re very lucky, to get some rest yourself.

While for your baby, studies show that a large amount of physical and mental development actually happens during sleep.

So we can only imagine your shock, horror and dread when you discovered that your newborn won’t sleep in their bassinet, which can quickly make the newborn phase even harder than normal.

But take a deep breath, because thankfully there are some things you can do to make things better.

Let’s take a look at why your baby might be resisting their bassinet, and what you can do right now to make things better.

Why Won’t My Newborn Sleep In Their Bassinet?

There is no single reason why your baby isn’t sleeping in their bassinet or Moses basket, so it’s helpful to understand the most common causes of this issue in order to help you identify which ones might be at play with your child.

First up, it’s worth remembering that up until recently all your baby knew was the warm, comfortable and cozy environment inside mommy’s tummy.

Now they’ve been thrusted into the big outside world everything has literally been flipped upside down, which helps explain why they might be showing a strong preference to sleeping in your arms rather than in a bassinet or crib.

The good news is that many of these causes are easily resolved, which we’ll come to shortly.

But first, let’s take a look at several reasons why your baby may be refusing to fall asleep or is quickly waking while in their bassinet:

1. Overtired or Overstimulated

According to sleep experts, the maximum recommended awake window for a baby aged 0 to 3 months is between 60 to 90 minutes.

Remember that unlike mom and dad, an overtired baby is likely to find it harder to fall asleep rather than easier.

Must Read: How To Break The Cycle Of An Overtired Baby

2. Undertired or Understimulated

If your baby hasn’t had enough awake time before you put them down there’s a good chance they will fight their sleep.

Keep in mind that many of the signs of understimulation or undertiredness – such as yawning, clenched fists, pulling ears, having a worried look on their face or frowning and sucking on fingers – are the same as those for overtiredness and overstimulation.

3. Uncomfortable

Wind, reflux and being too cold or too warm are common reasons why a newborn baby or infant might be feeling uncomfortable during nap time or sleep time, and any of the above will almost certainly result in a fussy baby that cannot or does not want to sleep.

Loving Mother Kissing Her Baby

4. Startle Reflex

The moro or “startle” reflex is an involuntary reflex that is a response to stimulation.

The good news is that this naturally goes away once your baby reaches 3 to 4 months, but in the meantime, when your baby is asleep they may feel like they are in freefall, and in response they’ll throw their arms and legs out in order to try and catch themselves.

And as you can imagine, when this reflex kicks in it can literally startle your baby and causes them to wake up from what was a peaceful sleep in their crib or bassinet.

5. Noises

This includes too much noise, too little noise (silence can be unnerving to a baby), and unexpected noises.

The last of which is noteworthy, because sudden noises, particularly at the end of a 40-45 minute sleep cycle can easily wake a baby.

6. Too Much Light

Contrary to popular belief babies are not afraid of the dark, and in fact they tend to actually sleep better in a dark room.

If the room in which your baby is sleeping in has too much light, then your little one is likely to be distracted by their surroundings rather than getting on with the job at hand (i.e napping or sleeping).

7. Too Used To Sleeping In Your Arms

Lying on an adult’s chest, where your baby can hear your heartbeat up close, feel you breath and hear your voice, are all very comforting for your child.

So if your precious new arrival is in the habit of sleeping on mom or dad, then it’s not surprising that they’re unhappy when faced with the prospect of having to sleep alone in a bassinet or crib.

baby sleeping on mother's chest

How To Get A Newborn To Sleep In A Bassinet

As we mentioned in the introduction, many of the causes of a fussy baby who isn’t currently sleeping well in their bassinet can be remedied with the right amount of knowledge, patience and a positive attitude.

So let’s check out 10 proven ways to get your baby to sleep in their bassinet that you can try right now:

1. Keep A Close Eye On Wake Windows

After 60 to 90 minutes your newborn is more than ready to be put down.

It might sound counterintuitive, but an overtired baby is likely to fight the urge to fall sleep, and once settled, they are more likely to sleep for a shorter period compared to a well rested baby.

2. Establish A Routine

Think about what you can do to signal to your baby that it’s time to sleep in their bassinet.

Things like dressing them in their sleep sack or swaddle, changing their diaper and playing white noise (more on this later) can all help with establishing a solid and reliable sleep routine.

3. Ideal Room Temperature

Many experts agree that in both winter and summer, the ideal temperature for a baby’s room is 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ideally your baby’s room should feel a comfortable temperature, but on the slightly cooler side.

White Thermostat Hanging on the Wall


4. Dress Them Correctly For Sleep

The key to dressing your baby correctly in all seasons in to base your decision on the air temperature of their room, not the outside temperature.

Remember that when dressing your newborn baby in hot weather you should dress them in a short-sleeved onesie or body suit along with a sleep sack or swaddle with a medium to low TOG rating.

While in colder weather, your newborn will probably be most comfortable in a long-sleeved, footed bodysuit and a swaddle or sleep sack.

5. Keep Them Upright After Feeding

When a baby consumes their milk, air can become trapped in their stomach, which often leads to discomfort, spitting up, or reflux.

So if you think reflux might be causing the issue, try keeping them upright for twenty to thirty minutes after their feed.

6. Watch Out For Wind

Wind, which is caused by trapped air bubbles inside a baby’s stomach, can be very uncomfortable for your little one.

Burping your baby during and after a feed is therefore a must, as are preventative measures like checking your baby’s latch is correct if breastfeeding, and keeping your child in an upright position if bottle feeding.

7. Try Swaddling

Swaddling is a way of wrapping a baby in a blanket so that their limbs are secure and can’t wriggle out.

According to many pediatricians, swaddling can help a baby feel calm and can promote better sleep because it helps replicate the feeling of being in mom’s womb and because it can help keep the moro (startle) reflex from kicking in.

8. Darken Their Room

To help promote good sleep, your newborn’s room should be as dark as possible before you put them down.

This includes overnight and daytime naps, the latter of which might be easier to achieve if you invest in some quality black out blinds.

5-Piece Set Blackout Shades/Blinds for Windows ($19.99, Amazon)

9. White Noise

Playing white noise can sooth and calm babies, and therefore help your little one fall asleep more quickly.

These machines replace silence – which can be unnerving to a baby – with a gentle, consistent and soothing noise (such as running water, music or a heartbeat).

White noise machines are generally safe for babies, as long as the sounds level doesn’t exceed 50 decibels, the machine is at least 7 feet away from your baby’s crib or bassinet, and you turn the machine off once your baby has fallen to sleep.

As mentioned above, they can be useful in establishing a consistent sleep routine, and they don’t necessarily have to break the bank (the model below costs under $30).

10. Consider Other Ways To Increase Comfort

A great way to replicate the feeling of mom or dad is to warm up their crib before putting your newborn down, which can easily be done using a heating pad or hot water bottle.

Transferring your scent to your baby’s crib or bassinet can also aid in making their space more comforting.

Not sure how?

Simply take their fitted bassinet sheet and place it under your clothes for a while, before placing it back on their mattress, and voila!

Final Thoughts

Some babies take to their bassinet more quickly than others, so it’s worth keeping in mind that if your baby isn’t keen on their crib or bassinet right now, there’s nothing wrong with them.

You’ll probably find that some days are better than others, but remember that establishing a good sleep routine is a journey, so it’s more about progress than perfection.

Lastly, for safety reasons always keep to the ABC’s of safe sleep, which stands for:

  • Alone: Your child should always sleep on their own sleep surface (no co-sleeping).
  • Back: Your baby should sleep on their back for every sleep.
  • Crib: Your baby’s crib or bassinet should be empty for at least the first year, which means strictly no pillows, blankets or soft toys.

Must Read: The Ultimate Guide To Baby & Toddler Sleep

Tori is mama to 3 year old Isabella and co-founder of Rockinbaby. She has a BSc in Psychology, is a certified yoga teacher and is a working mom. In her free time Tori loves cooking delicious foods and baked treats, entertaining and working out. Learn more about Tori here.

Pin It