A newborn baby who does not want to sleep in their bassinet is a common struggle for most parents. If you are like me, you probably had a vision of your sweet baby napping contently in their bassinet while you caught up on a snooze yourself (Sleep when the baby’s sleeping, right??). Fast forward to baby being home from the hospital, and suddenly the realization hits that baby barely wants to be put down, let alone sleep independently. The first thing I want to stress is that this is NORMAL.
Why does my baby only want to sleep on me?
To a newborn baby, the birthing parent is basically another limb, or extension of themselves. During the fourth trimester, a baby barely realizes they have been born, let alone that they are a separate person. Babies connect primarily through their senses (taste and smell being the most developed). When they are not close to someone, this sets them into flight or fight mode. And this is why you might have a baby who appears to be in a deep sleep when someone is holding them, but then fights sleep as soon as they are put down.
There is nothing wrong with contact naps.
First and foremost, give yourself permission for your baby to sleep on you (contact naps) during the day. You cannot spoil a baby, and responding consistently to your baby’s needs helps regulate their emotions and make it easier for them to fall and stay asleep. But if bassinet or crib sleeping is your goal, we've got you covered.
Tips to transition your baby to their bassinet:
Helping your baby feel safe and comforted sleeping in their bassinet or crib is a process that will require patience and calm. Here's what you can do to support your baby to fall and stay asleep in their bassinet:
Is baby in a deep sleep?
Look for signs that your baby is in a deep sleep. One of the best indicators for this is something called “the limp arm test”. Pick up your baby’s arm and then drop it back down again. It should fall easily. If there is any kind of resistance, this means your baby is in a lighter stage of sleep and may wake easily when transferred. Continue to feed/rock/babywear until their arm is limp when dropped.
Prep your bassinet
Transferring a baby from the warmth and comfort of a caregivers arms to a flat and stationary bassinet can be tricky. Some tips to help with this transition include:
Warming up the bassinet with a hot water bottle (be sure to remove it and test the warmth of the bassinet sheet before putting baby inside!)
Use the bassinet sheet as a receiving blanket during nursing or cuddle sessions prior to putting it on the bassinet. This will make it smell like you and help baby adjust easier
Consider foregoing a bassinet entirely and using a crib from day one. Bassinet mattresses tend to be thin, and bassinets are smaller making it easier for babies to get themselves into uncomfortable positions. If you have the room, a crib might be the better solution from day one
Placing your baby in the bassinet
As you put your baby into the bassinet, exhale. Lay them down in their bassinet so that their feet are touching the end of the bassinet. This will help if they have the startle reflex, because their feet will hit something and it will feel less like they are flailing into nothingness!
Try not to stress
Most babies have a hard time with bassinet sleeping during the first few weeks. Like all sleep phases, this will not last forever, and it might take a bit of persistence on your end. Remember to calm your own anxieties first. Whether you are putting your baby into their bassinet asleep or trying to put your baby down drowsy but awake, take a few deep breaths and centre yourself. Babies pick up on our anxieties making it harder for them to fall asleep. If you are one of the many parents who has a baby that does not want to sleep independently, make sure you read up on safe bedsharing practices and the Safe Sleep 7. Ask for help from family and friends to ensure you are getting the rest you need during this challenging time. And don't forget to grab your copy of NEWBORN SLEEP SURVIVAL KIT!