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Newborn Settling: How to encourage newborn sleep

There’s a lot to learn when it comes to parenting your little newborn. Gosh I remember coming home from hospital with my little baby in lots of overwhelm. I was in charge of this little being and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing!

I paid close attention in the hospital to everything the midwives told me about how to care for and bath my baby. I tried hard when it came to establishing breast feeding and when I got home, I continued to follow the advice of my maternal and child health nurse as closely as I could.


Things were going pretty well, given I was flying blind, but the one area I was fairly confused around was sleep.

The first three weeks she slept constantly, or at least it felt like that. And I really enjoyed her sleeping on my chest and those gorgeous newborn cuddles.

But after three weeks she seemed to really ‘wake up’, and I began to wonder how much she should be sleeping in her bassinette. Often when I’d tried to get her to sleep in there, I really had not had much success.

If you’re a parent of a newborn I know newborn settling can be tricky. So, let me offer you some know-how and tips to guide you through this stage and encourage some healthy newborn sleep habits.

Firstly, set yourself up for success. I love making sure that the room they are sleeping in is nice and dark for all their naps (definitely after 4 weeks old) and I love to use a sleep aid that offers white noise.

It’s important to swaddle your newborn with a good firm swaddle that helps to stop the moro reflex such as the easy swaddle or swaddle wrap options.

It’s perfectly normal in the first few weeks for babies to want to sleep on you, or in the carrier, or in the pram. If fact it can feel pretty strange for a baby to be swaddle and popped in the bassinette flat on their back. They were so compacted and cosy inside you while growing, that this flat feeling is initially pretty strange.

I like to think of helping babies learn to sleep in their Moses basket slowly but surely. At least once a day practice putting them to sleep in the Moses basket. Once they start to get the hang of it you can build it up to twice and three times a day and so on… Pop them in there for overnight as well. This will just get them used to the feeling of being flat in their new bed. 

Now the second part of settling them in their Moses basket comes into play. Instead of them falling asleep in your arms and then transferring them into the bassinet, we need to work on them being in there awake first and then falling asleep.

As the weeks go on it starts to get fairly weird for babies to fall asleep in your arms and then wake up in a completely different place. They much prefer to know where they are falling asleep and to wake up in the same place.

Many parents that I’ve worked with say that they have trouble settling their babies in the moses basket. Often, they will transfer them in and then their baby just starts crying and will not calm and relax at all. Often seemingly hating the basket. But it is consistent practice that is the key, and with time babies do become used to it.

Settling Your Newborn 


To practice settling I recommend, firstly, taking your baby into their dark sleep space, make sure they are well fed and burped and then get your bub really relaxed and settled in your arms. Take your time with this. Hold them for a while if you need to, until you feel their bodies really relax and they are quiet and calm. Then while they are calm but awake transfer them into the moses basket.

If they appear calm still and like they will sleep, keep your hand on their tummy for a minute and then slowly move away.

If you transfer them in and they start to grizzle or cry, turn them onto their side with their back facing you and hold their arms firmly with your left hand (if your right-handed). With your right hand rhymical pat their back or bottom while they are crying. The patting can really help to calm them. This will give your baby a good chance to settle.

If they start to calm down with the patting, when they are really calm or asleep then slowly move them onto their back. Just never leave a baby on their side unsupervised.

But what if they don’t calm down? 


If you’ve tried patting for a few minutes now and your baby is not calming down at all, pick them up to calm them in your arms. Then calmly repeat the process. So, get bub really calm again. Take your time and remember to be very calm yourself. Rock them in your arms or even give them a very quick feed if that will help to relax them.

And then when you have achieved the state of calm with your little one, try transferring to the Moses basket again and see if they can go to sleep in there now - once again pat them if you need to.

Babies find patting very soothing and it can be a useful tool to help them relax when they are lying down so always remember to spend a good while attempting to calm them with patting while they are in the basket. 

Now, do this process three times! If after three really good attempts it hasn’t worked, that’s no big deal!

This has been awesome practice. And you need to practice, practice, practice this for your newborn to get the gist of it.

As you can see newborn settling takes patience and many consistent practices but is well worth putting the time into this in the early weeks. Encouraging this independent settling in a Moses basket will set you up for wonderful sleep habits beyond the newborn weeks.

About Me: Emma O’Callaghan is a qualified midwife, nurse and infant and child sleep consultant. With over 20 years’ experience in both hospital and community settings, Emma knows about sleep. She has helped thousands of families reclaim sleep and is particularly passionate about supporting new and first-time parents. She is the Founder of Baby Sleep Expert, and with a common sense, compassionate approach is often referred to as the ultimate “baby whisperer”. Emma lives in Melbourne with her three daughters and fur baby. 

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