How to get your baby to settle in a Moses basket

Medically reviewed April 2022
baby settle in moses basket Naytal

Short on time? Then the key things to know are:

  • Create the right balance of feeding and awake time, so your baby is ready for sleep and more likely to settle in a Moses basket
  • Make sure the sleeping environment is optimal for sleep and your baby is comfortable Implement a sequence that leads to sleep in the Moses basket day and night
  • Prevent or remedy ingrained habitual sleeping cues, that are a drastic contrast to sleeping on their back in a Moses basket
  • Try to avoid creating habits and associations that mean baby can only fall asleep in very specific conditions, by regularly practising different locations
  • Babies learn through repetition - you can teach them a new way of sleeping with a clear consistent approach over time

Your baby sleeps soundly in your arms, whilst feeding, in a sling - but as soon as you tentatively put them in their Moses basket, convinced they’re sound asleep… bing! They stir and wake up. Sound familiar?

Many babies don’t like being transferred from a warm cuddle to a cold bed. So if your newborn is struggling to settle in their Moses basket, you’re not alone!

Babies typically sleep in a moses basket for the first few months. And there are many factors to consider to help to teach your baby to build a positive sleep association. If your baby is used to sleeping whilst comforted, rather than learning they are safe and secure on their back in a Moses basket, it can take time for them to learn to sleep soundly without relying on your assistance.

But with dedication and a positive sleep environment, you can help your baby build a sleep association to the moses basket and learn to self settle, feeling safe and secure to drift off soundly without intense intervention from you.

Here we share how to get your baby to sleep in a Moses basket during the day and at night.

1. Practice sleeping in different environments

Parents are always surprised at how quickly habits are formed. But from the moment they’re born, babies begin to learn through repetition.

It’s therefore important to prevent any habitual sleeping cues that may affect your baby’s ability to sleep in a Moses basket, cot or bed. Particularly ones that are a stark contrast to sleeping on their back or in a still environment.

For example, a baby who is fed to sleep will be soothed by sucking and warm milk. Similarly if you’ve spent the first couple of months putting your newborn in a sling between feeds, they will learn to sleep vertically with full body contact. This suits many parents during those first few months but will cause backache in the long term as your baby grows! You also want to encourage your baby to sleep on their back in their Moses basket, so that you can eat, shower and get things done.

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Babies that don’t fall asleep or build a sleep association with a Moses basket are likely to feel disoriented or panicked if they wake up in a different place to where they fell asleep. It’s the same for a reliance on motion to sleep, soon after being put into the Moses basket, they stir because of the contrast as they are suddenly still.

Like most things, it’s about creating a balance. Consider the amount of time spent feeding, winding and holding your newborn against the time they have on their back. Also ensure they have the right balance of feeding and awake time.

Every baby needs a bit of help to sleep in different environments. But a well fed and winded baby, who has had the appropriate awake windows, stimulation, contact and interaction, will be ready for sleep and is capable of learning to sleep in a Moses basket.

2. Check for an underlying health issue

Back sleeping is always the best and safest position for your baby, until they are strong enough to roll over themselves. However sometimes there is an underlying health issue that makes it genuinely uncomfortable for a baby to sleep on their back. Most babies suffer from wind from time to time and when there are other complications such as silent or vomiting reflux, back sleeping is incredibly difficult for them.

If this is the case, your baby will be very clear that they want and need to be held upright, rather than put onto their back in a Moses basket. That's not to say that all babies with reflux can’t sleep on their back and there are certainly tips and tricks to help them. This includes settling them to sleep on their side before gently rolling them onto their back, and raising the head at the end of the moses basket or cot.

3. Ensure they’re comfortable

Most of us struggle to sleep if we’re uncomfortable. So checking your baby’s comfort is the first step in helping them to settle. This includes ensuring they have been fed, winded and have a clean nappy.

You may also want to check their clothing doesn’t have any scratchy labels or folds. Babies clothing should be cotton and appropriate to room temperature to ensure they don’t get too hot or cold.

4. Optimise the room for sleep

Make sure the sleeping environment is optimal for sleep during the day and at night to help your newborn sleep for longer durations. Start by making the room dark during the day and keeping the room temperature to 18-20 degrees.

5. Use a swaddle

You might consider using a swaddle for the first two to three months to help your baby feel snug, safe and secure. This can also prevent the startle reflex from waking them up.

When your baby has better control of their arms and hands, you can transition them into a sleeping bag. This technique will certainly help them to sleep for longer stretches, provided they are happy to be swaddled.

6. Create a routine

Create a little sequence that leads to putting them into the Moses basket. This starts with winding down stimulation towards the end of an awake window such as cuddles on the sofa, a lullaby or listening to gentle music for 5 minutes before taking them to the bedroom. Once in their room, change their nappy, pop them in their swaddle or sleeping bag and play relaxing music or white noise before laying them in the Moses basket with a reassuring hand on their chest.

If your baby gets upset, hold them to soothe or until drowsy and gently lay them back into the Moses basket. Repeat until they fall asleep in the basket.

It can also be helpful to consider your baby's temperament when it comes to settling issues. There is a link to babies who are very active and alert, having difficulties settling to sleep in a Moses basket so ensure they are tired before putting them down. Sociable babies or babies who are experiencing separation anxiety can find it incredibly hard to settle to sleep, feeling like they are missing out or in need of your presence to feel secure.

It’s best to implement this bedtime routine as early on as possible. Building a familiar sequence that leads to sleep in their Moses basket takes time and patience to establish, but as your baby grows and develops, they will soon learn what happens next.

Want to speak to someone about your baby's sleep? Book an appointment with one of our sleep consultants at a time that suits you to get specialist advice with any concerns.

Claire, Sleep Consultant

Claire has over twenty five years' experience as a maternity nurse, nanny and certified infant sleep consultant. She supports families to develop tailored approaches for dealing with their sleep issues.

Newborn sleep
Sleep advice

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