Baby Won’t Sleep Unless Held

You have finally managed to get the baby sleep in your arms. Now you think you could put her down, so you can have a big stretch and get on with other things.

You tiptoe to the baby’s bed, lower her down in the gentlest way to make sure no sound can wake her up. But the moment you think your job has done, the baby opens her eyes, looking at you with those “I won’t sleep unless you held me.”

The cycle keeps repeating no matter how many times you try or how deep you think your baby is sleeping. It makes you exhausted and have no energy left to do other things. What to do when your baby won’t sleep unless held? Here is the best guide for you!

Why Your Baby Won’t Sleep Unless Held

First of all, it’s natural that babies need to be held when sleeping. Remember that your baby just spent nine months in the warm and soft confines of your uterus, where she never felt hungry, cold, scared or the need to wee or poo. Everything is constant, safe and comfortable. Now suddenly the environment changes, so to cope with this, she needs to find similar places.

When you hold your baby, she smells your scent, feels your warm body and hears your pumping heart. All of these remind her of the good old days back inside your belly. She feels safe and protected.

As the world’s leading expert on co-sleeping, Professor James McKenna, explains: “Infant are alerted because as far as their own body is concerned they are about to be abandoned, and it is, therefore, time to awaken to call the caregiver back – the very caregiver on whose body the infant’s survival depends on.”

It might take a while for the baby’s brain to grasp the concept that she is a separate person from her mother and that she can sleep safely on her own.

Understanding this survival instinct of your child is important so that you can provide her with empathy, love and nurturing to help her develop into a secure and independent little being. However, this does not mean that until that time, you have to hold your baby every time she sleeps.

So, What Is the Solution?

Now that you understand why babies want to sleep in your arms, you could create similar arrangements to free yourself sometimes and slowly help her sleep on her own.

Asking for Help

Even though a baby can tell the difference if she is being held by one of her parents or someone else, the difference might not be clear when she is in a deep sleep. At that time, you can turn holding the baby with other family members.

Taking note of the baby’s sleeping pattern and checking people’s schedules in advance help you make sure everyone can be there when you need them. You should remember to wait after your baby has been in a deep sleep before switching off holding her with others. Normally, it takes a baby 20 minutes to reach there.

Another method to make sure your baby is completely asleep is to lift her arm and let it drop. If it’s a limb, then your baby is in a deep sleep.

Mom-Like Crib

In case you don’t live with other family members, the best solution would be making the crib feel more Mom-like. The reason baby wakes up when you put her down is the drastic change in temperature. She goes from your warm and soft arms to a relatively cold and open space.

However, as making the crib cozier, avoid placing blanket, pillow or lovey with your baby because these actions can increase the chance of suffocation. Instead, try to use swaddle and slowly ease your baby into the crib.

The swaddle is a blanket or any type of lightweight fabric used to wrap around baby’s body, so she cannot wriggle out. This serves several functions.

  • Firstly, it mimics the feeling of being snuggled tightly inside the womb, which makes your baby feel comfortable and calm.
  • Secondly, it keeps your baby warm without suffocation hazard like blankets.
  • Finally, it prevents the startle reflex when your baby feels like she is falling, and thus, making her feel safe and protected.

To deepen the effect of the swaddle, place it in your wardrobe or drawer before using, so the baby can sense your scent also. Buy several swaddle options because you will need to wash them and change sizes as your baby grows.

Generally, swaddles are suitable for babies under 4 months. When baby gets too big for them, you can continue providing her with the benefits of swaddle by switching to sleeping sack. In simple terms, a sleeping sack is the same as a swaddle, but in larger size.

Written Guide

If you want a more in-depth, step-by-step instruction on how to get your baby to sleep without being held, a book with the same name might be for you.

The author of the book, Nina V.Garcia, is a Mom herself and has been through the struggle: “Feeling alone holding your baby day and night – stuck, hollow and desperate!” As Nina described, she has come up with different strategies to help her baby take to other sleeping arrangements.

The strategies involve using the right baby gear and tools, as well as tweaking baby’s daily schedule and changing the way putting them to sleep.

The book offers free samples, so you can read and decide before purchasing it. With just $9, it seems both time- and money-wise compared to hours and hundreds of dollars paying for sleep coaching. You can get the free sample and her other products at:

Don’t Stress! Enjoy This Experience

Whatever solutions you choose to follow, remember the need to being held when sleeping of your child is normal, and this period shall pass. Use suggested alternatives to free yourself for sometimes but don’t let your baby sleep completely on her own too soon.

The hugging and touching of a mother are extremely important at the beginning of a child’s life. Slowing introducing gears and tools, as well as using empathy, love and nurturing to encourage your baby to sleep on her own is such a safe and effective way to make the experience enjoyable for both you and your baby.

For how to train your baby in 1 week so that she can sleep through the night, check the video below:

Hope my guide helpful for you! If you have any question or want to share your own experience that you’ve applied when your baby won’t sleep unless held, please let us know by leaving your comments in the box below. Thank you!

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