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Some babies want to be held while sleeping: Here’s why

If your newborn wants to be held all night, you need these tips and tricks

Finding peace and quiet, or simply trying to take a shower, while caring for a newborn can be difficult. If your baby only sleeps when held, completing the smallest tasks can feel impossible.  What can a parent do when their newborn wants to be held all night? Newborns love being held for many reasons.

Learn more about why your baby wants to be held, the best way to hold your baby, and when to put them in their crib. Just because your newborn wants to be held all night, doesn’t mean you can’t get any sleep.

Why babies want to be held while sleeping 

Father holding son in nursery
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

The relationship between a parent and their baby is complex and beautiful. While cuddling, your baby can actually hear your heartbeat, and your presence is soothing. Babies also smell your scent when you hold them, making them feel safer. 

When your baby is under four months old, they’re still getting used to life outside the womb. The new surroundings can be scary and unfamiliar. It’ll take time for them to become accustomed to this new environment, and when parents hold their babies, they feel warm and safe — just like in the womb. 

However, when your baby falls asleep in your arms too often, it can become a habit that’s hard to break. Your baby might associate sleeping with being in your arms and will consequently have trouble sleeping anywhere else, like their own crib. 

Comfortable ways to hold babies while sleeping

mother holding her baby

Holding a baby isn’t challenging, but sometimes it can be difficult to find an agreeable position while they’re sleeping. Here’s a breakdown of a few positions that are often very comfortable for babies to sleep in.

Cradling

Cradling a baby may just be the most common position for holding your baby. It tends to be a natural holding position and is quite simple. Your baby’s head will gently rest in the crook of one arm while your other arm is wrapped around them, securing your baby while they sleep. Cradling makes rocking your little one to sleep easy.

On your shoulder

Another classic baby-holding position is on your shoulder. Let your baby lean their cheek against your shoulder while you support their bottom, as well as their back and neck. This position may make it easier to gently bounce your baby to sleep. Your baby will be able to hear your rhythmic breathing and heartbeat, too, so it’s a relaxing and comforting sleeping position for them.

In a sling

Using a sling is also helpful for sleeping babies. It lets you hold your baby hands-free while giving your baby the comfort of being held. They’ll be able to stay close to you, but you’ll be able to do other things while your baby rests.

Remember, you shouldn’t hold the baby while you’re standing up, just in case they fall. Don’t hold your baby if you’re sick, and only carry one baby at a time if you have multiples.

How and when to put your baby in their crib

Although it entirely depends on when you, as a parent, feel ready to introduce your baby to their crib, a good time to do so is around six months old. 

Baby sleeping in crib with Teddy bear
Tatyana Soares/Shutterstock

Use the crib for naptime

You can start the transition into their crib by using it during naptime. When it’s time for your baby’s nap, star by placing them in their crib. Introducing your baby to their crib during naptime will help them get used to sleeping in it at night. 

Your baby’s behavior will let you know when they are ready to go to sleep. Common sleepy symptoms include becoming fussy, yawning frequently, rubbing their eyes, or looking away. If you notice one or more of these behaviors, they’re probably ready to go to sleep. 

Make sure you place your baby in their crib when they’re sleepy but not actually asleep. If they wake up during the night, comfort your baby by patting them, but don’t take them out of their crib because that will negatively affect their routine.

Use technology for support

For added comfort, you can try adding a white noise during your baby’s sleep routine. White noise machines can block out other sounds and disturbances. This can be especially helpful if your baby is sleeping in a crib in your room. 

Transitioning your baby to a crib can be more difficult for you than for your babies. Using a baby monitor can help ease your mind if you’re a parent anxious about your baby sleeping in their own crib in a room by themselves. There are even some mobile applications that can turn your tablet or phone into a baby monitor. 

It’s completely normal if your baby doesn’t sleep through the night yet. Once your baby is about five months old, they may be able to start sleeping around seven hours per night. As your baby starts to inch into infanthood you may no longer have a baby who wants to be held all night.

Tips for sleep training your baby

Baby In Swaddle Sleeping

Try swaddling

During the first few weeks, your baby is adjusting to the “outside world” after dwelling in a snug, warm environment for the last nine months.  Naturally, re-creating that safe space can help if your baby only sleeps when held.

Swaddling is the best option when it comes to soothing your baby to sleep, especially during the first two weeks. In the womb, your baby was accustomed to having limbs tucked in and snug. When you swaddle your baby, you’re placing them in a similar position, particularly with what’s called the “burrito wrap,” which is the most common form of swaddling.

Incorporate white noise

Using white noise during sleep also works well with swaddling. The soft humming and swooshing closely resembles the sounds from the womb. Your baby is reminded of the secure and comfy environment from where they just arrived. Plus, it helps your baby adjust during the more difficult sleep cycles and helps them stay asleep longer. A device like the Letsfit White Noise Machine provides an effective option when your newborn won’t sleep unless held.

Although the process can be frustrating (and exhausting), remember that babies don’t learn to fall asleep on their own in a day. It takes time and repetition. The best thing you can do for yourself and your baby is to remain patient. There are parent support groups that you can seek out for reassurance.

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