What to Do When Baby Only Sleeps When Held?
Maddie gently bounced little Henry in her arms as she paced the living room for the third time that evening. His favorite stuffed bear was clutched in one hand while the other rubbed soft circles on his back. Ever so slowly, his eyelids began to droop with each step. But just as Maddie tried to lower him into the bassinet, tiny eyes scrunched awake once more.
With a sigh, Maddie cuddled Henry close again. At only 6 weeks old, he still relied on being held the entire time he slept. It was exhausting to say the least, but she wanted Henry to feel safe and secure. Rocking and shushing, she willed her body to relax as the motion soothed them both. A quick check of the time showed only a few minutes had passed since her last attempt - this was going to be a long night.
As dawn light began to creep in, Henry finally drifted off for good. Maddie lowered her aching body onto the couch at last, mind racing on what to do. She knew this phase wouldn't last forever yet the lack of rest was already taking its toll. There had to be a solution to balance her baby's needs with her own. Perhaps it was time to look for strategies specific to Henry's situation - when baby only sleeps when held.
As a new mom, you may also be coping with restless nights like Maddie. Don't worry, you're not alone in this parenthood journey. Kaiya Angel will be there for you and your baby every step of the way, providing ongoing support. We believe babies will go through this phases and you'll both come out of this one stronger.
First of all, let’s explore together some of the common reasons why babies may only sleep when held.
Why baby only sleeps when held?
Safety feeling: Babies spend 9 months in the womb, so they have a very strong sense of safety and intimacy from the physical contact and warmth with their mother. In the womb, the baby and mother have abnormally intimate physical contact. When leaving the mother's womb, the sense of safety from being surrounded suddenly disappears. The external environment is also completely unfamiliar, so babies may feel fearful and uneasy. When being held, they can have intimate physical contact with mom again, which makes them feel the same warmth and safety as in the womb, helping the baby fall asleep.
Intimate relationships: The intimate relationship between babies and parents or caregivers is extremely important for their emotional and psychological development. Being held while falling asleep can strengthen the bond with parents, build trust and affection, and promote the baby's emotional development.
Comfortable feeling: Being held while falling asleep can give babies a comfortable feeling. They can feel the warmth, heartbeat and breathing of parents or caregivers, which is a familiar and relaxing environment for them, able to relieve babies' tension and help babies fall asleep more comfortably.
Dependency habit: If babies are used to being held while falling asleep, they may form this dependent habit. In this case, babies may need some time and guidance to gradually learn to fall asleep in an independent environment.
Digestion problems or discomfort: Babies may find it hard to fall asleep due to digestion problems, gas, or other discomfort. Being held can help relieve their discomfort and make it easier for them to fall asleep.
Underdeveloped nervous system: During the newborn period, a baby's brain and nervous system are still developing rapidly. Compared to adults, babies have slower responses in their central nervous system and autonomic nervous system, and their ability to perceive and adapt to the environment is not mature. Many external stimuli such as sounds and touch may cause frightening reactions in babies. Additionally, babies have not yet formed good mechanisms for falling asleep and maintaining sleep. Therefore, parents need to provide regular sensory input through gentle patting, touching, rocking and soothing talking to help babies relax and smoothly fall into light sleep.
Attachment behaviors: Long-term skin-to-skin contact with the mother allows the baby to secrete attachment-related neurotransmitters such as endorphins. These substances help alleviate the baby's anxiety about separation and promote psychological bonding between parent and child. Through long-term intimate interactions, it not only satisfies the baby's innate safety needs, but is also an important part of forming healthy cognition and social relationships.
Are there any downsides to holding baby to sleep?
There aren't necessarily downsides to holding your baby to sleep, but there are a few things to keep in mind:
It can be really tiring for parents long-term, especially if you have other kids needing attention. Those sleepless nights start catching up to ya!
Once baby gets used to being held, they may have trouble self-soothing in the crib. It can make putting them down trickier.
Sometimes the only place they'll nap is in your arms. This limits your ability to get stuff done around the house.
Co-sleeping isn't recommended due to safety risks like suffocation. Holding baby all night every night in bed gets uncomfortable.
At what age do babies gradually stop needing to be held to fall asleep?
Between 3-4 months is when they often start being okay in the crib or bassinet, but still might want you right there rockin' or pattin' their back to nod off.
From 4 months on is a big transition time. Lots of little ones can fall asleep in their crib with just a pacifier or lovey by this point.
Around 6 months is a sweet spot. Most bubs will settle on their own as long as a familiar face is nearby. White noise and a routine help them feel comfy.
Once they hit 9 months, bedtime solo missions are more common. Day naps and night night sleep happen independently with just a stuffie.
But every babe develops differently. If they still want cuddles past a year, don't stress! Consistency is key and they'll be sleeping solo before ya know it.
How can I get my baby to sleep without being held?
Gradually reduce rocking sessions - Start placing baby in the crib awake 10-15 minutes before bedtime, soothing with light pats or mobile jingles. Lengthen the time by a few minutes weekly so they grow accustomed to self-soothing.
Employ tender transition tactics - In addition to touch, introduce calming aids like paci's, blankets or lullabies. If they fuss, speak softly nearby to reassure of your presence without immediate pickup.
Craft a safe and snug sanctuary for sleep - Ensure the crib environment is secure yet inviting with familiar scents and sounds from nature like rainfall or heartbeat.
Cherish daytime bonding - Strengthen your loving bond through nurturing routines of feeding, cuddling and affection. Going to bed feeling cherished will comfort.
Establish a peaceful pre-slumber ritual - Bathe, rock, nurse and read in a relaxed sequence each night to welcome repose.
Patience and consistency are paramount - Change takes time with tender care. Stay devoted to your little angel with empathy and your caring techniques will help them slumber sound and secure in solace alone.
As a new mom, you and Maddie will undoubtedly experience challenging nights during this transitional phase. However, with patience and consistency using the gentle techniques discussed, you'll soon find your precious baby slumbering peacefully on their own.
While it may feel overwhelming now, remember that this too shall pass. Your nurturing care and loving bond will see you both through. Stay strong in your compassion for yourself as well as Maddie during this testing time.
Each new milestone your little one achieves will fill your heart with joy. Before long, disrupted nights will be a distant memory as you continue strengthening the special relationship you share.
An expert in sleep sack design, is a valued contributor to Kaiya Angel's blog. With a strong background in baby sleep bags and maternal care, she is highly regarded for her professionalism. Yujia Shi prioritizes baby comfort and safety in her designs, using high-quality materials. Her insightful articles on sleep bags have been featured in reputable publications and have gained a significant readership. Trust Yujia Shi to help you create a comfortable and safe sleep environment for your baby, backed by her proven track record in the industry.