Why Does My Baby Only Sleep When Held?

Why Does My Baby Only Sleep When Held?

Do you have a little one who only seems to want to sleep when he/she is in your arms? Oftentimes these babies will tend to sleep soundly when they are held but wake up and cry when they are placed on the crib / bassinet. While holding your baby while they are asleep can seem like the perfect way to cuddle, it can also be somewhat impractical and can even be unsafe to keep holding them in order to avoid them from waking.

If you are seeing this with your little one, it is important to realize that this is completely common among newborn babies. Most newborn won’t sleep unless held and this is completely normal for newborn sleeping habits. Normal or not, this can make us as parents feel exhausted. We are going to talk about the different reasons your infant may be doing this and suggest some better solutions to encourage your little one to sleep in their crib/bassinet longer.

Why Does My Baby Only Sleep When Held?

Your baby experiences comfort by being in your arms

With your newborn it is important to remember that this timeframe is often referred to as the fourth trimester. This is a period of adjustment for your little one to really get used to life outside of the womb. Remember prior to this the only world your baby knew for 9 months was being in the womb, hearing your heartbeat, feeling your warmth.

Your baby may have gas or other discomfort

One of the reasons your baby may not be able to sleep laying down is that they need to burp. Especially if they were just fed. This feeling of needing to burp gets more uncomfortable when laying down. One way to avoid this is by trying to burp them for a little bit longer before attempting to lay them down. 

Going along with this if you are breastfeeding and your breasts are often engorged, you might have an oversupply. This can lead to an overactive letdown. Which often causes baby to gasp for air when nursing which can then of course add to gassiness

Your baby may have a Milk and Soy Protein Intolerance (also known as MSPI)

One of the other reasons your little one may not sleep well without being held can be attributed to a Milk and Soy Protein Intolerance. This would have to be diagnosed by a doctor through blood in your baby’s stool. This type of diagnosis can obviously lead to discomfort in your little one. Which would in turn tend to make them more comfortable sleeping in your arms.

Your baby may have silent reflux

Another reason why your little one may not be able to sleep in a flat position can be attributed to silent reflux. Some of the signs that your baby may have this can include being irritable, difficulty sleeping, arched back when feeding. You might also notice baby refusing to feed or them experiencing choking/congestion.

You may be laying baby down wrong

If you are laying your child down too quickly it is possible to elicit the startle reflex which will of course cause baby to wake up. The Startle or Moro reflex is a reflex that is present from when your baby is born.  When a baby is startled by a movement or sound their arms, back and neck will extend.

why does my baby only sleep when held

How To Get Baby To Sleep Without Being Held

Now that we’ve covered some of the reasons your baby may not be napping unless in your arms. Let’s get into some of the techniques you can use to help your baby to become more independent with their sleep. This is what we call sleep training which is the concept of teaching your baby to fall asleep independently. I know it may seem farfetched right now, especially if you are holding your baby to sleep, but I am here to help you teach your baby to fall asleep independently!

Create optimal sleep environment

Creating an environment for your baby that is conducive to sleep is vital when trying to get them to sleep on their own. Making sure the room is dark is vital. As it helps to eliminate distractions which may keep your little one awake. You can achieve this by adding light blocking curtains to the windows in your baby’s room. 

Another way to make the environment more welcoming for sleep is by adding a white noise machine. This will help once again to eliminate distractions. The white noise will also help to mimic the sound of the womb. Which is a sound that is very familiar and comforting to your baby and will encourage them to sleep longer.

Laying down your baby correctly

This tip addresses the issue of baby’s startle reflex being stimulated. When you are going to put your baby to sleep, it’s important to be sure that you put their feet down. Then bottom, then head, in that order. If you lead with the head, that motion will elicit the moro reflex and will potentially wake them up. 

Using a swaddle

If you have not tried using a swaddle with your newborn, now may be the time to try! Using a swaddle helps once again to mimic the feeling of the womb which is naturally a squished, swaddle-like environment. This added level of comfort for your little one can help to allow them to sleep while not in your arms. The swaddle also helps with avoiding the startle reflex being elicited. 

Keep Your Smell Close

Your baby gets so used to your scent that it becomes a thing of comfort to them. To achieve this comfort once technique is to take the swaddle blanket and simply wear it under your shirt or bra. This will in turn make the swaddle blanket smell like you. (or your milk if breastfeeding) and will help to comfort your little one when they are not in your arms.

Next Steps

We hope that these tips will help you with weaning your baby off from those contact naps/ and get them into a more independent sleeping pattern. If you continue to have issues you can read more tips here on how to stop contact naps. As always please feel free to reach out if you need more help putting any of these tips into practice.

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