profile picture of Bonnie Vengrow
Bonnie Vengrow
Contributing Writer

Baby Will Only Sleep When I Hold Him. Help!

My newborn won't sleep unless he’s being held. How can I get anything done? 

Considering baby just spent nine months wrapped in the snug, cozy confines of your uterus, it’s no wonder his favorite sleeping spot is in your arms. And that’s perfectly fine in the first two to three weeks of his life, says Terra Blatnik, MD, pediatrician at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital. “Infants like skin-to-skin contact with mom and dad, as they find it very soothing,” she explains. And no, despite what anyone tells you, you’re not doing anything wrong letting baby sleep in your arms in those first weeks. “Holding a baby during this time period will not make an infant clingy later in life,” she says.

In fact, it might take several weeks or more before baby can snooze without being _this close _to you. Blatnik says as baby develops better sleep patterns over those weeks, he’ll be able to settle down to sleep in his crib by himself.

Then start to encourage baby to sleep in his crib. If he wakes up the moment he senses he’s in the crib, resist the urge to pick him up right away. “It’s worth a few tries to see if baby is willing,” Blatnik says. “Eventually, baby will get the hang of it.”

Until then, you want a few minutes to put the dishes in the dishwasher or take a shower while baby naps, so try these tricks:

Take turns. Switch off holding baby with your partner (just remember, it’s not safe for either of you to doze off with baby in your arms — easier said than done, we know).

Swaddle. Being snugly wrapped makes baby feel secure and prevents the natural startle reflex from waking him up, Blatnik says.

Use a pacifier. It may help baby sleep and — bonus — has been associated with a decreased risk of SIDS.

Get moving. The gentle movements of a baby swing or vibrating chair can also soothe baby to sleep. Move baby to his crib once he’s conked out, since sleeping on a flat surface (his crib mattress) helps reduce the risk of SIDS.

Plus, more from The Bump:

Stop Bedtime Battles

Should You Let Baby Cry it Out?

How to Sleep Train

 

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