The 4 Most Common Reasons
When you first brought your baby home, you probably never wanted to let her go. I know I didn’t want to put my daughter down! What can be more wonderful than holding your own warm little bundle close to you?
But no matter how awesome it is to cuddle with Baby, real life happens, too. You need to attend to chores, your work, and even (yes, really) a little “me time.”
So if your baby is weeks or months old and you’re realizing she wakes back up any time you put her down, you’ll need to do something –– fast.
Read on to find out why your baby only naps when held, and what you can do.
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Reason #1: It’s Become a Habit
The Number One reason a baby only naps when held is that it has become a habit for both of you.
It’s awful to hear your baby cry, and it’s impossible to get certain things done while he’s fussing. So you may have gotten into the habit of sitting down with your little one and holding him until he’s deeply asleep. Then you put him down for his nap in his crib or bassinet.
The problem is, once you’ve done this consistently for a week or two, your baby thinks this is the only way to fall asleep. And you can’t blame him. It’s nicer to fall asleep being held close and sung to than all alone in a crib.
Don’t worry, mama –– there are solutions below for this!
Reason #2: Your Baby Hasn’t Learned to Self-Soothe
Babies wake up several times a night and may semi-waken once or twice at nap time.
However, a baby doesn’t fully wake up during these times. Instead, she falls back to sleep for the rest of her nap without realizing she ever woke up.
The problem happens when your baby hasn’t learned to self-soothe. If she’s used to being held or having her back rubbed every time she rustles around in her crib, she may waken fully instead of falling back asleep at nap time.
Reason #3: She Falls Asleep With You, But Wakes Up Alone
Picture this: a big, loving person holds you gently in his or her arms. You fall asleep in warmth, perhaps with the person singing to you or rocking you.
You wake up in a completely different room, entirely alone, in the dark.
What would your reaction be?
I’ll bet it would be similar to the reaction of a baby who is always rocked or held to sleep. This becomes a vicious circle. Your baby falls asleep warm in your arms, wakes up somewhere else, cries, and you rush to hold her. Then in order to fall asleep the next time, she needs your arms again.
Real Baby Sleep Issues.
Reason #4: Your Baby is in Pain
IMPORTANT: This is the one time you do NOT want to use sleep training methods. If your baby is sick or is in pain, take her to the pediatrician. Put sleep training on hold until she’s healthy again.
Some issues make sleeping while lying down painful. An ear infection can put pressure on the ears and cause your baby to wake up when he’s not held. Stomach issues, such as colic or GERD, can also be more painful when the baby is lying flat.
So do get your baby thoroughly checked out if he is waking with a scream that sounds like pain; if he pulls his legs up to his tummy or pulls at his ears; if he has a fever; or if he previously napped while not being held, but now insists on being held.
What to Do if Your Baby Only Naps When Held
Actually, let’s start out with what not to do:
Do not let your baby “cry it out.”
A little “talk” in the crib or resettling is one thing. Letting a baby cry for a long period of time can make her less trustful and can have a very negative effect on her emotionally.
Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s how to help your baby nap without being held:
- Put Baby down for her nap when she’s sleepy, but not fully asleep.
She’ll learn to self-soothe if she falls asleep the rest of the way by herself. (NOTE: this can take time. Be consistent.)
- Have a regular nap schedule for your baby.
Over time, her body will be able to predict that nap time is coming, and she’ll start to get drowsy then.
- Avoid letting your baby fall asleep in an infant swing or in the car.
If she falls asleep in one place and wakes up in another, she may be startled. This will make it hard, or impossible, for her to fall naturally back asleep.
- Take infant sleep training courses.
It’s tempting to follow the advice of a friend or family member. But constantly changing things up will only confuse your baby. In the long run, she’ll be less likely to nap without being held. Instead, if you’re frustrated, consult a professional.
Does Infant Sleep Training Work for Bedtime, Too?
Yes. The principle is the same. You’re teaching your baby to fall and stay asleep without being held.
If your baby only naps when held, the sooner you help her out, the happier you’ll both be. Rest is important during this time period in your baby’s life.
So if she will only nap when held, don’t wait. Help her develop good habits today that will last her a lifetime.
Sleep, Baby, Sleep to the Rescue!
Not sure how to help your baby sleep without being held? Contact me for one-on-one help. I’ll guide you through the entire gentle process so you can all get more shuteye.
Helping your baby learn to fall asleep on their own and master independent sleep is one of my specialties. I’ve focused on it for years because I went through it with my baby. Now I help parents just like you worldwide!
Don’t waste another night’s sleep. Check out my Sleep Packages. Remember: my methods are gentle but very effective, with an almost 100% success rate.
In the meantime, have a look at what others are saying about how I helped their babies learn to sleep through the night. Sweet dreams!