Baby only sleeps when held

baby only sleeps when held

Baby Only Sleeps When Held? There’s a Solution 

Are you worried because your baby only sleeps when held?

Then have I got news that will really make your day (and your night)! Today we’ll take a look at the one reason you didn’t realize why your baby only sleeps when held. Even better: there’s an answer that will make you both rest more easily.


First, that question that’s on the mind of so many new parents: why do some babies only fall asleep if they’re in someone’s arms?

Actually, this is normal behavior in newborn infants. For the first few weeks, babies want to be close to human warmth, just like they were in the womb.

But after the first month, most babies begin to transition into not needing to be held to drift off. And if your baby cries hysterically when she’s put down, you may have unknowingly taught him that the only way he can fall asleep is if he’s in your arms. At this point, there’s a problem that needs to be resolved before it’s an ingrained habit.

So what’s a mom, dad or grandparent to do?

First, here’s what to avoid. This is the primary reason parents unknowingly teach their babies not only to fall asleep only when they’re held, but to be fearful of not being held (it may surprise you): 


You may be thinking “no way!”, but hear me out, because this is far more common than you might think. And unfortunately, you may not even know you’re doing it.

The reality is: letting your baby fall asleep on you, then transferring him/her into the crib, usually results in some major crying. Either your baby will cry immediately, or they will call out after a sleep cycle, after which they’re actually supposed to drift back off. (These cycles happen naturally several times a night in both infants and adults ––  hopefully without the crying!)

And it’s no wonder. Compare your baby falling asleep in your arms to you falling asleep in your warm and cozy bed, but waking up in your backyard. Alone, no less. Imagine how you’d feel in this disorienting scenario. You’d be startled and probably frightened. At the very least, it would make it very hard for you to fall asleep. 

Of course, you’re an adult who can get up and find a safer, cozier place. A baby doesn’t have those abilities. Instead, when he wakes up alarmed, afraid and confused, he calls for help: you or another caretaker.

When you put your baby asleep after you’ve held her, you’re unknowingly giving her this experience. Instead, you should lay her down awake, so she is aware of her surroundings.


Did you know that teaching a baby to fall asleep on their own is one of my specialties? I’ve helped thousands of babies sleep better and I can help yours too! Learn more about my customized sleep plans. when to start sleep training

Now let’s look at what does work, and why it’s imperative that you start these changes right now…not later, after more frustrating weeks for you and your baby.


There are several things you can do in order to encourage her to fall asleep in her crib or bassinet. Among these, swaddling is one of the best! It’s safe, comfortable and it’s been tested and approved by parents around the world for thousands of years.

If your baby only sleeps when held, and he/she is not yet rolling over, then a swaddle is ideal. There are many different swaddles on the market, so it can be hard to choose. Don’t worry: as long those little hands are kept inside and not flailing around, the swaddle is doing its job. 

My advice, tested by myself and my satisfied clients, is this: don’t get too fancy. Just pick a practical and proper-fitting swaddle. Make sure the fabric is soft and not scratchy. Then swaddle and voilà! Your baby feels cozy and is far more likely to drift off at bed or nap time.

Don’t worry if this takes a few tries. Consistency is key. 

Feel like giving up? Contact me today for a consultation.  


You may have heard that babies like sounds that are similar to the whooshing, rhythmic noises they hear in the womb, and this is very true. 

Some similar noises can be a vacuum cleaner, running water, or your heartbeat. But these aren’t convenient when you’re trying to teach your baby to fall asleep without being held.

That’s where white noise comes in. It suits the purpose perfectly, lulling your baby to sleep even though you put her down while she was still awake.

Look into a good sound machine that delivers audible white noise. Running a fan can work for some infants, but for many, it isn’t enough. White noise delivers more of that “womb-like” audible experience.

There are also baby sound apps or machines. Sometimes all a baby needs is some good distraction! 


If you’re waiting for your baby to outgrow needing to be held in order to go to sleep, know that the more time she requires this method, the more ingrained it will become. I’ve heard from parents of children as old as two who still wake up at least once a night.

Don’t wait to teach your baby healthy sleep habits. These include:

  • An age-appropriate sleep schedule
  • A solid, consistent bedtime routine
  • A proper, healthy sleep environment that promotes restful sleep
  • Slowly and gently teaching your child to fall asleep on his/her own 

A baby that is overtired from an inappropriate sleep schedule, or is having a hard time sleeping because her sleep environment is too stimulating, will struggle with being laid down. Working on all areas of your baby’s sleep will help her accept being laid down while still awake, and will help her sleep outside of your arms. 

Having trouble teaching your child to fall asleep in her crib or bassinet? If you need more help, or a step by step sleep plan because your baby only sleeps when held, don’t wait! Check out my Consultation Packages Here. And in the meantime, take a look at what others are saying about my program on our Testimonials Page.

baby only sleeps when held

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