What to do When Your Baby doesn’t Sleep Unless Held

We know the struggle. You walk the halls of your house, your baby’s eyes finally close, and you go to set down your sleeping bundle of joy. Then horror hits. As they touch their crib, their eyes pop open, and the crying begins again.

It’s exhausting and heartbreaking. But your baby knows when they have a good thing going. Your warm, familiar, and constantly moving. That’s the only thing newborns have known for most of their lives. However, it might not be in your baby’s best interest to only sleep in your arms. You also will need a break. Those little ones get heavy!

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Baby sleeping in a blanket

Is it dangerous to hold my baby to sleep?

Nothing will keep you up at night more than the thought of SIDS. Doctors don’t recommend sleeping with your baby. Even healthy babies have an increased chance of SIDS. Newborns sleep about sixteen hours a day, and while a few moments asleep in your arms isn’t bad, it can cause problems long-term.

Babies need to have their own place to sleep. It can be dangerous for infants to sleep in a bed. A crib is perfect because it allows your baby to sleep on its back without nests or anti-roll pillows that could cause your baby to stop breathing. 

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What do I do if my baby only sleeps if held?

You will have to work towards transitioning your baby into sleeping in their crib. Some parents utilize a baby carrier or a sling to help ease the switch. It may take some time, but this will be better in the long run rather than inviting everyone you know to come over and hold your baby every hour of the day. 

Implementing some of the same techniques for soothing your baby can help adjust them to sleeping on their own. 

  • Swaddle. This is a perfect way to recreate the feeling that you are holding your baby. Perhaps even the cornerstone of soothing. Wrapped babies also seem to be more suggestive of other relaxing techniques. 
  • Shush. Babies don’t actually need silences to get a good nap. In the womb, they are already predisposed to blood flow and the chatter of the world around them. Things like fans don’t often work because it’s a different kind of white noise. There are specially made CDs and Mp3s on the market. 
  • Swing. Some babies just like to move. Having a swing of some sort can help soothe your baby for short periods of time. Never shake your baby. 
  • Suck. One great way that babies soothe themselves is by suckling. A binky is perfect for this and can really help to relax your baby.
Newborn being swaddled


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7 Tips for helping your baby sleep on their own

  1. Hold your baby for fifteen minutes or so to get them to fall asleep. Then slowly transfer your little one to their sleeping location. Move as slow as possible to help keep your baby in a deeper sleep. 
  2. Be mindful of how long your baby has been awake. Newborn babies need a nap every hour or so. And they shouldn’t be up for more than an hour and a half at a time. Utilize this time to begin to create a sleeping habit. This is the perfect moment to sing a lullaby. 
  3. Swaddle your baby. This subject has been touched on above, but it can be a great comfort to your baby. By swaddling your newborn, you are not just mimicking the feeling of holding them, but you also surround them with your smell.
  4. Offer a pacifier. If you notice that your baby is looking a little drowsy, get them comfortable and let them suckle themself calm. The pacifier allows them to focus on something and can help support a sleep habit.
  5. Follow the ABCs of safe sleeping. Your baby should sleep alone and on their back in their crib or bassinet. It may be tempting to add toys, pillows, or bumpers, but these items can lead to SIDS or even suffocation. An empty crib is a safe crib.
  6. Create a safe and peaceful environment for your baby. The easiest way to make a newborn feel safe is to mimic the womb. Keeping the room dark and offering white noise will help them feel comfortable and relaxed. Newborns will nap just about anywhere, but it’s a good practice to have them fall asleep in a dark environment. You’ll thank yourself later when your little one starts taking longer naps. 
  7. Your baby wants to be near you. They love the warmth and comfort you bring as a parent. You can easily mimic that in their crib. To create a warm and cozy place for your baby to sleep, you can warm up the sheets. If you have a hot water bottle, you can place this in the crib between the sheets to warm them up. Just make sure that it’s only warm and not hot. Baby's skin is much more sensitive than adults'. You should also remove the hot water bottle before you place your baby down for a nap. 

Related: How much sleep does your toddler need?

Baby napping in a crib


Getting a fussy baby to sleep can be stressful for everyone included. We hope that these tips help ease your mind and give you some inspiration for getting your baby to sleep in their own crib. Not only does this offer you some personal time, but it’s healthier for your baby. 

Full tummies and happy babies will naturally fall asleep faster. Getting your baby comfortable in their bed before they are sleeping will help them associate their crib with sleeping and comfort. 

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