Newborn Won’t Sleep Unless Held? This Might Be Why

It’s not easy to pick one single thing that’s the hardest part about becoming a new parent. Yes, it is a miracle and all that jazz, but let’s be honest: It’s not all miraculous. Just look inside any new parent’s diaper genie for a clue. But, if we had to, we say the hardest part is trying to de-mystify the question of how to get your baby to sleep without being held.

We’ve all been there: the fleeting moment when your baby falls asleep in your arms (success!), but then when you go to lay the baby down in their crib so you can finally take a shower—the little bundle of joy immediately wakes up screaming. What is up with that? And does anyone know how to get a newborn to sleep at night?

Unsurprisingly, it turns out that we aren’t the only ones to wonder why this occurs. We scoured the web to see what other parents had to say on the matter, and if we could get to the bottom of why babies won’t stay asleep, as well as how to fix it.

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What To Do If Your Baby Wakes Up When Put Down

“Every time I put down my sleeping baby, she wakes up,” writes an anonymous parent on the health information site Ask Dr. Sears. “Help!”

While Dr. Sears proceeds to make a few helpful suggestions, we’d venture to say that he doesn’t really answer the crux of the question.

“This is a situation that frustrates almost every parent at some time,” he writes instead. “Realize, first of all, that this is very normal. It is not that you are doing anything wrong, or that something is unusual with your baby. It is very normal for babies to do this.”

While it’s comforting to know that if your fussy baby won’t sleep, that’s normal, we’re still left with the question of why, exactly, your newborn won’t sleep unless held? Why is it so normal? And how can we change it?

newborn won't sleep unless held
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Why Your Newborn Won’t Sleep Unless Held

Sleep consultant Christine Stevens of Sleep Solutions by Christine added her two cents on the parenting site Romper.

“Babies usually wake up when they are laid down because of a change of environment,” she explained. “They go from being snuggled in a parent’s arms to a cool mattress or surface.” Of course, that makes perfect sense, but we can’t very well heat the mattress up to 98.6 every evening. 

We turned to the experts over at the Baby Center community for help. One frustrated new parent asked the very same question. “My baby will sleep for up to five hours at a time,” the user wrote. “But only if I’m holding her. As soon as I lay her down, she snaps wide-awake. Help!”

The ‘best answer’ provided on this forum suggests that, “ultimately our time with our children is so limited and passes so fast, why not enjoy every minute of it?” Essentially, that translates to: hold your baby all night long, every night. For someday, they’ll be grown and you’ll miss the days of no sleep or showers.

In some senses, we’re sure that well-meaning user is right. But in the moment, it doesn’t seem like the most practical solution in the world, nor one that looks after mom and dad’s mental sanity. So we kept searching, and we finally found a solution.

how to get newborn to sleep at night - mommy and me
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How to Get Your Baby to Sleep Without Being Held

Instead of holding your baby until the sun comes up, experts recommend getting your baby to sleep by swaddling your infant. This keeps your baby’s startle reflex in check so they can relax even during times of change. Even better, try establishing a predictable nightly routine and stick to it.

Slowly get your baby ready for bed over the course of half an hour or so. Dim the lights, read a bedtime story, and set the mood for sleep. Get your baby in bed while they’re beginning to feel sleepy, but before they actually fall asleep.

It might take a few tries for your infant to fall asleep on their own, out of your arms, but it’s worth going through those growing pains. Using this method, when it’s finally your turn to catch a few ZZZ’s, you won’t have to shock your infant awake with a sudden change of scenery.

Instead, you’ll have a calm, quiet household filled with the lovely sounds of silence. And we’d venture to say that rather than forcing yourself to stay awake with the baby all hours of the night to ‘make the most’ of your time with them, a decent night’s sleep is sure to make the time you spend with your little one tomorrow that much sweeter.

how to get your baby to sleep without being held
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