As a new parent, navigating the sleep patterns of your newborn can seem like a never-ending job. One of the common experiences of newborn parents is that their newborn won’t sleep unless held, making it difficult for parents to get comfortable sleep during the night.
The good news is that you are not in this fight alone, and there are strategies to manage this situation so that you and your newborn can ease into a manageable sleeping pattern.
This guide explores some of the reasons why your newborn won’t sleep unless held and offers some tactics you can try to help your newborn drift off into a peaceful slumber while you can maintain full use of your limbs.
Reasons why your newborn won’t sleep unless held
First of all, even though you might be sleep-deprived at the moment, it can help take a beat and find comfort in the fact that your newborn finds comfort in you. This is crucial for the bond between parent and baby, although it can be difficult to appreciate when running on fumes.
One of the primary reasons why a baby might crave your physical contact and comfort at night and why your newborn won’t sleep unless held is that they are not tired enough to settle into sleep on their own.
They may also need time to develop self-soothing strategies, such as sucking on a pacifier, to go back to sleep in the event they wake up in the middle of the night.
Strategies to try when your newborn won’t sleep unless held
If you are looking for ways to change up your daily routine to encourage your newborn to fall asleep on their own at night, these tactics might be just what you are looking for.
Keep in mind that it may take a period of time for these changes to develop into a stable routine, which means that trial and error may be just what the doctor ordered to solve why your newborn won’t sleep unless held.
No two babies are the same, so you will need to trust your instincts as to what works best for you and your baby when it comes to getting comfortable with a workable bedtime routine.
Try to monitor nap times during the day
It can be tempting to allow your baby to nap during the day when he or she gets sleepy. Napping is a perfectly normal activity for a newborn baby. Still, excessive sleep time during the day can prevent your baby from falling asleep at night because they have excess energy to use up.
A good rule of thumb is that your baby should not sleep during the day for longer periods than you expect him or her to sleep during the night.
Frequent naps are just fine, but you should be paying close attention to the total amount of time that your baby spends sleeping during the day because your baby has not yet learned the difference between day and night.
If you are concerned about waking your baby up too abruptly during the day, try waking your baby with some quiet music or cooing sounds. This is also a good time to help your baby adjust to sleeping independently without cradling them.
Solo naps during the day can ease the transition into sleeping on their own at night. One of the prime times to try this out is right after you have fed your baby because they are more likely to be tired enough to nap while digesting their milk or formula.
Bedtime rituals should be consistent and calming
Many parents underestimate the role that steady routines play in helping a baby to regulate their sleep cycles. Even at a super young age, babies pay attention to rituals and rely on them as a source of comfort, especially at the end of the day.
You should invest in an hour in helping your baby to wind down to go to sleep. This can include a warm bath, soft music, quiet singing, or reading a book.
Allow your baby to lay in their crib on their own while you try to coo them to sleep. You should remain in the room as they drift off to sleep, but try not to hold your baby during this downtime ritual.
Your baby may need a pacifier to self-soothe at night
When you leave the baby to sleep for the night, you should keep a pacifier in their crib. This teaches your baby to self soothe when possible and can help solve why your newborn won’t sleep unless held.
While it is completely normal to want to check on your baby in the middle of the night when he or she wakes up and is crying, you may want to try experimenting with letting your baby cry it out a bit to get in the habit of self-soothing.
This can be very difficult for some parents to endure, and you will have to trust your instincts on what you are comfortable with in terms of self-soothing in figuring out why your newborn won’t sleep unless held.
Comforting your baby on their back
Many pediatric sleep studies show that placing your baby to sleep on their back in the crib is the safest sleeping position for newborns.
Instead of holding your newborn in your arms when you are trying to initiate sleep, you should place him or her on his back and softly rub or massage his or her legs and arms if they are resistant to sleep.
This conveys to your baby that you are there to comfort him or her and will be there when needed. The physical contact can be very soothing to your baby without encouraging him or her to rely on your presence for falling asleep.
You can also comfort your baby without holding him or her during sleep by exposing your baby to your scent at night. Leaving an item of your worn clothing near your baby’s crib is a good way to keep your scent present in the baby’s room without having to physically be there through the night.
It is a way to make what can seem like a sterile environment after being coddled in a mother’s arms much more welcoming.
Also, while it is important for the mattress to be firm to keep your baby safe while sleeping, you can still do things to make the baby’s room as comforting and welcoming as possible.
Painting the walls a soft color and hanging a mobile above the crib are good ways to put a baby more at ease while they are laying in their cribs and help them out of the situation that your newborn won’t sleep unless held.
Monitor for signs of pain
Although it is perfectly natural for newborn babies to crave physical contact with their mothers at night, there could be another medical reason why they have issues sleeping regularly through the night.
Excess gas buildup, muscle tension, congestion, or other discomforts can prevent a baby from falling asleep and staying asleep naturally. One of the signs to watch for is whether your baby is grunting during the night.
This can be signs of expressing pain rather than just a failure to self-soothe without their mother’s presence. In addition, you should watch for a running nose or any signs of labored breathing from your baby.
It is best to schedule a visit with your pediatrician to ensure that there is not a medical reason why your baby is failing to fall asleep on his or her own and to ask questions about why your newborn won’t sleep unless held.
If you hear your baby coughing excessively, especially long after he or she has finished feeding, this is a sign that your baby may have a respiratory issue and should be examined by your pediatrician as soon as possible.
If your baby runs a temperature for any significant period of time, you should also contact your pediatrician immediately.
Finding balance in trying out strategies when your newborn won’t sleep unless held
In sum, it goes without saying that newborn babies will not yet sleep through the night without waking up unexpectedly or needing to eat again.
It can be incredibly frustrating if your newborn won’t sleep unless held and can cause you many sleepless nights as a new parent.
Approaching the situation with as much patience as possible and a willingness to try out new bedtime strategies is the best way to get through it with your sanity intact.
While all of the above strategies will not work for every baby, it is important to note the ones that work best for you and give you some relief when your baby won’t sleep unless held.