Baby Only Sleeps When Held

Cracking the Code: Effective Tips to Help When Your Baby Only Sleeps When Held


From the moment they are born until they learn to walk, babies are a wonder to hold.


Holding your baby becomes a chore when you’ve done so for an extended period, especially during naps or at bedtime. It’s even more tiresome if they sleep only in your arms.


If you’re on this table and wondering what to do, you’re in luck!

Follow along as we explain why a baby only sleeps when held and what to do in such a situation.

What Causes a Baby To Only Sleep When Held?

Here’s the thing:

Holding a baby while they drift in and out of sleep can be physically and emotionally daunting for parents.

But don’t get me wrong:

Being able to hold your baby is a special feeling. However, once the time begins to stretch, you might find yourself wondering, “Why does my baby only sleep when held?”


I have the answers you seek. We’ll be discussing what causes a baby to sleep only when held below:

1. Discomfort

One reason why a baby only sleeps when held is because the parent’s arms are more comfortable than the bed.


Parents always ensure they hold their babies in a comfortable position. So when you try to change that position by moving to lay them in their crib, the baby may wake up.

Another possible scenario is a simply uncomfortable bed.

For example:

If the bed is too hard, soft, or lumpy, the baby might have trouble sleeping once you lay them down.


This could make the baby get accustomed to the comfort of the parent’s arms and thus lead to dependency.

2. Insecurity


Some babies can’t sleep without a parent around.

In fact:

The National Health Service (NHS) reports that separation anxiety is quite common in children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years.


Although it is normal, separation anxiety can breed insecurity in babies. And in turn, insecurity prevents the baby from falling asleep when their parent isn’t near.


If your child has separation anxiety or insecurity, they might wake up once you lay them down.

3. Habit

Get this:

A baby might only sleep when held because they’ve grown accustomed to their parent’s arms.


We know babies like comfort and sustained patterns. So, if they always fall asleep in your arms, even from birth, they might develop a sleep association with it.

The thing is:

When your baby sleeps in your arms, they feel comfortable and safe.


Once you remove that safety by laying them down, they instantly snap awake.

4. Reflexes

As difficult as getting a baby to sleep is, getting them to sleep after a startle is more frustrating.

Let me explain:

When you hold your baby, you try to ensure that all the conditions around them are stable. This means you might rock them or sing a soft lullaby. Basically, anything to get them comfortable and prepped for sleep.


Setting your baby in bed reduces how much control you have over the stability of their sleeping environment. You might try to lay them down as slowly as possible, but the slightest environmental change could startle them awake.

For example:

If your baby sleeps in your arms, they might wake due to light or noise when you lay them down.

This is a result of their reflexes, which can prevent them from sleeping without contact.

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The Effects of Holding a Baby to Sleep


Holding your baby to sleep might seem harmless at first, but it comes with various consequences. Let’s look at some effects of holding your baby to sleep:

  • Distorted sleeping patterns: If your baby only sleeps when you hold them, it can distort their sleep patterns. This reduces your ability to monitor your baby’s sleep and prevents them from adapting to a pattern.
  • Inability to sleep in their own bed: Continuously letting your baby fall asleep in your arms can lead to a sleep association issue. Because of this, over time, you might find it difficult to get the baby to sleep in their bed.
  • Anxiety: Once your baby gets too comfortable sleeping in your arms, they might find it difficult to fall asleep without you. And when they do sleep without you, they might grow anxious if you aren’t there when they wake.
  • Possibility of physical harm: As we know, holding a baby for an extended period gets tiring. Added to the stress of parenthood, you might grow exhausted and fall asleep holding the baby.

If this happens, the baby could slip out of your hands, leading to physical harm.

Without a doubt:

Holding your baby for long periods has its benefits.


It comes with drastic benefits as well. Below, I’ve drawn a table to show the pros and cons of holding a baby to sleep:

You can easily notice breathing irregularities or injuries on the babyIt could cause distorted sleep patterns
It breeds a sense of familiarity between the parent and the childIt makes it difficult for your baby to sleep in their bed
Your baby feels safe in your armsIt could lead to anxiety
You can hold your baby in the most comfortable position for them to sleep properlyThere is the possibility of physical harm

Strategies for Helping a Baby to Sleep Independently


If your baby only sleeps when held, it affects both you and the child. Fortunately, there are ways to curb this.


Babies need comfort and fairly stable conditions to sleep safely. And you can create the perfect atmosphere for your baby to achieve safe sleep.

Below, I’ll walk you through some strategies for helping your baby sleep independently.

Let’s head right in!

1. Create a Consistent Night Routine

Creating a routine for your baby helps them know when it’s time to sleep.


Once the baby senses that you’re starting a routine in a particular sequence, they know bedtime is near.

This is an effective way to help your baby sleep independently because babies process information at a fast pace. For this reason, they like patterns and routines.

By creating a routine, you develop a pattern for your child to get used to. Eventually, they won’t rely on contact to fall asleep.

2. Swaddle Your Baby


Swaddling your baby means wrapping them up in a cozy and breathable material to ensure comfort.

A good swaddle helps your baby respond less to external stimuli. It primarily calms their reflexes so they can sleep better without a startle.

In essence:

The concept of swaddling is to mimic the comfort of the womb. This makes the baby feel safe while sleeping, so they don’t need holding.

3. Apply White Noise

Over the years:

White noise has proven to be effective in helping infants sleep better.

In fact:

The low and rumbly yet calming nature of white noise helps reduce fussiness in babies and lulls them to sleep.


This technique is used for newborns who relate the sound of white noise to the sounds of the womb. However, you can apply it to older infants as well.


No matter what technique you use, the key to curbing this dependence is patience and consistency. With that, you can optimize your child’s sleep adequately.

When To Seek Professional Help

For starters:

If your baby only sleeps when held, you don’t have to panic. It’s a very natural process, and most times, children outgrow it.


It is important to note that sometimes, underlying medical conditions can contribute to difficulty sleeping.

To this effect:

If you notice heightened anxiety, fussiness, or restlessness in your baby for an extended period, it is best to seek professional help.

Specialists, such as pediatricians or sleep consultants, can help identify the problem and procure solutions.

Final Tip: Annie Baby Monitor – Your Baby Sleep Solution Helper

Tired of struggling to put your baby to sleep at night?

Let Annie Baby Monitor help you create a peaceful bedtime routine.

This baby monitor has advanced features – the baby tracker and sleep history you can help you understand your baby’s sleep patterns and adjust accordingly.

With these insights, you can soothe your little one into a restful night, transforming bedtime battles into calming moments.

Say goodbye to sleepless nights and embrace the power of Annie Baby Monitor.


Let’s go over it one more time:

Some possible reasons your baby only sleeps when held are discomfort, insecurity, habit, or triggered reflexes.


Constantly holding your baby to sleep can cause distorted sleep patterns and difficulty sleeping in their bed. It can also lead to anxiety, and there’s the increased possibility of accidentally hurting the baby.

On the bright side:

There are ways to help your baby sleep independently. They include:

  • Creating a consistent nighttime routine
  • Swaddling your baby
  • Applying white noise


Always remember to pay attention to your baby’s cues. If you notice anything concerning or suspect any underlying health issues, reach out to a professional for help.

I hope this article was helpful. If you have any questions, contributions, or reactions to this topic, let me know in the comments below.

FAQ: Baby Only Sleeps When Held

Why Does My Baby Only Sleep When Held?

Possible reasons why a baby only sleeps when held are due to discomfort, insecurity, or triggered reflexes. The habit of sleeping in the parent’s arms can also cause dependence.

How Can I Help My Baby Feel Comfortable Sleeping Independently?

To help your baby feel comfortable sleeping independently, you should create a consistent nighttime routine. You can also swaddle the baby or use white noise.

Are There Any Sleep Training Methods That Can Address This Issue?

Addressing the issue of baby sleeping only when held doesn’t necessarily require specific training methods. However, you must establish a routine for your baby while trying to soothe them without much physical contact.

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