Newborn Won't Sleep Unless Held: What You Can Do

Newborn Won't Sleep Unless Held: What You Can Do

When you first had your baby, you couldn’t get enough of them. You wanted to hold, snuggle, just watch them sleep all day long. That new baby feeling probably hasn’t worn off, but the feeling of being well-rested may be a distant memory. 

You may have found that your baby doesn’t particularly enjoy sleeping in their crib or bassinet. Instead, their favorite resting place is in your arms. Although it is sweet that your baby finds comfort being with you, sometimes you just need some sleep! Let’s look at some solutions for when your baby won’t sleep unless held. 

Age Considerations

Your baby just spent nine months in the womb, and they feel back at home when they are cozy and warm in your arms. During those first weeks, you’ll do anything for your baby to sleep and are in survival mode!

As your baby grows and you begin to learn their sleeping patterns, you can begin transitioning to sleeping in a safe space other than your arms. Your baby will need to learn healthy sleeping patterns from you, and of course, sleeping in your arms is not a long-term solution. 


In the womb, your baby was snuggled close and felt secure. Swaddling your baby helps replicate how your baby felt in the womb and will hopefully give your arms (and you) a break. 

If you swaddle with a blanket, it may take some practice until you can get that perfect baby burrito. There are also specially designed swaddles on the market with velcro and other closures that can help you swiftly and snugly swaddle your baby. 

One tip is to try keeping the swaddle blanket on you while not swaddling your baby. Sounds strange, but your scent being on the swaddle can be an extra comfort to your baby when they are wrapped up snug. You may find that with the warmly scented swaddle, your baby may be able to draft asleep without you having to physically hold them every time.

Baby Wraps

If you find that your baby is still inconsolable when swaddled, and you’ve given the swaddle a chance, placing your baby in a wrap may be helpful. Your baby will still be in a snug, swaddled situation but will be closer to you physically. Your hands are also left free to complete whatever tasks you’ve been meaning to get to. 

Put Down While Drowsy

Try putting your baby in their sleeping space while they are drowsy. This will help them to learn to drift away to dreamland on their own, which will be useful if you choose to sleep train down the road. 

In the beginning it may be trial and error, as your baby may become more alert when they realize they are not in your arms. If this does occur, try to soothe them from their crib or bassinet by using soft, soothing words. If that doesn’t work, try laying a comforting hand on their tummy. 

Give both of these methods a few minutes to work, as your baby probably won’t calm down immediately. If your baby is still yearning to be back in your arms, you may need to pick them up until they are drowsy again and try the process over again. 

Moro Reflex

When laying down your baby, be sure that you hold your baby close to you as long as possible. If you hold your baby away from your body when laying them down, you could trigger their Moro reflex

This reflex is triggered when your baby experiences a loud noise, bright lights, or sensation of falling. Your baby will extend their arms and throw their head back. Sometimes, your baby can wake themselves up, which we don't want to happen if they are on the brink of falling asleep!

Offer The Pacifier

Pacifiers may be helpful when it comes to soothing fussy babies. The sucking action that babies do on a pacifier can be comforting. You’ll want to keep this helpful tool towards the bottom of your toolkit, and try other methods of calming your baby first. 

Your baby may be fussy because they need to be burped, or maybe they have a dirty diaper. Giving the pacifier first may cause your baby to become overly dependent on it, when there may be other reasons why your baby was fussy to begin with. 

Using Movement

If your baby usually conks out on drives or when you take them on walks, try using a swing to mimic that same motion. 

After your baby is lulled to sleep by the gentle motions, place them in their sleeping space, ideally when they are drowsy and about to fall asleep. Don’t leave your sleeping baby in their swing, as it is not designed as a sleep space.

Bedtime Routine

Establishing a consistent bedtime routine helps your baby learn healthy sleeping habits, which is beneficial to everyone in the household. Even while your baby is young, you can run through the motions to help get you into the habit. However, you shouldn’t feel pressured to have a routine down-pat the day you bring your baby home from the hospital. 

Bedtime routines should be simple and help your baby wind down. A bath, feeding, and a story book are great examples of a short, yet sweet bedtime routine. 

Your friends at Little Yawn Collective can also help make bedtime a breeze with melatonin-free sleep essentials, like The Snooze Bundle, to help your little one fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. 


Although it may seem hard now, you’re doing a great job! It may take some trial and error, and some days your baby will just want to be with you and only you. Enjoy these days of your little one fast asleep in your arms, this phase will be over before you know it. 

Combine Little Yawn Collective with a consistent sleep routine to help make bedtime an easy part of the day. 


Slide show: How to swaddle a baby | Mayo Clinic

What to know about the Moro reflex? | Medical News Today

Pacifiers: Are they good for your baby? | Mayo Clinic

Perfecting Your Child's Bedtime Routine | Sleep Foundation


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