how much sleep does a baby need

Unlocking the Secret: How to Get Your Baby to Sleep Without Being Held

Introducing a common challenge faced by parents: the struggle to get their baby to sleep without being held.

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How to Help Your Baby Develop Healthy Sleep Habits

Establishing healthy sleep habits is important for both you and your baby. It can help your baby get the rest they need for proper growth and development, and it can also give you some much-needed time to recharge. Here are some strategies to help your baby develop healthy sleep habits:

Create a Consistent Bedtime Routine

A consistent bedtime routine can signal to your baby that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. This routine can include activities such as a warm bath, reading a story, or singing a lullaby. By following the same routine every night, your baby will start associating these activities with sleep.


Establish a Regular Sleep Schedule

Having a regular sleep schedule can help regulate your baby’s internal clock and make it easier for them to fall asleep and wake up at the same times each day. Try to establish consistent nap times and bedtime, even on weekends or during vacations.

Create a Calm Sleep Environment

A calm sleep environment can help your baby feel relaxed and ready for sleep. Make sure their room is dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature. Consider using white noise machines or soft music to drown out any background noises that may disrupt their sleep.

Strategies to Encourage Independent Sleep in Your Baby

While it’s natural for babies to seek comfort from being held while they sleep, encouraging independent sleep is beneficial for both you and your baby in the long run. Here are some strategies to encourage independent sleep:

Gradual Separation Technique

The gradual separation technique involves slowly reducing the amount of physical contact your baby needs while falling asleep. Start by holding them until they are drowsy but not fully asleep, then place them in their crib. Over time, gradually decrease the amount of time you spend holding them before placing them in their crib.

Encourage Self-Soothing

Teaching your baby to self-soothe can help them learn how to fall asleep on their own. You can encourage self-soothing by giving your baby a lovey or comfort object that they can cuddle with while falling asleep. Additionally, allow your baby some alone time in their crib before going to sleep so they can practice self-soothing techniques like sucking on their fingers or thumb.

Use a Transitional Object

A transitional object, such as a small blanket or stuffed animal, can provide comfort and security for your baby when they are transitioning from being held to sleeping independently. Make sure the object is safe and age-appropriate for your baby.

Why Does Your Baby Only Sleep When Being Held?

Developmental Factors

One possible reason why your baby only sleeps when being held is due to developmental factors. Newborns and young infants often have a strong need for physical contact and closeness, as it provides them with a sense of security and comfort. They have spent nine months in the womb, where they were constantly held and surrounded by the warmth of their mother’s body. So, it’s natural for them to seek that same level of closeness outside the womb.

Additionally, babies are born with immature nervous systems, which means they may have difficulty self-soothing or regulating their own sleep patterns. Being held allows them to feel safe and calm, making it easier for them to fall asleep.


Another potential reason is that your baby has learned that being held is the only way they can fall asleep. If you consistently respond to their cries by picking them up and holding them, they may associate being held with falling asleep. This creates a cycle where they rely on being held in order to sleep.

This reinforcement can be unintentionally perpetuated by well-meaning parents who want to ensure their baby feels loved and secure. However, it’s important to find a balance between meeting your baby’s needs for comfort while also encouraging independent sleep habits.


  • Try gradually reducing the amount of time you hold your baby before placing them in their crib or bassinet.
  • Create a consistent bedtime routine that includes soothing activities such as gentle rocking or singing lullabies.
  • Introduce a transitional object like a soft blanket or stuffed animal that your baby can associate with comfort during sleep.

Potential Reasons Why Your Baby Can’t Sleep Unless Held

There are several potential reasons why your baby may have difficulty sleeping unless held. One possible reason is that your baby has developed a strong association between being held and falling asleep. This can happen if you consistently rock, bounce, or hold your baby every time they need to sleep. Another reason could be that your baby has separation anxiety and feels more secure when being held close to you. Additionally, some babies may have discomfort or pain that is alleviated when they are held, such as acid reflux or colic.

Lack of Self-Soothing Skills

One common factor contributing to a baby’s reliance on being held to sleep is the lack of self-soothing skills. Babies who haven’t learned how to calm themselves down independently often rely on external soothing methods like being held. This can make it challenging for them to fall asleep or stay asleep without the comfort of being in someone’s arms.


  • Gradually introduce independent sleep: Start by holding your baby until drowsy but not fully asleep, then place them in their crib while still awake. This helps them learn to associate their crib with sleep.
  • Practice gentle sleep training methods: Techniques like the “pick-up-put-down” method or the “fading” method can help teach your baby how to self-soothe and fall asleep without being held.
  • Provide comfort objects: Introduce a special blanket or stuffed animal that your baby can cuddle with for comfort while transitioning from being held to sleeping independently.

The Consequences of Allowing Your Baby to Only Sleep While Being Held

Allowing your baby to only sleep while being held can have several consequences for both you and your baby. Firstly, it can lead to exhaustion and burnout for parents who constantly need to hold their baby for sleep. This can impact your own sleep quality and overall well-being. Additionally, this reliance on being held can create a sleep association that makes it difficult for your baby to fall asleep or stay asleep independently.

Delayed Development of Self-Soothing Skills

When babies are always held to sleep, they miss out on the opportunity to develop self-soothing skills. Learning how to fall asleep without external assistance is an important developmental milestone for infants. By relying solely on being held, babies may struggle with self-regulation and have difficulty transitioning between sleep cycles during the night.


  • Gradual transition: Start by gradually reducing the amount of time you hold your baby while they fall asleep. This allows them to adjust slowly and learn how to self-soothe.
  • Create a consistent bedtime routine: Establishing a soothing bedtime routine can help signal to your baby that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep.
  • Offer comfort from a distance: Use techniques like shushing, gentle patting, or playing calming music near your baby’s crib instead of holding them directly.

Gentle Techniques to Transition Your Baby from Being Held to Sleeping Independently

Gradual Transition

One gentle technique to transition your baby from being held to sleeping independently is through a gradual transition process. Start by gradually reducing the amount of time you hold your baby before putting them down to sleep. For example, if you usually hold them for 30 minutes, try reducing it to 25 minutes for a few nights, then 20 minutes, and so on. This allows your baby to slowly adjust to the idea of being put down while still feeling comforted.


  • Use a timer or clock to help you keep track of the time.
  • Be patient and understanding as this process may take some time for your baby to adapt.
  • Offer extra soothing techniques, such as gentle rocking or singing, during the transition period.

Bedtime Routine

Establishing a consistent bedtime routine can also help your baby transition from being held to sleeping independently. Create a calming routine that includes activities like a warm bath, gentle massage, quiet playtime, and reading a bedtime story. This routine signals to your baby that it’s time for sleep and provides them with a sense of security and comfort.


  • Keep the bedtime routine consistent every night.
  • Create a relaxing environment by dimming lights and minimizing noise in the bedroom.
  • Avoid stimulating activities or screens close to bedtime as they can interfere with your baby’s ability to fall asleep independently.

Creating a Comfortable and Safe Sleep Environment for Your Baby

Sleeping Surface

To create a comfortable and safe sleep environment for your baby, it’s important to choose an appropriate sleeping surface. Use a firm crib mattress that fits snugly in the crib without any gaps. Avoid using soft bedding, such as pillows, blankets, or stuffed animals, as they can pose suffocation hazards.


  • Keep the crib free of any loose items that could potentially cover your baby’s face.
  • Consider using a sleep sack or wearable blanket instead of traditional blankets to keep your baby warm without the risk of suffocation.
  • Regularly check the crib for any wear and tear or loose parts that could be hazardous.

Room Temperature and Lighting

The room temperature and lighting play crucial roles in creating a comfortable sleep environment for your baby. Aim for a temperature between 68-72°F (20-22°C) and use blackout curtains or shades to create a dark sleeping environment. This helps regulate your baby’s body temperature and promotes better sleep.


  • Use a thermometer to monitor the room temperature and adjust accordingly.
  • Avoid exposing your baby to bright lights or stimulating screens close to bedtime as they can disrupt their sleep patterns.
  • Consider using white noise machines or soft lullabies to create a soothing ambiance in the room.

Recommended Schedules and Routines for Improving Your Baby’s Sleep Patterns

Nap Schedule

Establishing a consistent nap schedule can greatly improve your baby’s sleep patterns. Pay attention to their natural sleep cues, such as rubbing their eyes or becoming fussy, and aim to put them down for naps before they become overtired. Develop a routine that includes a quiet activity before naptime, such as reading a book or singing a lullaby, to signal that it’s time to wind down.


  • Keep track of your baby’s awake times to determine the ideal nap schedule for them.
  • Create a calm and quiet environment for naps by minimizing noise and distractions.
  • Be flexible with the nap schedule as your baby’s sleep needs may change over time.

Bedtime Routine

A consistent bedtime routine not only helps your baby fall asleep without being held but also improves their overall sleep patterns. Establish a routine that includes activities like a warm bath, changing into comfortable sleepwear, gentle massage, and reading a bedtime story. This signals to your baby that it’s time for sleep and prepares them for a restful night.


  • Start the bedtime routine at the same time every night to establish a predictable pattern.
  • Avoid stimulating activities or screens close to bedtime as they can interfere with your baby’s ability to fall asleep easily.
  • Incorporate soothing techniques like soft music or dimmed lights during the bedtime routine to create a calming atmosphere.

Common Mistakes Parents Make When Trying to Get Their Baby to Sleep Without Being Held


A common mistake parents make when trying to get their baby to sleep without being held is inconsistency. If you frequently switch between holding your baby and attempting independent sleep, it can confuse them and make it harder for them to learn how to self-soothe. Consistency is key in helping your baby develop healthy sleep habits.


  • Stick to your chosen approach consistently even if there are initial challenges.
  • Communicate and coordinate with other caregivers to ensure they follow the same routine.
  • Be patient and give your baby time to adjust to the new sleep routine.

Rushing the Process

Another common mistake is rushing the process of getting your baby to sleep without being held. It’s important to remember that every baby is different, and it may take time for them to adapt to sleeping independently. Rushing the process can lead to frustration for both you and your baby.


  • Take a gradual approach and allow your baby to gradually become comfortable with independent sleep.
  • Offer extra soothing techniques or reassurance during the transition period if needed.
  • Be patient and understanding as your baby learns this new skill at their own pace.

Effective Soothing Techniques and Products for Helping Your Baby Fall Asleep Without Being Held

White Noise Machines

A white noise machine can be an effective tool in helping your baby fall asleep without being held. The consistent sound helps drown out background noises and creates a soothing environment that mimics the sounds they heard in the womb. Place the white noise machine near their crib but at a safe distance from their ears.


  • Select a white noise machine with adjustable volume levels to find the most suitable sound for your baby.
  • Avoid placing the white noise machine too close to your baby’s ears as it can be harmful.
  • Gradually wean off reliance on white noise machines as your baby becomes more comfortable with independent sleep.


Pacifiers can provide comfort and help your baby self-soothe when trying to fall asleep without being held. Offer a pacifier during the bedtime routine and place it near your baby’s crib so they can easily find it if needed. However, it’s important to note that pacifiers should not be forced or used as a long-term sleep crutch.


  • Choose an age-appropriate pacifier that is safe for your baby to use.
  • Do not attach the pacifier to any strings or cords as they can pose a choking hazard.
  • Gradually reduce reliance on pacifiers as your baby grows older and develops other self-soothing techniques.

In conclusion, it is evident that the baby’s inability to sleep unless held poses a challenge for the parents. Finding effective strategies to help the baby sleep independently will be crucial for ensuring both the baby’s and parents’ well-being.

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

When it comes to your baby’s nap time, you have two options. You can let him sleep in the baby carrier, or you can begin teaching him to sleep independently. To mimic the feeling of being held, try swaddling him before placing him down. Stay by his side and soothe him by rocking him, singing, or gently touching his face or hand until he calms down.

Why won’t my clingy baby sleep alone?

Infants may have difficulty sleeping on their own because their internal clock is not fully developed, they may be hungry, tired, or in need of stimulation. It is beneficial to establish a consistent bedtime routine early on to help your baby gradually learn to sleep independently. It is important to be flexible with your baby’s bedtime routine, as their sleep patterns and needs may change as they get older.

How long does it take for a baby to sleep without being held?

At around 4-6 months old, babies generally begin to sleep without being held. They become capable of self-soothing and can sleep for longer periods without needing to be held. This is also the time when many parents start to think about sleep training.

Why does my baby wake up every time I put her down?

When babies reach around 3-4 months of age, they start becoming more aware of their environment. As a result, it may be challenging to put older babies to bed while they are still awake initially. However, with consistent practice, this task will become easier. If your baby is a newborn and wakes up when you lay them down, they are probably in their first stage of sleep, which is a lighter sleep.

Should you pick up baby every time cries?

According to a study conducted in 2017, it was discovered that picking up babies whenever they cry is beneficial, a notion that most parents already believe. Researchers from the University of Notre Dame concluded that it is not possible to spoil an infant by providing them with affectionate attention and holding them, as stated in an article on

At what age should you stop holding baby all the time?

It is recommended to respond to the needs of a baby up to 12 months old whenever they arise. Babies at this age are still in the process of emotional development and may need frequent care and attention from their parents. However, it is also important to try and understand the specific needs of the baby.

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