25 answers

Baby Won't Sleep Unless Held

So my friend just had her first baby two weeks ago. She called me crying today because he won't sleep unless someone is holding him. He is on formula because her milk never came in so they are trying to find the right one for him so I'm sure discomfort is part of the problem. She is also upset that he only sleeps for an hour and a half at a time and she is exhausted. She's tried letting him sleep everywhere- swing, carseat, etc. No luck. She knows that is kinda the way it goes with a newborn but does anyone have any suggestions on how to get him to sleep in his crib or bassinet.

What can I do next?

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I would definitely get the book "The Happiest Baby on The Block". www.thehappiestbaby.com (Great website too!) Someone else suggested the 5 S's and they work miracles for people. It says that when you combine all five actions at once it is an automatic off switch for babies. I didn't have a problem with the sleep thing, but after reading that book I was ready if it happened!

Also you absolutely cannot spoil a baby that is under 6 months old by holding them too much! That is the way it was the first 9 months. So I agree with all of the baby carying ideas! I hope all of this advice helps her!

I second the babywearing. My daughter sleeps fine at night but I do notice that if she's in the baby carrier, she naps a lot longer. Wraps are good. I actually wear an asian baby carrier, or mei tei. Both the wrap and mei tei spread out the baby's weight with straps over both shoulders - plus the straps are wide to also spread out the weight. It really is comfortable. The baby will sleep better & cry less.

I have had success with warming up the crib/bassinet with a heating pad prior to laying the baby down, so the spot where the baby lays is already warm and cozy-similar to mom or dad's warm body and arms. Then the transition from being held to laying down in bed isn't as noticable.

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Sounds like the baby knows exactly what he needs. It is very shocking to have your first baby - and then discover that little bundle of joy is "high needs". That's exactly what happened to me.

My son was the epitome of "high needs". Just like the baby you describe, he had to be held 24/7 or he screamed constantly. When he was in arms, he was happy. My son slept on my chest for 6 weeks, because that was the only place he was happy. And when baby is happy, the whole family is happy.

It was pointed out to me, by some very wise mothers, that babies - especially newborns - know exactly what they need and they will tell you. They don't have any agendas. Just like you, they feel scared, intimidated, unsure and overwhelmed, etc. They don't have the tools to deal with those things yet. The only thing they know is the warmth and comfort of mama's smell and the steady thump of her heart.

We had a pretty traumatic birth and post birth experience, so that very well could have been the root of my son's "high needs" issues.

Tell your friend to go buy a comfortable sling and wear her baby. It's the most natural thing in the world and best for baby. There is a school of thinking called NINO, Nine In Nine Out. Meaning the healthiest thing for brain development is nine months in the mama, nine months ON the mama.

Blessings,

M.

1 mom found this helpful

When my children were newborns they loved to be swaddled. Wrap them in a receiving blanket like they do at the hospital. Then I would take a beach towel fold it in half then roll it lengthwise and form it into a "U" shape and lay the baby in the middle with the arch part of the towel under his legs. This way he'll feel like he's still being surrounded and held. I also used to put a standard size soft pillow over their tummy and legs and took it away later once they started kicking around so much. I also would leave a shirt I had just worn near the baby. Babies rely alot on their sense of smell when this young. My daughter did the same with her children.

1 mom found this helpful

I agree with the other responses. I just wanted to add a bit of encouragement. My youngest wanted to be held all the time, sleeping or awake. He didn't like the bassinet, the bouncer seat, or the carseat for more than a few minutes. He wanted to be held, and would only sleep that way. So we held him. I ignored anybody's comments on spoiling him - he was a baby and babies need to be loved.
Well, now he's 5. He is very indpendent and loves kindergarten (he was slow to warm up to things for a few years, until he was about 3, and didn't like new caregiver situations like the kids club at the gym, but was fine with grandma). He is also very sweet and loving. And cooperative. He's still a normal little boy, rough-and-tumble and sometimes devious, but I can certainly say that all the attention in his first year did NOT spoil him, and very possibly helped him be so well adjusted now. So let your friend know it's OK! Baby-wearing, sling, friends' help, all good and she will have a healthy, happy little boy!

1 mom found this helpful

I have had success with warming up the crib/bassinet with a heating pad prior to laying the baby down, so the spot where the baby lays is already warm and cozy-similar to mom or dad's warm body and arms. Then the transition from being held to laying down in bed isn't as noticable.

I am sorry your friend is so exhausted. I completely understand because my first child was insistent on being held for months! I couldn't even shower with her in the car seat where she could see me.

I really like the advice to baby wear that some have suggested. My daughter hated it on me but once in a while would let my husband do it.

My best advice is to take a soft t-shirt that mom has worn all day and put it with the baby. It smells like mom and will comfort him. The sense of smell is the most powerful one and this trick usually works a charm. I just laid it flat under my second daughter and it worked the first night she wasn't sleeping with me (at about 4 months). I recommend this trick to all new moms. If the shirt is big enough, maybe she can use it in combination of the swaddling that many have recommended.

Keep being the supportive friend that you are! Remind her that it is overwhelming right now, but in the blink of an eye she will want to hold him and he will be on his own!

Please let us know how she gets along. She will be in my heart through this difficult time. L.

Has she tried swaddling him? You know, the baby burrito wrap? LOL Otherwise, she may want to start looking into medical problems.... acid reflux is common. Has she tried lactose-free formula? Not soy, but lactose-free. Try burping, gas drops. Swaddling has always worked for my 1ST and 3rd boys, though. My 3rd boy is now 5 months and if he's having a rough night occasionally, it still works to swaddle him.

Good luck. I had LOTS of trouble with my 2nd boy not sleeping longer than 45 minutes at night time. Never looked into possible medical reasons. Thankfully your friend has a friend like you around to help out!

My advice is a combination of everyone else's:

1. Mylicon. Do NOT waste your money on the brand name version - about $11.00 a bottle. Go to Walmart and get the knockoff version with the exact same ingredients for $3.50.

2. We use a blanket that we got online called the Miracle Blanket (www.miracleblanket.com - I think). It is a swaddling blanket. Pricey at $30 but worth every penny.

3. Our first son would only fall asleep with white noise in the background - he loved the cricket noise and so did mom and dad! Timex makes a nature sound alarm clock - we got it at Target. I saw that someone in another post recommended a white noise machine that she got from Brookstone. It sounded really great!

I second the babywearing. My daughter sleeps fine at night but I do notice that if she's in the baby carrier, she naps a lot longer. Wraps are good. I actually wear an asian baby carrier, or mei tei. Both the wrap and mei tei spread out the baby's weight with straps over both shoulders - plus the straps are wide to also spread out the weight. It really is comfortable. The baby will sleep better & cry less.

Has she tried to wrap him up tight in the blanket? They uses to do this in the hospital, but last couple of babies we saw there have not been wrapping up. My kids always quitted down as soon as we wrap them up tight.

Try mylicon for gas, and my little one loved to be swaddled. It is tough, but it does get better.

My five month old was the same way....would only sleep on my chest! After several weeks, we finally realized why. When we would lay him down in the bassinet, we were swaddling him, just like they did at the hospital. He is one of those rare babies that does NOT like to be swaddled, and after we stopped that, not only did he start sleeping on his own in the bassinet, we was sleeping through the night. I don't know if your friend swaddles her baby, but if she does, she might want to try not doing it for a night and see if it makes a difference.

On another note, good for you on your choice to raise your son alone. I too am a 28 year old first time mother, and my hat goes off to single mothers everywhere.

T.,

Tell your friend to be sure and wrap him up snug in a blanket before she lays him down.
Put a soft toy on both sides of him, so he thinks he has body contact, and put on a quiet, soothing CD.

Like a sounds of nature or ocean sounds.

Put him on his side in the bassinet, with his back against one side.

You can give him a warm bath, and also wrap him up snug and he should sleep.

Tell her good luck and kiss the baby for me.
M.

She is smart to look for formula that doesn't bother him. However, it does take two weeks minimu for a toddler to completely get rid of a food irritant in a body. I would suspect a baby would be less, but make sure she is giving each formula time before giving up. changing all the time can actually upset him more and not let his body adjust to the formula.

Also, as newborns go, one has to go with his flow for two months minimum. This means he may only sleep a little bit. Mine was a preemie and this is very typical for premies. I often slept on the floor with our tops off so we were skin to skin with her on my chest. This is called kaola care and is used in the NICU. I slept on the floor with mine on my chest too so I could roll her over gently without waking her.

Also, make sure she is swaddling properly. Mine liked it very tight and up around her face. We called her the "burito baby" because she looked like a Chipolte Burito.

Lastly, as her friend, watch her daily for since of post-pardum depression. I had it with my seocnd. the first two weeks I never slept. I worked so hard on everyhting and had this super woman mentality. then I crashed. I couldn't wake up with wither my toddler or the newborn. I got through it with my mom and sister to call anytime of day or night. but I remeber thinking at one point...what if I took this baby and threw him against the wall. I was exhausted and totally out of sorts. And of, course, now Ican't even believe I would have thought that. so be there and call her and drop by all the time.

I would definitely get the book "The Happiest Baby on The Block". www.thehappiestbaby.com (Great website too!) Someone else suggested the 5 S's and they work miracles for people. It says that when you combine all five actions at once it is an automatic off switch for babies. I didn't have a problem with the sleep thing, but after reading that book I was ready if it happened!

Also you absolutely cannot spoil a baby that is under 6 months old by holding them too much! That is the way it was the first 9 months. So I agree with all of the baby carying ideas! I hope all of this advice helps her!

Hi T.,

You already have several responses, but if you are looking for even more there are several suggestions, including one of mine at this post:
Baby won't sleep in her crib or ANYWHERE but parents' bed!
From: Lauren M Date: Wed. Sep. 17, 2008

Kindest Regards,
T.

Mylicon drops are a huge life saver if the baby has a gassy stomach. I used them with both of my kids and you can use them with each feeding.
Make sure the baby is swaddled. I am betting it is stomach related though as movement or closeness seems to ease the symptoms. Does he spit up a lot? It could even be reflux where being upright feels better to him. That is what Pediatricians are for especially those first few weeks, have her call hers. Tell her to sleep whenever he does. My son used to fall asleep on my chest and I never rested well with him like that so I am sure she is not sleeping well holding the baby at all either.
Hugs to her, those first few months if there is colicky stuff or reflux going on can be tough.

I had the same thing with my little one. Wanted to be held all the time. So I just figured out a way to live my life and hold her!
I suggest the Moby Wrap. It is amazing... I was able to put her in the thing with her body nearly in the same position as when she was in me. It covered her from head to toe and I was able to do all sorts of things all day long. It was as if I was prego again, but almost more special because I could see her cute little face sleeping and hear her sounds all day.
She slept and I did my things. It was great.

Other wraps are great, but the Moby wrap put her on me in a way that was so natural for both of us.
I figure if you can't beat em, join em :)
Have her look into "baby wearing". Many other countries do it and it makes so much sense!

Tell her it will pass and it won't spoil the baby either. Now my little girl (4 months)is free of the wrap and sleeps threw the nights; she has been doing this since 2 months. Our only issue is naps during the day. She can't get one in without a swing. But I'll take that :)

And while all the other suggestions are on point with the white noise, the gas drops and swaddling blanket, holding our babies is so key and really helps them be comfortable all while they are adjusting to being in this new world!
This country is far to eager to put our babies down, when what they need it to be held!

Have her try a baby sleeping wedge when the baby sleeps. That should help with any reflux that newborns commonly have and it will help somewhat with any gas. I got a wedge at Target but I am sure you can find them just about anywhere. Hope this helps!!!

I have to agree with the response to sleep with him. Babies need bonding and love, and especially since he can't get that through nursing, if she has a recliner she can fall asleep in or if she holds him at her side in bed. When my son was first born the nurses put pillows under my arm to help me hold him comfortably. It made a perfect little cradle and we both just slept that way because I knew he would not fall out. He would have had to rolled up and over the pillow and the rail. If I could have had my dreams come true I would have taken that hospital bed home with me. With the pillows and the side rail it was the perfect way to sleep. Anyhow my son slept with me until he was 9 months old or so. My older son slept with us even longer.

There are also herbal remedies such as brewer's yeast that could help her milk come in. I don't know if she is interested in trying that. :D

I hope something helps. Being a new mom is a struggle.

I agree with all of the other posts. Get the stuff for gas discomfort, get the heartbeat bear(they work wonders)I used one for both of my babies, and make sure baby is swaddled well. I do have one more piece of advice to throw in the mix. You say this is your friend you are requesting about. She needs a break so that she can catch some sleep. I understand Dad isn't there to help, so is it possible for you to go to her house and take care of the baby for a few hours so Mommy can get the sleep she needs? It is hard enough to figure out how to care for a newborn when you are married and have Dad's help, but I can't imagine if I would have had to do it alone. Especially with the hormones going on in her right now, she doesn't need a meltdown while taking care of a newborn. She needs help and a support system. If you can't do it for whatever reasons, call her Mother, Sister, Aunt or Grandmother and tell them what is going on with your friend. She needs someone there with her. Having a baby does some serious work to your hormone system, and if she doesn't get some help, she could hurt herself or the baby. I'm not saying she definitely will, but she could.

I totally agree with the mylicon drops (generic/store brand is fine) and the swaddling. Also, use a bed buddy (pillow with rice or beans inside that you can heat in the microwave) to warm up the sheet just a little before laying the baby down - - then the cold sheet doesn't wake him up! Worked like a charm with our daughter because she would be totally asleep until we laid her down and then the eyes would pop open. Also flannel sheets don't get as cool as cotton...

Let him sleep on his tummy. Both of my boys were the same way until I just flipped them over. It's more natural to them and makes it much easier to self sooth.

Swaddling the baby like everyone has said is key. In addition, if the baby is spitting or seems to be refluxing- my pediatrician recommended 1/4 teaspoon of Mylanta. My son would fuss and I'd give him that and he'd drop right off.

I have a 15 week old and he did the same thing for the first 4 weeks until I bought a "Miracle Blanket" becuase someone recommeded it to me. I ordered it online as it's not sold at Babies R Us. It is defineatly named approp. because my son slept for 6 hours the first night with it. And now sleeps 9-10 hours without a peep. I highly recommend it!!

She should try the the 5 "S" method from Dr. Harvey Karp (I believe this is his name). Swaddeling, Swing, sh-sound, sucking and side.
I had the same issue with my baby and the following did wonders - with 4 of the "s" from Dr. Karp: First of all, I made sure the baby isn't hungry. Then I swaddled her, put her on the side (half side, half back) put the swing on the highest setting, put the baby monitor on the wrong frequency (for a white-noise) right next to her - really loud! She would doze off in no-time. Then try to decrease the volume to a normal level, but keep it on. According to my doctor it is better if the baby sleeps with white noise than not sleep at all!
Good luck.

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