How To Get Your Baby To Sleep Without Being Held: Expert Tips

Baby swaddled

If you’re wondering how to get your baby to sleep without being held, you’re not alone. This is something many parents struggle with.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how long you wait to put your little one down or how deeply they seem to have fallen asleep in your arms. The minute your body separates from theirs, your baby immediately wakes up and fusses until they are picked up again.

So, like many parents, you end up with a sleeping baby in your arms. Nap after nap. Night after night.

At first, you may have loved soaking up the snuggles with your little one. But now, you’ve quickly realized that this is the only way to get them to sleep, and you’ve become immobile during their nap times.

We understand every bit of the struggle, which is why we’ve created this guide. Read on to find out why this is happening and what you can do about it.

Why Do Babies Love To Sleep While Being Held?

 Mom wondering how to get your baby to sleep without being held

Before we discuss how to get your baby to sleep without being held, we need to understand why they do it in the first place.

There are many reasons why little ones love falling asleep while being held. Here are some of the most common.


When babies are born, they don’t understand much of the world around them. So, they study you, your partner, family members, and everything else with their senses.

This means they’re constantly touching, tasting, smelling, seeing, and hearing the different sensations of the world around them.

Babies may end up getting comfortable sleeping in your arms because they’re used to your smell, and they feel safe and warm. On the other hand, when you put them down, that new surface is usually colder than your loving arms, and it doesn’t smell like you.

The Startle Reflex

Most parents of newborns have seen this. One minute your little one is sleeping soundly, and you’re confident they will have a long nap. Then, suddenly, they jerk their arms, wake up, and are now wide awake. What happened?

This is called the Moro (startle) reflex and is often triggered by an outside factor (e.g., moving away from your arms). All babies are born with this involuntary response, and it usually lasts until around four months or so.

Sleep Association

Lastly, one of the most common reasons why babies love to sleep while being held is simply because they’ve gotten used to it. Your baby might be associating your arms with sleeping and everything else with playing or eating.

While it might take some time, getting your little one to sleep without being held is possible. During the process, here’s what to expect.

What To Expect When Sleep Training Your Child

 Baby standing in crib

Before we get into our step-by-step guide for getting your baby to sleep without being held, here’s what you need to know:

There will possibly be lots of crying. This is perfectly normal. Your baby is used to sleeping in your arms and can’t comprehend why things are changing.

During this transition, some parents allow their little ones to “cry it out” while others don’t. There is no right or wrong here, so feel free to choose whatever you’re comfortable with.

You’ll need to give it some time. Your little one will probably take a couple of days to get used to the new sleeping situation. Don’t lose hope! Just continue following the guide, and they’ll soon be OK with sleeping on their new safe sleep surface.

How To Get Your Baby To Sleep Without Being Held

1) Document Their Sleeping Patterns

 Mom holding baby while wondering how to get your baby to sleep without being held

The first step in getting your little one to sleep without being held is to understand their sleeping patterns. When and how long do they nap during the day? When do they tend to seem sleepy in the evenings?

While these patterns will naturally change as your child grows, having a good idea of when and how long your child sleeps will help you create a sleep schedule that suits them.

2) Develop A Sleep Routine

Once you’ve jotted down your little one’s sleeping patterns, it’s easier to develop a sleep routine for them since you’ll be aware of what time they’re likely to be in the mood for a snooze.

Most baby sleep routines include:

  • Turning the lights down
  • Playing soft music (or white noise) in the background
  • Giving them a soothing bath
  • Rubbing their arms and legs (i.e., baby massage)
  • Reading a story
  • Singing a lullaby
  • Rocking your baby until they’re drowsy

Of course, you can add or remove any steps from the list above. But having a consistent sleep routine can help wind your baby down and get them ready to drift off peacefully.

3) Put Them Down Drowsy But Awake

 baby yawning

Just like adults, babies are creatures of habit. If they always fall asleep while in your arms, it’s difficult for them to sleep any other way.

If you want to break this behavior, you’ll need to start placing them down while they’re drowsy but still awake. This will allow them to get used to falling asleep without being in your arms. It will also help them understand that they don’t need your arms to fall asleep.

At first, it might be challenging for your little one (and you), but with time, they’ll start getting the hang of it. Also, keep in mind that you can continue to hold your little one while they’re awake as much as you want to. This guide is just for the sleep transition.

4) Touch (Don’t Hold) Them To Comfort

When you’ve mastered the art of putting your baby down while they’re drowsy, they might fall asleep but then abruptly wake up.

At this point, instead of rushing to pick them up again, try a different approach — gently touch your little one without lifting them out of the crib. Feel free to stroke their little face, hands, arms, or back, and they might doze off.

Simple touch often provides your baby enough comfort to know that you’re still around without you having to pick them up and start the whole process over again.

5) Check The Room Temperature

Your baby will find it difficult to sleep comfortably if the room temperature isn’t right. Between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit is that sweet spot that’s not too cold or too warm.

6) Make Sure They’re Comfortable

 Baby sleeping on his own

We’ve mentioned how comfortable your warm arms and body are for your child. They’re not going to be excited about changing how they sleep if the replacement options aren’t as cozy.

You can create a comfortable place for your little one by investing in a quality baby mattress.

Newton Baby Crib mattresses are 100% breathable, which allows for air circulation during every sleep. You can pair this with our Organic Cotton Sheets, which are soft and plush and snugly fit any crib mattress.

These products not only help reduce the risk of suffocation but also allow your little one to sleep more comfortably.

Using a baby swaddle is also a great way to help your baby feel snug so they can fall asleep and stay asleep. However, if they’ve started rolling over, it’s no longer safe to swaddle. Consider transitioning them to a sleep sack instead.

7) Create The Right Environment

Sometimes, parents struggle with their little one wanting to take longer naps during the day and then not sleep as much at night. This often happens because babies can’t tell the difference between day and night.

Dimming the lights in their room and using room darkening curtains at night can help your child associate nighttime with longer snoozes (which is excellent for you too!).

White noise machines can also block out noises from the rest of the house and allow your baby to sleep with fewer interruptions. If you have multiple children, you know what we’re talking about!

Sweet Dreams, Little One!

 Smiling baby

Many parents struggle with how to get their baby to sleep without being held. So, don’t feel like you’ve done anything wrong or that your child is not like other little ones. It’s perfectly normal!

Remember to take it one step at a time with these tips:

  • Develop a sleep routine that makes sense for your baby.
  • Be consistent about putting them down while they’re drowsy.
  • Try to avoid picking them up immediately if they suddenly wake up.

Comfort is also a key element in helping your child sleep without being held. Things like setting the right room temperature, using a white noise machine, and placing them on a comfortable mattress can make all the difference.

The Newton Baby crib mattress has breathe-thru technology, which allows for air circulation and reduces the chances of suffocation. It also helps regulate your baby’s body temperature and reduces dust mites and allergens. Pair it with our Organic Crib Sheets for the safest and most comfortable sleep surface.

When implementing the above tips, remember to be patient with your baby (and yourself). If you’re lucky, they might start falling asleep by themselves after just a few tries. Or it might take a couple of days for them to adjust to this new routine.

That’s also OK.

Pretty soon, your sweet little one will be snoozing away in their own bed!

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