When Your Baby Wants to be Held to Sleep

Are you trying to get your baby out of your bed? Will your baby only sleep when held? Here are a few tips and tricks that helped us along the way.

When we first brought baby home, he, like his sister, preferred to sleep in our arms. It was also an issue we had in the hospital. We tried swaddling, we tried laying him down unswaddled, he just did not want to sleep if he was not held. It seems to be the blessing and curse we had with both children. Neither one of them would sleep in the swing, Mamaroo. I would always hear stories from friends about how their babies would doze off in their swings or sleep in their bassinets. That they were able to lay them down pretty much anywhere once they were asleep and they would stay out. Not my children!

Our first step about a week after getting home, was to get him not sleeping in our arms. We finally got it to a point where SOMETIMES we’d be able to lay him down in the Dockatot, however, like most babies his startle reflex would wake him up. We then knew that we needed to get him used to being swaddled. He hated it, but just like anything, if you stick to your guns, they will get used to it. We personally loved the Ollie swaddle. Neither my husband nor I are fabulous blanket swaddlers, so it was perfect for us. It took a couple of nights, but we did get him used to the Ollie swaddle.

Next step was getting him out of our arms. This is where the Dockatot was our savior. We began with putting it between us on the bed. Now I know that this is not a recommended thing to do but it is what worked for us. We would bounce him to sleep and sit holding him for about 10 minutes. Once we knew he was asleep, we would lay him into the Dockatot with our hand on his tummy and sleep like that. After about 2 or 3 nights, we began placing him in there to sleep without our hand on him.

Now the key here, at least for us, was the Dockatot. Our thought process was that if we could get him transitioned into it, he would be used to the feel of it. The dream would’ve been that this would mean that we could lay him anywhere if he was in it…but we all know that the best laid plans rarely work when it comes to babies and kids.


We were then able to move the Dockatot into his Halo bassinest and then eventually to the top part of the pack and play. We would bounce him down, hold him for a bit and then place him into his Dockatot . He no longer had to be held to sleep at night or be in our bed. So, the main part of our plan was a success.

I will mention that this did not work for naps. Unfortunately, he still wanted to be held for those. This meant a lot of wearing him in the Ergo, car naps and being held to nap. We never gave up trying, we always tried at least 3 times to lay him down before giving up and realizing he just needed the sleep. The effort was definitely there, so always try but do what you are comfortable with.

This is when we realized we needed to make some other changes. He needed to be switched out of his swaddle (he had begun rolling over) and it would soon be time to get him sleeping in a separate room.

I hope this helps someone out there, I know it can be hard to stop the holding and stop the co-sleeping. If co-sleeping is what feels right for you, absolutely no judgements here! It just wasn’t something we wanted to do, so we just used it as a transitional solution. I will say for those out there, with Parker, we let her nap on us. We never even tried to force the issue since she was the only one there to worry about…but I wish we would’ve started putting her down earlier on her own. I think it would’ve made the transition to sleep training a whole lot smoother. With Rafe though, we have a toddler to think about too which means he just can’t be held 24/7 (sadly…love those baby snuggles!).

Stay tuned for the next blog, explaining coming out of a swaddle and moving him into his own crib.


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