As newborns, my babies never wanted to be put down. And who can blame them? After nine months in a cozy womb connected to their source of comfort and nourishment, the outside world can be a little jarring. Snuggling with mom or dad is a much more friendly alternative to sleeping alone.
With our first child, my husband and I experienced a rude awakening. We knew how much a newborn would sleep – but didn’t realize he would rarely be in a crib during the newborn stage. He wouldn’t sleep alone and simply wouldn’t be put down no matter how tired he was. Which meant we had to learn to live with one arm around the clock.
In those early days, we often negotiated for free arm time. It was common to strike deals like, “If you let him sleep with you while I finish this article and cook dinner, I’ll take him while you do the dishes.” It was a little ridiculous, but we made it work – and certainly enjoyed all of those baby snuggles.
Movement and Closeness are Magical for Baby Sleep
My sister in law clued me in to the Five S’s for Soothing Babies from Dr. Harvey Karp, and swinging was a surefire winner for us. Eventually, it clicked that we could sway with him in a baby carrier and knock him out for a nap quickly and calmly – and then have our hands free while he snoozed.
Babywearing naps were a total game changer for us as new parents, and we continued to babywear with our other two children. I got a hand me down Ergo newborn insert from a friend when I was pregnant with our second child, and later joked that she sprinkled it with magical sleep dust because he passed out within moments every time I used it with him.
For high touch babies like ours, babywearing was an excellent sleep solution. It allowed our babies to sleep well on our bodies where they felt most comfortable as newborns, and we were able to move around instead of spending our days on the couch.
Tips for Successful Babywearing Sleep
Getting babies to sleep while babywearing isn’t perfect for everyone, but it’s worth a shot if you’re struggling with sleep. These tips worked for us when our babies were tiny:
- Figure out the correct way to babywear. Our first few tries at babywearing weren’t successful and I thought our son just didn’t like it. But it wasn’t him, it was me: I wasn’t using my carrier right. When I figured it out properly, he was much happier.
- Be ready to stand if necessary. Sometimes, our babies would sleep in a carrier while we were sitting, but often, they would wake up and get irritated if we weren’t standing up. If babywearing while sitting isn’t helping your baby sleep, try standing up.
- Add movement. Swaying or even just going about normal walking movements can be comforting for babies, as it reminds them of how they felt as you moved around while they were in the womb. Consider taking a walk or just gently dancing to music while you’re trying to get them down to sleep in a carrier.
- Breastfeed while babywearing. If you’re breastfeeding, offering milk while babywearing can be like a baby tranquilizer. Read your carrier’s instructions for breastfeeding while babywearing so you can do it comfortably.
- Plan babywearing opportunities around naps. If your baby prefers movement, plan times when you’ll be out and moving around your baby’s nap times. For example, you might be able to lull your baby to sleep in your carrier while walking around the grocery store or taking a walk to the playground with older children.
- Offer your baby crib time. Sometimes, babies just don’t want to sleep in a crib, but eventually, they may be ready to sleep in their crib on their own. Don’t forget crib sleeping as an option. Choose an appropriate crib mattress and set your baby down in their crib to test them out every now and then. They may eventually feel more comfortable sleeping in their own space.
Babywearing can be helpful for babies who have a hard time sleeping on their own. Consider using a carrier or wrap if your baby struggles to sleep without being held. It can help you enjoy baby snuggles without being trapped sitting around all day.
Amy Highland is a sleep expert at SleepHelp.org.