How to Get Your Baby to Sleep Without Being Held

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There’s nothing quite like holding your quiet, sleeping baby and just marveling at the beautiful little thing you created. 

But when you’re up for the third time in one night because your child has woken and can’t get back to sleep without you, you can start feeling like you may never—ever—part with your sleeping infant! 

There are times when we need to get other stuff done. Learning how to get your baby to sleep without being held is highly important. Not only will it free up some time for you to do things without juggling a baby, but it will also help teach your baby to self-settle.

Why Babies Want to Be Held 

Babies are demanding in many ways. Some babies love being held, and others are happy out of your arms. But even those who don’t mind being out of your arms during the day may prefer you to hold them as they fall asleep. 

Your Arms Are a Safe Place 

Although we have evolved as the millennia have gone by, deep down, we still retain some survival instincts. Babies know, instinctively, that you’re their protector. When they’re sleepy, being in your arms means that they can fall asleep safely. There’s no need to fear because mom or dad is here.

Being in your arms also alleviates separation anxiety. Infants can develop a fear of being away from their parents as young as four or five months, but it’s most common at about nine months of age. 

It Feels Like Home 

The little human that you’re cuddling spent their first nine months in a warm, floaty environment where they had a direct connection to mom’s body. When you hold your baby—mom or dad—they can feel your heartbeat right against them. 

This is a naturally relaxing place for your little one to be. It’s familiar, it’s comfortable, and it’s just like being back in their first home. 

It Strengthens Your Bond 

Babies who aren’t held grow up quite differently to those who are. It has a huge psychological effect, which just highlights the importance of physical touch between parent and baby. 

Touch is one element of bonding between parent and baby. Holding your baby strengthens the bond you already have, and reinforces their comfort in your arms.

mom holding baby

Why Shouldn’t I Hold My Baby Until They Fall Asleep? 

It may sound like a reasonable thing to do—to hold your infant until they drift off peacefully. But, it may not be the best thing for them—or you—in every situation. 

Some disadvantages to holding your baby until they’re asleep include: 

  • They may wake up crying when they realize they’re alone. 
  • They could refuse to go back to sleep without holding or rocking. 
  • You might not be able to get things done with a baby in your arms. 
  • There are some dangers associated with it—in certain situations. 

Is It Dangerous to Let My Baby Fall Asleep Being Held? 

In some cases, keeping your baby in your arms while they fall asleep could be detrimental. 

Holding Your Baby While on a Sofa 

Parents of babies get less sleep. That’s just how it is! If you’re waking up to rock baby to sleep in the night, chances are you’re sleep-deprived. You may feel a little wobbly on your feet and decide to sit in the nearest armchair while waiting for your little one to nod off again. 

You also may just happen to fall asleep in the comfy chair while holding your infant. But studies have shown that this is one of the more dangerous positions for babies to sleep in, and could have disastrous consequences. Not only is the risk of SIDS increased, but there’s also a risk of your baby falling. 

Holding Your Baby While in Your Bed 

The brain is a fantastic thing, but it can also get us into habits we don’t even realize we’re in. When you’re in bed, your brain associates the environment with sleep. When feeding or rocking your baby in bed—especially in the middle of the night—there’s a high chance of you nodding off. 

A study has named bed-sharing as the most significant risk factor for SIDS—whether you’re bed-sharing by accident or deliberately!


How to Get Your Baby to Sleep Without Being Held 

It’s not as difficult as it may seem to get your baby to sleep without being held. Not every method will work for every baby—they’re as individual as adults! 

You know your little one better than anyone else does. You may already have an idea of which one of these things will work best for your munchkin. 


Swaddling your baby provides them with the closest thing to being held. It’s like being hugged all night long, just without mom or dad’s heartbeat. 

If your infant doesn’t enjoy the swaddle, a sleep sack could work. It frees up some legroom, so they don’t feel restrained, but they still get an upper hug. 

Use White Noise 

White noise can help lull your little one back to sleep when they wake in the night and find themselves not being held. You can find white noise tracks almost anywhere to download and use. Some are pure white noise; others come with soothing noises like ocean sounds or rainfall. 

Simply having a constant, almost hypnotic sound in the background could help your baby drift off without your help in the middle of the night. 

Keep the Room Dark 

If your baby’s room is too light, it could disturb their sleep—their circadian rhythms are pretty developed even at that age. Too much light could cause them to wake before they’re ready, so this is really a measure to help keep them asleep. When they do wake up, they don’t come to full consciousness, making it easier to get right back to their zzzs. 

Putting your infant to sleep in a dark room also gets their brain used to the idea that dark equals sleep time. They’ll be more likely to doze off in the darkness even without being in your arms. 

Keep Them Busy During the Day 

If your little one is tired enough, they’re going to be out like a light as soon as they stop moving. It doesn’t matter whether that’s in your arms, in your partner’s arms, or in their own crib

Keep them stimulated and busy during the day. Make sure they have enough to keep them interested. If your baby doesn’t have interactive toys, now is the time to get some.

Don’t just rely on their toys to keep them busy, either. Part of bonding with your baby is spending time just being silly together, or organizing some fun activities suited to their age. Getting a baby to laugh is not only super fun, but it’s wonderfully exhausting for a little tyke. 

Make sure you play with your baby and surround them with exciting things to stimulate them. They should fall asleep right on the button later. 

Try a Co-Sleeping Attachment 

Bed-sharing is not recommended, but co-sleeping attachments are a great idea. This is a three-sided crib that attaches to the parents’ bed. The beauty of this is that it allows a close bond between parent and baby without the dangers of bed-sharing

Parents can reach out and touch their infant at any time to provide some comfort. Baby can also see their parents, which is a huge reassurance. 

It’s not difficult to transition from a co-sleeping crib to a proper crib, either. Your little one will already be used to the idea of a crib, so it’s not a huge step. 

Stick to a Sleep Schedule 

Implementing a strict sleep schedule from an early age is the best thing you can do. Habit-forming starts when they’re tiny! Create a short, easy sleep routine. That way, when you start ticking off your routine items in the evening, your baby will know sleep time is coming. 

Those little brains are sharp even at that age, and your munchkin will start associating these actions with sleep. The mind and body work together, baby gets sleepy, and voila—it’s 10 times easier to put them to sleep than it was before. 

It may take a week or two for your new schedule to set in and embed itself in your little one’s mind. Patience is key! 

If One Doesn’t Work… Try Another! 

Don’t get despondent if one method doesn’t work for you. It’s simply a case of choosing another one and trying that. Give each one a good week or two, though—don’t just assume that because it didn’t help on the first two nights, it must be a dud.


It takes a bit of work to figure out how to get your baby to sleep without being held. But trust me—once you get it right, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it before.

We all love our children, and there’s nothing quite as peaceful as a little one falling asleep in your arms. But they do need to learn how to self-soothe and self-settle—for their own good!

Cristin is a co-founder of Smart Parent Advice, and the loving mother of two wonderful children. In her free time, she can often be found in a yoga studio or catching up on her favorite shows.