There are a lot of decisions to make as a new parent. Should you buy a bassinet, co-sleeper, or a crib? And, you must decide whether or not to share a room with your baby, too. You can spend a lot of time (and money) getting your baby’s sleep space ready. And, many times, babies sleep just fine exactly where you planned. But, sometimes, they don’t.
What happens when your baby only wants to sleep in your arms or on your chest?
You may rock the baby to sleep in no time, but as soon as you lay him down, he wakes up! Or, he sleeps for a bit, say 20-60 minutes, and then wakes up. Waking up every 1-2 hours all night long for months on end can make parents sleep-deprived and feel like they are literally going crazy (sleep-deprivation IS a form of torture after all!). Or, holding a baby for 3 hours a day for naps can lead to moms feeling depressed and feeling inadequate in terms of keeping up with the household chores.
This article will help you learn how to handle it when your baby only wants to sleep in arms or on a chest.
If you haven’t already, try swaddling your baby. Living in the womb all those months is a very snug and comforting feeling. Swaddling, or wrapping your baby like a burrito, helps replicate that feeling to an extent and helps your baby sleep better.
Try a Dock-a-Tot
Many babies find a crib too “vast” to sleep well in it. The reason they love to sleep on your chest or in your arms is because of the cradled feeling and probably your heartbeat and warmth that you provide. For some families, co-sleeping or bed-sharing is an option and to do that safely, you can use a DockATot. This allows you to share the bed with your baby in a safe manner.
Try a Rock-N-Play
Many of the families with which we work rave about the Graco Rock-N-Play for sleep when their baby is very young. If your baby is younger than 4 months old, this might be a good option for you. However, we do have some parents who later go on to have problems when baby will only sleep in a Rock-N-Play.
Please note that a Rock-N-Play is not considered the safest of sleep surfaces since it isn’t firm and flat as the current guidelines recommend. Be sure to check with your doctor if this is an adequate sleep space for your baby, even if just temporarily so you can get a nap in during the day.
Try a Zipadee-Zip
If swaddling didn’t work or your baby is older than 4 months old, you may want to try a Zipadee-Zip. It is a great swaddle transition product that helps when a baby feels like she is falling when her moro reflex is still strong leading to the startle you see.
Try heartbeat white noise
One reason your baby may like to sleep on your chest is because of the sound of your heartbeat. Assuming it’s mom who is holding the baby, your baby did sleep with your heartbeat sound for many months. So, consider using a white noise machine with a heartbeat sound. It may not be a miracle solution, but could help.
Try Sleep Training
If your baby is 4 months old or older (we’ve worked with even toddlers with this problem), then it may be time to try sleep training your baby or toddler. After all, your baby is fully capable of sleeping on another surface, but from his or her perspective, why? This is what your baby has grown accustomed to and, of course, doesn’t know any different or that there is a “problem” with it. We all love holding our babies and snuggling, but during the day we have houses to clean, dinner to make, and, heck, maybe even take a shower! At night, let’s face it, sleeping upright holding a baby is exhausting not to mention dangerous in some cases. Sure, I did it when my youngest was a week or two old, but over time, we MUST sleep in order to be more effective and present parents.
For many babies, they need to learn HOW to sleep in another space and to learn healthy sleep habits and that’s what this entire website is all about!