How to Handle When Your Baby Only Wants to Sleep in Arms or On Chest

How to Handle When Your Baby Only Wants to Sleep in Arms or On Chest

This post is for all the parents whose baby only wants to sleep in arms or on chests.

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.

Try Swaddling

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 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!

Is your baby only sleeping in your arms or chest? Try these tips!

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8 thoughts on “How to Handle When Your Baby Only Wants to Sleep in Arms or On Chest”

  1. My baby is 12 weeks old and will only nap in my arms after nursing. He is swaddled, white noise and fan going, I stay within appropriate waketimes but he wakes up instantly when I lay him down. Swing, rocker, bassinet all the same. He bedshares with me at night laying on my arm. I have a three year old who doesn’t see me anymore I had to put her in daycare because of this. I’m exhausted, depressed and lonely. Waiting on 4 months to sleep train.

    • Hi @Heather – Thank you for writing to us. I’m SO sorry to hear your family is having such sleep problems and your really struggling too. Please know that you’re not alone! We’re more than happy to help families of infants younger than 4 months! We feel that it is never too soon to start teaching good sleep habits. We’ll create a Plan just for you and your baby, and we’ll be here to work with you to provide a path forward as your baby grows too.
      You can read more about and purchase any of our consultation packages here:
      Thank you again for writing, and hang in there Heather! Please let us know if you need any assistance at all, and we’d love to help you get started ASAP!

  2. My 3 week old hates everything but the rock n play. And even then, he has to be in a deep sleep or he wants out asap. He slept ok in the bassinet but he had bad congestion and a cold so the doctor recommended to have him sleep at an angle because of drainage at night. He now hates swaddled and hates his bassinet. He must be rocked at all times. So he has the rock n play that rocks, vibrates, and plays music. So far so good! I hope transitioning him to the crib won’t be hell.

  3. My baby is 9 weeks old and only naps on me after eating. I try to move him to a dock a tot after but he always wakes up. I tried the crib but he won’t nap there. Any tips?

    • Hi @Lanisa, thanks for writing to us and congratulations on your new baby! My boys did this to me some days when they were really little too, so I understand loving the cuddles but at the same time wanting a break!!! Here is a link to a guide with tips to help with your newborn in these early weeks:
      I’d keep trying and it may just take some time for him to age out of it a bit, but trying it always good so it’s not a foreign idea when you try to spring the crib on him or something.
      If you need more help as he continues to grow, let us know! We are here and would love to help.

  4. I love the tips you have listed in the article and I am hopeful one or the other might put my baby to sleep. Also, I was browsing for more such new mother guide articles and read a couple of useful ones on Hope this helps your readers and my fellow mothers.

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