Babies are born with an intriguing need to be close to their mothers all the time to regulate their body temperatures and stress levels, to feed on demand and fine-tune the milk supply, and just to feel safe and loved next to the heartbeat they’re accustomed to from the very beginning based on biological responses to mama’s mammal-like instinct.
A baby refusing to be put down is certainly not an unfamiliar spectacle for most parents, neither is it an unusual occurrence. Some babies tend to be fussy when they are breastfeeding, hungry, or just when sleepy.
But, a baby who wants to be held continuously can become a problem to the parents. This article will discuss if this behavior is normal and what you can do about it.
Why do babies want to be held all the time?
Your baby does deserve plenty of love and care, but when your arms and shoulders begin to hurt, it becomes a concern.
Some of the reasons why most babies always want to be held include:
The transition from the womb into the world
For some babies, the transition from the womb to the outside world can be very overpowering. They may still prefer the dark, secure, and cozy womb of mommy where they spent their greatest time curled up sleeping, other than the unfamiliar, bright world they may not be ready to face yet.
After delivery, the change of environment can be quite unsettling for the baby hence she may find it upsetting to adjust to new faces and sounds or even the new position of sleeping on her back.
As your baby grows and starts to hit her developmental milestones, she may start to realize that she is a separate independent being from her mother.
This awareness will likely trigger separation anxiety in her, which may be worsened by the fact that she may not be able to recall the past, therefore feeling anxious when not held.
The feeling of warmth
The desire to keep warm can be a newborn baby’s reason for wanting to be held by the parents, no wonder they have a tough time being put down or even sleeping straight on their back without the warmth of their parent’s arms around them.
She could also be experiencing the Moro reflex which makes her arms and legs flap when not held.
To give your baby the required warmth when you are not holding her, it is recommended that you swaddle her, but it is natural for babies to prefer the warmth and safety of their parents or the caregiver’s arms.
What can you do to settle your baby?
Below are a few tips and tricks you can employ to help your baby lower her guard and settle.
- Play soothing music. Sing your baby some soft lullabies or put on some soothing music to help relax your baby. Music has a calming effect on babies.
- Wrap your baby. Wrapping your baby in optimal layers of loose clothing can be useful in providing her with the required warmth and giving her that feeling of being nestled in a secured cocoon, just like the mama’s womb was. It is adequate that a newborn baby feels adequately cozy and warm after birth.
- Comfort the baby. Stroking her gently and speaking in a soothing voice can calm the baby down. Try to make her surrounding environment comfortable to help her adjust to the world outside the womb. You can also try hanging interesting objects from her baby corner or crib to engage her attention while she is awake.
- Break off the habit. Set the baby in the chair or activity mat for a few minutes every day to break her habit of constantly being held until she gets used to the idea. You can practice this a few times every day, particularly when she is happy and well-rested, and gradually increases the duration.
- Use soft, snuggly cushions. The baby snuggle cushion is designed to act as a sling around your baby’s body and mimics the warmth and comfort which keeps her safely positioned on her back.
- Be persistent. You must remain calm and practice persistence while teaching your baby to stay relaxed when not being held. You may find it frustrating but keep going as habits take time to break, but eventually, your baby will learn to be comfortable by herself.
- Involve family members. Try and involve all your baby’s caregivers and anyone else actively involved in the baby’s life to practice setting the baby and not holding her more than necessary. Eventually, she will get used to being set down by everyone around her.
- Be flexible. You need to understand that it is simply a phase, and your baby will grow out of it in due course. Just go with her pace and refrain from hurrying her unnecessarily. Some days you will make progress, while other days may seem extreme, keep your expectations as realistic as possible.
Advantages of holding your baby
Let’s look at the positive side of holding your baby. Many times, as babies grow, they will start exploring their surroundings all by themselves and they will not need to be held often.
But, while they haven’t reached that age yet, these advantages of holding them close to you should help you keep going.
- Holding her frequently aids her growth and accelerates her through her developmental milestones.
- It helps in regulating her breathing and heart rate.
- It strengthens the bond between you and your baby and it offers her a sense of security and comfort.
- It soothes your baby and calms her down.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is it normal that your baby cries when not held?
For most newborn babies, the desire to be held in arms is quite normal as they require a considerable amount of physical connection, particularly during the initial days after birth.
Some experts refer to this as the fourth-trimester effect as the baby seeks the soothing contact effects of their mother’s body because that’s what they have experienced in the womb. Parents need to continue holding those little ones for the maximum time even if it seems challenging and tiresome.
What is baby separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety is a child’s common and normal fear of being away from their parents or their primary carers, and the behavior you might see them display when separated from their parents is sometimes called separation protest.
They might get upset by new faces or by the absence of the old ones but these anxieties are a normal part of childhood development and are nothing to be concerned about. The anxieties make sense from a survival point of view because at this stage, they are starting to move around more.
Can I use baby bouncers and swings?
In today’s world, we see and come across products that make it easy for parents to not have to pick up their babies as often as they might without them. From bouncy seats to pack n’ plays to strollers, portable bassinets, walkers, and even car seats that turn into strollers and enable you to pick your baby up going from car to shopping and vice versa.
Yes, there are even swings that turn themselves on when your baby starts to cry and alerts you so that you don’t have to pick up the baby by entertaining them. We all need relief as parents and using these once in a while doesn’t pose any harm.
Am I holding my baby too much?
Ideally, after being in the comforting and warm environment of the womb for nine months, it is no wonder that babies crave the comfort and warmth of their parents. The world is a big scary place full of scents, sites, and sounds for babies and it takes time to adjust.
Being held and snuggled in warm, soft arms next to the soothing beats and vibrations of the heartbeat feels more like being in the womb than being placed down in a contraption.
So go on and snuggle your baby and don’t let anyone guilt-trip you by telling you that you are spoiling them. You can’t spoil a baby with love.
There’s no such thing as spoiling your baby by holding her too much. Just establish and address the underlying issue keeping in mind that all this clinginess is just a transitional phase that won’t last forever.
In case your baby doesn’t seem to calm down when not being held, the most sensible thing to do would be to pick her up to make her emotionally secure.
It may feel a little tiring and overwhelming right now to hold all the time but remember, she is growing and will soon outgrow your arms and your laps. So you may take your time and enjoy cuddling and holding her while it lasts.
Also, it is no offense to ask for help. Take advantage of your family members and all those around you to help so that you get some time to rest.