My newborn only sleeps when he is held constantly. I can’t put him down for more than a few minutes without him wailing. He sleeps with me at night, but only naps if someone is holding him during the day. Do you have any recommendations?
A. As difficult as it may be for new parents who simply want a few minutes to themselves, very young newborns generally prefer being held than being in any other position. Staying close to your source of food and security makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint.
When you hold your son in your arms, he feels your warmth and hears your heartbeat, which he recognizes from his time in the womb. He detects your odor. And he feels safe when you cuddle him; it reminds him of the good old days inside your tummy. Furthermore, the closer you are, the more likely he is to accept your kisses and caresses.
But how can you receive the rest you require? A baby carrier or sling is a decent compromise for some parents. They allow you to tote your kid around the house while you get things done. My daughter looked a lot like your boy, and I recall marveling at how quiet she was in the baby sling while I bobbed up and down unloading the dishes. This is also a good time to phone some of the individuals who offered to assist with the baby—friends, family, neighbors, or a postpartum doula—and ask them to come over for an hour or two to hold your kid while you shower, return e-mails, run errands, or simply take a much-needed nap.
Your son is probably used to falling asleep next to another warm body because he sleeps with you at night. In terms of napping, you can either let him fall asleep in the baby carrier or assist him in learning to sleep independently. Swaddle him to give him the sensation of being held, and then set him down. Continue to rock him, sing to him, or rub his cheek or hand until he calms down. Because babies this young lack the ability to quiet themselves, it’s crucial not to let him “cry it out.”
It will take time for your boy to learn to fall asleep on his own; it will make him the better part of the first 6 months (to a year) to master. So be patient, ask for help when you need it, and remember that these early days and months go extremely quickly, even if you fantasize about having a whole 30 minutes to yourself. Your son will crawl and walk before you realize it, and you will be racing to keep up with him!