Newborn babies are sensitive little souls. As a parent, your priority is tending to all of their needs. In the past, holding your baby too much was considered to be a bad thing, but modern studies now dispel this as a myth. So as a new parent, you may find yourself wondering just how much you should be holding your baby.
In general, know that you can never hold a newborn baby too much. The security that your child feels from being close to you is vital for their development, especially in the early months of their lives. Parents and babies can figure out, together, the best schedule for cuddling time.
That said, it’s not healthy if you have your baby attached to you 24 hours a day either. At the very minimum, you’re going to need at least a few minutes of baby-free time to go to the bathroom! With this in mind, we’ll look at some tips below, so you can find the balance when it comes to holding your baby.
Is it Bad to Hold your Baby All the Time?
Holding your newborn baby all of the time isn’t a bad thing. In most cases, your parental instinct will tell you to keep your baby close to you and your instinct is right. Holding your newborn close has many benefits for both you and your baby.
When your baby is snuggled up to you, it feels your body warmth and your rhythmic breathing and heartbeat. This makes your baby feel safe, secure, and relaxed which reduces crying and helps to regulate its body functions.
As well as this, holding your baby will strengthen your parental bond and can make breastfeeding much easier. Overall, keeping your baby close to you in the first months is better for their physical, emotional, and mental development.
How many hours a day should a newborn be held?
When it comes to holding your baby, there really is no time limit. Is your instinct telling you to cradle your baby? Then you should go with it.
For a newborn baby, up to three months old, crying for three hours a day can be normal. When a newborn is crying, it’s definitely a call for help rather than a call for emotional attention.
It isn’t until around 9 months old that babies start to master the art of manipulation. This means that newborn babies, in particular, should be held and comforted when they’re crying.
Is it Possible to Hold your Baby too Much?
As long as your new baby isn’t being disturbed from sleeping, then it can never be held too much. As we’ve discovered, this feeling of closeness for newborns is vital for their development.
However, if you’re holding your baby so much that you’re neglecting yourself or your family, this means that you’re holding it too much. Don’t be afraid to put your baby down or pass it over to other caregivers.
As much as newborns love being held, it’s also beneficial for them to have some independent time. Bonding with close family members is also good for their development.
What Can/Should I do if my Baby Wants to be Held all the Time?
If your baby is constantly crying out to be held, first you should check that all of its basic needs are met.
You should also rule out any health problems that may be causing excessive crying and discomfort. This is one of those times that you should definitely consult your pediatrician. For newborns, keep in mind that your pediatrician may say it’s part of the natural “period of purple crying” that’s common to all infants.
Once health concerns are set aside as the potential cause, though, then it’s time to get creative. After all, a baby can’t be held all of the time, so it needs to be comfortable with short periods of independence. The easiest way to make your baby feel secure is in its cradle or a swing. Don’t feel bad about using the 5 S’s to help your baby start learning to self-soothe.
- Swaddle your baby.
- Suck – let your baby have a pacifier or nurse on demand.
- Shhhh your baby. Babies like reassuring noises like white noise and pink noise.
- Swing your baby in your arms or secured in a baby swing.
- Use some stomach or side-laying positions to help calm your baby. Remember to move them onto their back for sleeping, though.
It may take some trial and error of these 5 S’s to get your baby to be calm when not being held. And it may take combining several methods, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
How Can I Comfort My Baby Without Using my Arms?
As much as you may love holding your baby, parenthood also needs you to have your arms free for other things. Below are 6 techniques you can use to comfort your baby without using your arms.
- Rock and Sooth – Babies love being rocked and you can use a crib or a bouncer or a swing to comfort your baby. At the same time, use a soothing, singing voice to help to pacify them.
- Play Music – Babies respond well to music and just like adults, they find it soothing. Try playing different types of music to see what songs your baby finds comforting.
- Turn the Lights Down – Bright lights can overstimulate newborn babies. As well as turning the lights down, close the curtains to block out sunlight.
- Rhythmic Sounds – Studies have shown that babies find white noise and rhythmic sounds very soothing. Try placing your baby close to a washer/drier or a rotary fan.
- Cause a Distraction – You can distract your baby by creating sudden, strange noises. Try recording your baby crying and play it back to it. If this doesn’t work, try changing your scenery to distract your baby by going into a different room or out for a walk.
- Use the 5 S’s in a hands-free way – babies can be trained to keep a pacifier in their mouth. It takes some time, and you have to gently try removing it to get them to learn to keep it in their mouth.
Now, if you find that your baby just has to be held to be calm? You aren’t alone. This is when a baby carrier will be your best friend – so that you can have your arms back already.
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In my opinion and experience as a mom, the Ergobaby 360 carrier is hands-down the best baby carrier possible. Of all of the carriers I’ve tried and seen, it’s the one that I could wear for hours on end – without feeling like I wanted to fall over from my core giving out. It’s pricier – but it’s worth it. And my kids all loved being in it, too. Just don’t forget to get the infant insert if your baby is a newborn.
How Long Should You Hold a Baby After Feeding Them?
After you’ve fed your baby, it’s important to burp them before putting them down to sleep. This is because the esophageal flap that stops food from coming back up isn’t fully formed until 12 months old.
Because of this, the food needs time to settle in the stomach. A sign that the food has settled is when, after burping them, your baby gives you a satisfied belch. After feeding, you should burp your baby and hold it upright for about 15 minutes.
If your baby has a form of reflux (gastroesophageal reflux), then your doctor may say to keep your baby upright for 15-30 minutes. Your pediatrician or your baby’s GI specialist can give you better specifics.
Doing this helps your baby to digest and keep its food down. It also stops them from waking up with stomach discomfort, and uninterrupted sleep is much better for their routine.
Summary & Final Thoughts
As a parent, you shouldn’t worry about holding your baby too much. Newborn babies thrive on this closeness, and it reinforces the parental bond. When it comes to newborn babies, it’s worth remembering that they only cry and seek comfort when they really need it. You don’t have to resist your instinct as a parent to hold and give love to your newborn child.
Now, one more thought. I’m not going to go so far as to say you have to “treasure every moment with your newborn! They grow so fast!” (even though there is some truth to it). Because the fact is – not every moment as a parent is amazing. There are a lot of hard moments. And they’ll be great memories one day.
But until that day? Some of the hard moments are still hard. It’s exhausting when your baby wants to be held 24/7 – and you just want 10 minutes to yourself. It’s also exhausting when you’re sleep-deprived, wondering if you’re doing the right thing, and otherwise questioning everything you do. Just remember – it’s a normal stage of parenting. We’ve all been there – even if not everyone will admit it.
So hang in there, friends. Parenting isn’t easy – but it is amazing.
When learning about parenting or sleep training techniques, it’s important to learn from various reputable sources. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as parents.
- California Childcare Health Program. Building Baby’s Intelligence: Why Infant Stimulation Is so Important. cchp.ucsf.edu/sites/g/files/tkssra181/f/buildbabyinten081803_adr.pdf.
- Gastroesophgeal Reflux: Helping Your Baby. Seattle Children’s Hospital, www.seattlechildrens.org/pdf/pe226.pdf.
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