How to Get Your Baby to Nap Without Being Held – 7 Moms Share Their Tips


Getting your baby to sleep can be pretty stressful. Neither of my two kids were able to fall asleep in the swing and they definitely weren't interested in their bassinets—they only wanted to rest in mommy's arms.

If you're wondering how to get your baby to nap without being held, you've come to the right place.

This is something so many of us struggle with. You want your baby to rest you also need to get things done or take a break.

We spoke to 6 moms to find out how they got their babies to sleep somewhere other than on top of them. Keep reading for their invaluable advice.

Adedoyin Adeboye

Adedoyin grew up in Boston. She works as a health care administrator and has found a new passion in blogging. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and their 2-year-old son. She blogs over at Atlanta Insights.

As a Nigerian mom, there are many cultural myths that flies around when you have a baby. One of those myths is, "if you hold your baby too much, he will get used to your hand and never sleep by himself".

Whenever a Nigerian woman visits a new mom, and they catch you holding your baby, you will constantly be reminded of this so-called fact. It can be annoying honestly because it starts to ring in your ears. 

When I had my son, I chose to ignore the myth and find what worked best for me and my son. I enjoyed holding him and staring at his beautiful face. My mother would often yell at me that I was going to spoil the baby with "my hands" but I did not care. 

Thankfully, my baby was great at napping. He did not care whether laid down or held. The one thing he needed to sleep that spoiled him was his pacifier. Without his pacifier, napping or nighttime sleeping was a battle I constantly lost. 

So, to answer, how did I get my baby to nap without being held? The answer is pacifier. I went through many pacifiers to soothe him to sleep. Always having an extra pacifier on hand was my secret.

Lisa Prosser

Lisa is a mom of an almost 3-year-old and a 1-year-old. She’s a SAHM who loves affordable, mom-friendly fashion and traveling. She lives in Guatemala with her husband, their two crazy toddlers, and two cats. She blogs over at Bun in the Sun.

Routine routine routine! Finding the right schedule and routine helped us with our babies’ sleep, so so much.

With my first, I had no idea how to handle his sleep. We just fed him on demand and let him sleep whenever he wanted, but I was exhausted and pretty miserable. Every time he woke up 20 minutes into a nap, I would hold him and rock him back to sleep, but that left me unable to get anything done or get any rest.

I finally got some advice from a friend, read a few sleep books (Babywise was the most helpful), joined Facebook groups with moms of babies of the same age, and did a complete overhaul of his daily routine. We put him on a (rough) schedule. It wasn’t perfect, but I finally had a basic idea of a few things: 

1 - How long he should be awake between naps without getting overtired or not tired enough

2 - How long to wait between feedings in order to ensure he was hungry enough to eat a full feed (rather than snacking), and thus be less likely to wake up in the middle of a nap.

3 - How long his naps should be so that he didn’t get too much daytime sleep and slept longer at night

There are basic guidelines for all of this based on age, but I definitely checked with my pediatrician to make sure what we were doing was ok.

Also, to be honest, when my son and daughter were really young, I would definitely hold them for naps. I wanted the snuggles (up to a point!), and I definitely didn’t want to put too high of expectations on a tiny infant.

When my son was about four months old, I tried to lessen the holding and would put him down in his crib in a sleep sack, turn on a sound machine, and leave his room right away.

If he didn’t go to sleep or woke up early, I would let him cry for 10 minutes, sometimes 15, if I wasn’t feeling extra emotional that day. It was hard, but he eventually understood that I wasn’t coming to get him, and he would soothe himself to sleep.

In the end, the schedule was what really got us into a groove, and got him sleeping independently. 

Hannah Spencer

Hannah created A Balanced Mom as a judgment-free zone where moms can learn and get support in balancing their lives. None of us are just a mom, wife, or employee. We're human beings with passions and preferences. We shouldn’t lose sight of those things when we become “Mommy.”

My answer to getting my babies to nap without being held has been sleep training.

I started sleep training both of my girls around 9 months old. I would wait until they were tired, rock them in my arms while singing for a few minutes, and then just before they were asleep I would put them in the crib. 

They would cry and fuss for a few minutes, but after a few days they learned to just put themselves to sleep once I put them down.

I think the reason this worked is because I wasn't just putting them straight into bed without getting them "prepped" for napping first. 

Naps would normally be after mealtime so they had a full belly, and that along with the couple minutes of singing/rocking really did the trick for us. 

Gwendolyn Reinhard

Gwen is a mom to a 3-year-old girl and a 1-year-old boy. Her goal with the Nurturing Family and Self blog is to inspire other moms to live a balanced life filled with passion, love and laughter.

The biggest thing that worked for our kids was establishing a consistent naptime and bedtime routine.

We paid attention to the cues they were giving us, cues that showed they were tired. Our babies would become fussy and wanted nothing to do with any sort of activity. These fussy periods tended to occur at generally the same times during the day.

When naptime came, our routine consisted of changing diaper, feeding/nursing, and rocking for several minutes before laying in Pack 'N Play or crib.

Our daughter needed to be swaddled when she slept. Our son didn't need to be swaddled as long, but did use a pacifier to fall asleep. During the first few months, both my daughter and son took naps in the swing. The rocking motion and snug feel of the seat helped them fall asleep and stay asleep for an extended period of time.

When transitioning my daughter and son to the crib for sleeping, we were consistent in laying them down in the crib. Our daughter would only stay asleep in the crib if she was swaddled and laying the short way. Our son transitioned much easier to the crib with the addition of the pacifier.

But the most important thing we did was follow a consistent routine of changing, feeding, rocking and laying down in crib. Another thing that we did was play soft instrumental music or white noise during naps and at night. This  helped drown out the noise of my daughter as my son was taking more naps than her and going to bed earlier than her. 

Christine Rokos

Christine, from Normal Life Mom, is a family lifestyle blogger who focuses on family friendly food, family lifestyle topics and DIY easy activities for toddlers and preschoolers. 

My son REFUSED to take naps, and the only place he would sleep was in my arms. I realized that the only way to get my child to nap without me, was to “teach” him how to fall asleep on his own.

I was using rocking him to sleep as a sleep crutch. Even though I tried putting him down drowsy and followed all the “normal rules,” nothing was working.

Eventually, our family decided to hire a certified pediatric sleep consultant. She was the most valuable tool in teaching our family the appropriate wake windows, sleeping schedule, and techniques in order to “teach” our child independent sleep.

Many people don’t understand what a sleep consultant does, and it is NOT all about the cry it out method. A good sleep consultant offers many different approaches and methods.

In the end, her guidance allowed my son to fall asleep on his own without rocking him to sleep and without tears. 

Amy Motroni

Amy blogs at The Postpartum Party, where she covers everything related to pregnancy, motherhood, and those first few years where your life totally changes for the better (although sometimes it feels like the worst). She lives in California and loves to write, travel, decorate, and binge watch her favorite shows.

I think a few things can help so a baby can sleep on its own, without being in mama's arms.

One thing I recommend is paying attention to your baby's wake times. If your baby is overtired or under-tired, he will have a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep. Start paying attention to your baby's sleepy cues to determine his proper wake window.

At first, you might need to help him fall asleep, but with consistency and a good routine, baby will start sleeping more on his own. If all else fails, try wearing baby so you can still get stuff done while your baby naps.

Miranda Hodge

Miranda Hodge runs Smart Mama Smart Kids Coaching. She's an Australian mama of 3, teacher and blogger at Smart Mama Smart Kids and she provides strategies, programs and coaching for parents who feel overwhelmed or just want some support in their journey.

I start intentionally teaching all my babies to sleep without being held, starting about 8-12 weeks. I hold them and cuddle them, then put them in bed awake. I always teach anything to a child in a gradual way, because they are unlikely to learn it instantly! 

Day 1: Do what you always do, nearly get them asleep... then put them in bed.

Day 2: Do the same, but stop cuddling them a couple minutes earlier than usual, so they're a little more awake, but still getting all the sleep signs and signals from you. 

Day 3: Your baby might fuss and cry (even on Day 2), but stay there for awhile. It's not about making them 'go to sleep on their own' at the moment, but 'go to sleep out of arms'. 

This is just the beginning, but it works. 

Two extra tips:

1. If your baby cries, try not to pick him up straight away. Ideally, you're standing there next to the cot, avoiding eye contact, maybe singing softly or murmuring to him. (Please note I do not say don't cuddle your child!) And here's the big tip: Pat their backside until they're snoozing. It might take awhile but it's for a good reason!

2. Remember that you are teaching your baby something gently. He is learning a skill. This is not a "scream until you get the message" type of thing.

Teaching requires patience (as much as you can!!) and repetition with gentleness and firmness, until he gets the idea and learns the routine. 

Hopefully the advice of some of these moms resonates with you and you've got some new ideas on how to get your baby to nap without being held.

Do you have different advice? Has something else worked for your family? Share it in the comments!

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