You’ve just come home from the hospital, or maybe you’ve been home for a week or two, but suddenly, your more alert little baby wants to be held all the time. The moment they cry you assume they are hungry, wet, or tired. However, all they want is for you to pick them up. They are adorable and you love cuddling them; but now they won’t let you put them down and you have other things to do and people to entertain. What can you do?

My baby wants to be held all the time, why?

At birth, babies are completely helpless. They are warm and sung when in the womb. With every movement of your body, they are moving. They flow with you every time you sit down, walk across the room, or sneeze. You surround them with the sounds of your heartbeat, your voice, and your love. Then their life is turned upside down, and all they want to do is go back to the familiar: You!

Furthermore, infants are born with several natural reflexes that make them want to cling to you. A palmer grasp reflex is a good example of this. It is a natural part of an infant’s psychological development but causes them to want to grasp anything that strokes or applies pressure to the palm or bottom of their feet. Aabha and Bordoni of the National Institute of Health suggest that the original purpose of this reflex comes from a functional need for newborn monkeys to cling to their mothers. (Aabha & Bordoni, 2020) Infants are also born with a Moro reflex, which causes them to startle and cry out due to loud noises, movement, or even their cry. Another reflex, the rooting reflex, causes them to want to suck on anything near the roof of the mouth or near their cheek.

Benefits of being held?

It’s now clear why your baby wants to be held all the time, but are they benefiting from being held often? Absolutely! Besides a general reduction in crying time, there is also an overall improvement in temperature regulation, blood sugar control, and lung function. Holding your baby skin-to-skin increases these benefits tenfold. The act of holding your infant regularly can also calm and ease the transition from the womb and will give you a chance to bond and learn how your baby expresses hunger, fullness, and tiredness. You might also see a better start to breastfeeding if you have skin-to-skin contact or simply hold your baby regularly.

Am I spoiling my baby?

It is a common myth that holding your baby regularly or picking them up every time they cry will spoil them. In particular, for infants, this hypothesis has been conclusively disproved by current research. The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that, “Babies need and love to be held and touched. You will never spoil your baby by showing lots of love and by holding your child often.” The first few months of a child’s life are very important. You are their teacher, guide, life-force. By responding to their cries, even if all they need is a hug, you are teaching that they can rely on not only you but also give them the courage to explore this new world they have found themselves in.

What to do when it is not possible to hold your baby?

Your baby as arrived, and now you have a lot to do. Whether you’re entertaining guests or family, adjusting older siblings to the presence and noise of a new baby, or housework in general you may be tired and your arms are just done. Physically, you can’t hold them all the time.

  • Babywearing is a great choice if you need to keep your hands free. It may take a few tries to find a carrier that is both comfortable and convenient for you and baby.
  • Consider taking a stroller outside or even just around the kitchen.
  • When your baby is near the end of a nap or is just going to sleep, bathing and swaddling them in a low-light environment may be helpful.
  • Ask a visiting friend or family to hold them. They will be honored and excited for the opportunity!
  • Further, you can play music or talk to your baby while they are placed somewhere safe. It’s okay for them to fuss or cry for a little bit. The sound of your voice and feeling of your presence reassures them that you are still there and they’re okay.

If you need further assistance, call Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny to receive help during the day or overnight newborn care.

About The Author

Nia Davidson has over 10 years of experience working with children in Boston and Virginia, as well as abroad. She studied human development and family studies at the University of Vermont. She is also trained as a birth and postpartum doula and works as a Newborn Care Expert with BBN&N. Growing up mostly abroad in Germany and Qatar, she has a unique understanding of different cultures and traditions. She understands that bringing a newborn home can be filled with wonder and excitement but also can be a time of stress. Nia’s calm demeanor, loving nature, and multicultural experiences abroad make her uniquely capable of supporting families through the newborn stages. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, hiking, and practicing yoga.