The fourth trimester effect
If your baby wants to be held all the time, it could be because the 'womb-to-world' transition has been really tough on him.
We all know that every child gives his parents a finite amount of trouble. Some are fussy about breastfeeding, others about sleep, and most often, baby cries when put down. If your baby wants to be held all the time, then this can be especially tiring for parents.
If your baby is like this, you may find the only time you get any rest is when your little one is asleep.
However, this is not unusual. For most babies (especially when they are very young), the desire to be held is normal, and the fact that baby cries when put down is also quite normal.
Babies need a fair amount of physical contact for the first few months of their lives. In fact, some experts even call this phenomenon the ‘fourth trimester.’
And in this period it is crucial that you hold your baby most of the time anyway.
“My baby wants to be held all the time”: The fourth trimester effect
For a baby, the womb-to-world transition can be quite challenging. They are incredibly ill-prepared for the world outside.
During the nine months of pregnancy, they live in a secure, dark, warm and permanently heated (37 degree Celsius) environment. They don’t even have to adjust to nappies and cribs. They also spend most of their time curled up and sleeping.
But post delivery most of these things change, and suddenly.
Your baby now has to adjust to new sounds, new people and is constantly sleeping with his back straight. He is no longer in touch with his mother the way he was in the womb.
All these factors make him incredibly anxious and force him to raise an alarm when he is left alone. So, if your baby wants to be held all the time, he isn’t really trying to drive you crazy. He just depends on you for everything, especially comfort.
And while he makes progress to adjust to a new world during the first few months, he will get nervous when put down. So continue to hold him for as long as you can, especially during the first few months. Hence you will find your baby wants to be held all the time.
How can I make my baby feel secure?
To comfort your baby so he doesn’t suffer from extreme separation anxiety, you can replicate the ‘womb world.’ This means you carry out certain activities so that he feels that he is still in the safe environment of the womb.
If your baby wants to be held all the time and cries when put down, here are a few ways to settle him:
1. Womb movements
When you are pregnant, your baby experiences soft wobbling movements as you move. But once out, he misses those secure rhythmic movements because he is often put to bed straight.
In order to soothe him, you can try swaying and dancing with him from side-to-side. You can also try slow walking with him. Or you can even get creative with a relatively short bumpy ride. Most of these actions replicate womb movements, making him feel more secure.
Babies often hear their mother’s muffled voice when inside the womb. But once they come out, they can hear most things clearly. This can be confusing at first.
A good option to make them feel secure is to play some soft music around them. Sometimes they may not necessarily love a lullaby, so white noise can be an option. The sound of crashing waves or wind can also do the trick.
3. Position of your baby
Another way to calm your newborn is to try different holding positions. So for instance, you can hold the baby with his belly down and try the tiger in the tree hold.
Alternatively, you can hold him close to your chest and given him skin-to-skin contact. This way he will feel safe and closer to you once again.
4. Feeding pattern
If your baby is hungry, there is nothing you can do to calm them, except feed them. So practice baby-led breastfeeding each time. Let them guide you with their hunger and nurse them on demand.
Sometimes your baby might not even be hungry and just wants a quick drink or suck to feel comfortable. This also helps in letting down your milk and in breastfeeding easily.
Swaddling is the practice of wrapping your baby in cosy blankets to restrict the movements of his limbs. This keeps him feeling snug, safe and warm. This is also a great way to bring down his anxiety whenever he doesn’t see you because he feels as if he is still inside the womb.
Just be careful with how you wrap your baby. It shouldn’t be too tight and you must stop before the baby starts rolling on his own.
6. Deep bathing
On some days, a warm deep bath can soothe your baby. It is even better if you go into the bath with your baby. Your skin-to-skin contact can make him feel extremely secure.
In addition to security, skin-to-skin contact releases oxytocin that leaves the baby as well as the parent feeling happy.
7. Baby wearing
Carrying your baby on a sling is also a great way to calm and soothe the baby. In fact, in this article we mentioned that “Wearing your baby allows your baby to feel as secure as he would be if you were holding him in your arms, while giving yourself the freedom to accomplish what needs to be done.”
According to a 1986 study, babies who are carried more throughout the day are less fussy compared to babies who are attended to only during feeding and in response to crying. To be exact, the study found that babies cried and fussed 43 percent less with increased carrying.
Another powerful tool to help your child feel safe is to co-sleep with him. Infants who co-sleep go to sleep faster and stay asleep longer.
You may actually prevent your baby from loud nighttime crying because you are very much in-tune with your child next to you. Co-sleeping also promotes breastfeeding by making night feedings easier.
If baby wants to be held all the time, hold him!
The point to remember here is to identify the underlying issue. Ask yourself if your baby is experiencing separation anxiety or if he is just looking for comfort.
Incidentally, you might instinctively be doing all these things in the first quarter of your newborn’s life. You might also be practicing attachment parenting. If you are, then you need not worry. Your baby will come around.
It’s important to never think of holding your baby as spoiling him. Some people might come to you and ‘advise’ you against it, but that’s a definite no-no.
The fact is you cannot ‘spoil’ a baby. There is no such thing as holding your baby too much. After all, what mother doesn’t like to cuddle her baby?
If you are happy with holding your baby and he settles in quickly, do it for as long as you want. And if you get too tired, strike a deal with your husband so he can hold the baby for some time. When you have a high-need baby, you also need a bit of rest. So ask for help in such a case as your baby wants to be held all the time.
Remember that it may seem a tad bit inconvenient right now, but your baby will outgrow your arms soon. If the going gets tough, keep in mind that this too shall pass. For the time being, enjoy this time with your baby.