When Baby Won’t Let You Put Him Down

When I was pregnant with my first child, I, like so many first time mothers, had plans and expectations for how caring for a baby would go. I read the books, sought out advice from other mothers, and felt fairly confident in my knowledge of child development as a nurse practitioner. And like many first time mothers before me, all those plans and expectations evaporated into thin air when I met my beautiful firstborn and learned that he did not care about any of my preconceived ideas about motherhood. At all.

I found myself unprepared for a baby that wanted to breastfeed every 30-50 minutes, not the 2-3 hours I had been led to believe, and who could go from being completely milk-drunk asleep to crying pitifully whenever I tried to put him down. He was content if being held, feeding, or just snuggling with me, but he did not like to be set down or even held by others for long. He was feeding easily, gaining weight well, and my husband and family helped me keep my sanity for the most part. I wasn’t really struggling or unhappy, but I, unfortunately, let the comments of others get to me; “Didn’t he just eat, how can he be hungry again?” “He’s going to be spoiled.” “My kids all slept 4-5 hours through the night from day one.” “He’s needy.”

Though we were content, I was caught up in the exhaustion of new motherhood and wondered if he really could be a “better” baby as others suggested.  I tried all the things friends, family, and the internet suggested about feeding and sleeping schedules, swaddling, pacifiers, habit formation, etc. None of it changed that my baby was happiest snuggled up with me.

Around the same time, I had decided to expand my professional life and enrolled in a course to become a certified lactation counselor. This week-long course included some of the best advice I had been given for understanding mother-baby relationships and I suddenly questioned the strange desire for his feeding and sleeping habits to fit inside what others expected.

My aha-moment at that conference was when the instructor began talking about the different types of breastfeeding relationships among mammals. She categorized two main types of mammals when it comes to breastfeeding, nesters, and carriers.

Nesting mammals produce milk that is high in fat content and satisfies their babies for long periods of time (deer, rabbits, and mice). They typically feed their babies a few times a day and then leave them, concealed and safe in nests, for many hours while they go search for food.

On the other hand, carrying mammals (like apes and kangaroos) produce milk that is low in fat and digests quickly. They carry their babies around nearly constantly and feed around the clock. Attempting to leave these young animals alone for any length of time results in distress to baby and an interruption of their natural feeding process.

Then she went on to explain that as humans, we often try to act like nesting mammals; creating beautiful “nests” or nurseries, investing in all sorts of gadgets and “containers” for our babies to sleep and play in, and measuring how “good” a baby is by how many hours they will lie or sleep alone. There are endless resources out there about feeding and sleeping schedules, crib training, self-soothing, and how to correct “needy” or “clingy” behavior. But almost all of this is based on one big misconception…because in reality humans are (you guessed it) carrying mammals! Our babies are born with an intrinsic need to be close to their mothers, to regulate stress levels and body temperature based on biological responses to mama, to feed on demand and fine-tune milk supply, and to just feel safe and loved next to the heartbeat they’ve heard from the very beginning.

I had already come to learn my own version of this, but having it explained in such simple terms and normalized was life-changing for me. I learned that it was okay (and preferable!) to judge how we were doing by listening to my baby and following his cues, not by the opinions of others on how many hours of sleep I was getting. Having this knowledge from the beginning would have been so empowering and taken away so many hours of stress and worry. I couldn’t go back and change those early weeks with my firstborn, but I was able to approach my second baby with so much more confidence and ease.

So if you are in this phase or know a mama who is, if your baby is rejecting the “nest” or only wants you, know that they are totally and completely normal and that you are helping them build a strong foundation of trust and confidence in their little world, regardless of anyone else’s opinion about what they “should” be doing. Snuggle them, carry them, wear them in a wrap, breastfeed as often as they want, and love and grow them in whichever way you choose with the knowledge that you are the only nest they need.

74 comments

  • As a first time mom I am in this situation right now and didn’t understand why my babe wants to breastfeed what seemed like all day long. I will definitely be saving this to give to all new momma’s I know <3

    • Even not-so-new mamas need to be reminded sometimes! Keep up the good work 🙂

      • That’s me right now I have one and was feeling I was the only one through this

        • That’s me right now and it’s been so hard. It’s hard to not compare yourself to others

          • It’s hard to not compare to yourself also. My first(now 7) slept through the night at 3 months old. My current 6.5 month old doesn’t. Sometimes I find myself comparing and it’s not fair because they are 2 different humans and even I am a different person than I was back then.

    • Thank you for writing this! Here I am eyes teary because sometimes I feel like I’m drowning because of the comments I get. My baby girl is about to be 11 months and she still seems to be attached to me. Her love language is physical touch and at times I need to get things done and she just wants to be held. This is a reminder to me that it is okay! I can hold her as long as she wants and it is okay!

      • I am going threw the same thing with my little one! She wont let me put her down or sleep without my laying next to her. Nurses like crazy and doesn’t even want dad anymore! Its been frustrating for me, but what is even more frustrating is when outside influences make you feel like you are doing something wrong.

      • Mamma! Get a carrier!!! Secondhand you can find them super cheap!

      • I am in the same boat with my almost 11 month old! She wakes up all night long to eat still and wants to be held and nursed alot during the day too. So nice to know I am not alone. I question whether I am doing something wrong that she is still waking up all night but perhaps this is just the way she is.

      • I NEEDED your comment. My 6 month old will only cosleep and still gets up to eat every 2 to 3 hours through the night. She never plays she just eats for about 10 minutes (her normal amount of time) and then goes right back to sleep. I thought I was doing something wrong but maybe I’m not

      • This is definitely my situation I hear it she still eating she cry to much why because she want’s me or shut down

      • Same with my 10 month old son
        ♥️🙏🏼😊

    • Same 🤣 my baby girl is feeding every 30-40 minutes and only sleeps when I’m holding her she doesn’t like to be put down. So i have started carrying her around with me while she sleeps

  • Im on baby number 3 . I can say this article is a great reminder . Sometimes im overwhelmed by how little I get done around the house . My baby is 6months old and prefers to feed laying across my chest as I lay down . Its cuddle and feed time all in one . But babies may nurse for any reason, they need comfort , their hungry, their thirsty , they are teething or gassy. What I keep forgetting is breasmilk is a natural relief for gum pain and gas pain .

  • Thank you so much for sharing this! It has been so hard for me as a first time mom to have a baby who eats so frequently and to hear so many comments just like you listed like, “she’s hungry already AGAIN? She just ate!” that make me so worried all the time that I’m doing it wrong. This is so validating and comforting!

    • Not only are you doing great, but your baby is doing exactly what babies do! Don’t let other people get in your head. You got this!

    • I heard the same things, I also got told that my baby was allergic to my milk because no breastfed baby she knew spit up or need to be burped like my daughter did. Wish I had found this article earlier maybe I wouldn’t of given up and let my supply drop.

  • Yes! People often give too much advice – sometimes contradictory! There’s no such thing as spoiling a newborn baby. It kind of irritated me when my father in law told me not to constantly carry my baby around in my arms, because she’d get used to it – she was only a few weeks by then! (She was my third, so by then I knew that I wanted to hold her and enjoy the newborn stage as much as I could WHILE I could)

    • That advice can be so (unintentionally) harmful too. Babies *need* skin-to-skin contact, it’s proven to have health benefits, and it helps mama’s milk supply. I think those closest to us want so bad to hold and help care for them, they are a little jelly baby mainly wants mama.

  • Suzanne Brannan

    I really needed this today <3 my little girl (first time mom) is almost 8 months, and I've been feeling a lot of pressure that she should be sleeping through the night, and in her own bed by now. She's been a very clingy baby from the start, only happy when shes being held, mostly by me.

  • I so needed to see this. As I sit up right now at 2:15 am with my 5 week old. I kept asking, “what am I doing wrong”? Why won’t he sleep? Is he really hungry? I’m so grateful for this peace of mind and I can stop beating myself up. I’m so fortunate to have been blessed with a baby that loves his mama so much! It’s exhausting but rewarding nonetheless.

    • I was thinking the same thing. My daughtet is 5 weeks old as well and she just wants to be constantly held and nursed through the night. I haven’t gotten my supply up as much as I want to so I am supplementing with formula. She is wanting me to be next to her all the time. And she barely sleeps without be holding or being next to her. I really dont know what to do. But this article has given me hope.

    • This is my right now mama! Thank you for Unit comment!

  • My children are now 30 and 34; I read this as I now have my first grandchild, and my daughter posted the link on her social media. I nursed my babies until they were 15 mo’s and 18 mo’s. I was always able to ignore comments. they never bothered me. I nursed everywhere, and stayed covered. I never had a stroller or playpen. I used a front carrier; when I wasn’t carrying my babies, my husband was. I am a proud mom knowing my daughter is nursing her daughter and that her daughter has a strong preference to be held and nursed by her.

    • I’m going thru this now with my six week old son. He is has colic and very gassy plus has digestive problems. He wants to be held constantly and attached to my breasts. He is my only surviving child so I have been extremely worried in my approach with everything. This helps me so much.

      • That sounds really rough but you’re clearly doing exactly what you need to for you and your baby. It’s really amazing how we learn what they need. Ignore others and trust your gut!

      • Are you eating dairy? I wish I would of known my son can’t tolerate dairy when he was baby. He was very colicky and bad reflux which we put him on medication. Thinking back I should of stopped dairy while breastfeeding but I didn’t know. If not diary try different elimination diet to see what’s causing it.

    • That is so beautiful

  • This is EXACTLY what I was experiencing. I’ve been thinking I was doing something wrong but it all makes sense now! I plan to start doing more baby wearing and appreciate this time with her more.

  • This is what im going through right now with my 7 week old and he will start daycare soon and im so afraid of how he is going to act with the sitter because all he wants is me and to be held! He nurses about every 2 hours but i also stress because i use so many supplements because i dont feel like im producing enough milk! We seem to thing he has a cow’s milk allergy so that makes it hard for me because i has to stop eating dairy!

    • I had to stop eating dairy for the same reason baby spits up every time. even eat a little. Its not that bad and it helped me loose a little weight.

    • I am also concerned about your daycare comment, going back to work in One month and my baby just wants to be held.

  • Thank you so much for sharing this!! I shared it on my fb and instagram because it was so good ❤ & such a great reminder to ALL moms!!

  • Thank you for this article and sharing that basic but not so obvious knowledge you learned through your course! I’ve been feeling judged by other moms who tell me just put him down, let them cry, they’ll get used to the warmth of your arms, etc.

    And while I’d welcome the “me” time, I think it’s normal for babies to want to be close to their mothers, all mammal babies who are breastfed are always close to their mamas after birth. I know I’m not getting anything else done but just taking care of this little tot!

    Thank you for the post!!

  • This is so good to know. My first baby was the “good” baby and now he is 3 and I have a newborn who needs me constantly. It’s tough! Thanks for sharing.

    • Me right now. My 3 year old was so good. Feed and than would just sleep on me/dad/her bed. My 5 month old only ever wants me and to nurse all day long. He has colic and I’m the only one that he won’t cry for.

  • I just had my 5th baby and I have heard all those things and more, been horribly guilted and felt like a failure for believing this because I didn’t have any reasoning to back it up with besides “I just know this is what my baby needs!” Thank you for sharing this and helping me feel vindicated, people will probably still say those things but I will be able to ignore them easier!

  • This makes me feel better. I’m a first time mom and I have been telling everyone you cannot spoil a baby by holding them. He’s rather content playing on the floor or sleeping when dad is home with him at, at his grandma’s and at his other Omas while I work. But with me, he only wants snuggled at the breast and to co sleep. I get maybe 3 hours of crib sleep per week. He just loves being with mommy. He will eventually crawl and walk and want held less. Then we will work on sleeping on his own then.
    Grandparents and his dad just have to get over it lol

  • My son is 1 month almost 2 months and I’m going through this. It’s definitely stressful to not get very much of anything done around the house, but after reading this it makes me feel a lot better. We only breastfed the first couple of weeks and he just wouldn’t want to be on the boob anymore so I pump and bottle feed but he eats just as much as he would when he was breastfeeding and he would not want to sleep in his own so we cosleep. But I’m enjoying all the snuggles as much as I can before he wants to sleep alone.

  • Wow I really needed is (as I sit here and cry from exhaustion). As a first time mom with my baby being only 2 months this makes me feel a lot better knowing that it’s not my fault that she cries when she’s set down. It didn’t make any sense to me why she wants to pretty much constantly nurse. Wish I had heard this sooner, definitely sharing with anyone who says that I hold her too much and that she’s spoiled

  • Thank you for this. I’m a first time mom and my 3 month old is clingy and wants to eat all the time or at least snuggle and I hear “he’s spoiled, you’re going to regret not training him better, and he can’t still be hungry” all day everyday. It makes me feel so much better to know I’m not alone.

  • Thought this article was gonna help me figure out how to get my baby less attached to my hip, not tell me there’s nothing I can do 😂

  • I say none of my kids are aware that their umbilical cords were cut. I baby wear, do most things one handed, and remind myself that one day my kids will leave my arms, no matter how much they craved them as babies. 1 year is nothing.

  • My mother told me that all mother’s are different and have different opinions of how they would like to raise their children, and that it was up to me to decide what was best for my children. After all, it was only their opinion. Not mine, not my mother’s… etc.
    Here I am 8 babies later, who were all breastfed and stopped on their own terms… one happy momma. I listen to no one but my babies. My youngest is just now 4 months old and yes… breastfeeding just fine. I love carrying her in a wrap while I’m cleaning regardless if she’s awake or sleeping. She’s not fussy at all. I have nothing better to do than be the mother I decided to be when I got pregnant.

  • Mine son is 6 months old and is refusing to let me put him down he had never slept through the night and I have a 20 month old half the time I’m lucky if I can even eat something. What do I do

  • As a first time mom this makes me feel so much better knowing I’m not alone. My son is going on one month old and seems to only want to nap when held. I’ve already been told things like he needs to learn to sleep on his own and if he cries when put down to just let him cry it out.

  • Third time momma and my little caboose is the only one that wants to eat all the time or cluster feed… he doesnt like to be held by anyone else even his daddy… and half the time the only way I can get him to sleep is letting him lay on my chest… this article explains alot. He may be my third baby but this is the first time I’m going through this.

  • This is all great and understandable, but what do you do when you CAN’T really hold your baby 24/7 cause, you know, you gotta eat, sleep, have a shower or god forbid work? I feel like it’s catch 22, and I keep wondering how other working moms deal with this… It seems impossible.

    • That’s how I feel too. It makes total sense that a baby wants to be near the mother, that’s not the part that I disagree with. It’s just it doesn’t really seem necessary to me to be constantly holding them because all these well-meaning moms here definitely need a break too. Sometimes it is okay to let a baby cry. You need to do what is best for your mental health as well so that you don’t go crazy and possibly hurt your child (by shaking, yelling) because you’re so overly exhausted on all levels. I don’t know how other moms get things done while wearing their babies….I would get so exhausted after just a few minutes of trying to do that. If it works for you that’s awesome! Just didn’t for me. I just really feel like if your child absolutely will not or can’t go to sleep without you being there every single time then there is an issue here. The issue being, you got them to expect that that they don’t know any different. But my viewpoint is won’t that cause attachment issues later? I’m not sure…just my thoughts. Not saying evr having your baby sleep with you is bad, sometimes that’s all you can do for either of you to get sleep but I don’t know if it’s a good idea to always do that, not to mention the possibility of rolling onto or suffocating them or getting them too hot. Opinions?

      • I wear my baby and I cut myself plenty of slack. He takes at least 2 of his naps in his wrap. If I get too tired from wearing him I just lie down with him to sleep.

        If you’re breastfeeding, sober (no alcohol or drugs), have a full term baby and have a firm mattress you really aren’t at high risk for rolling over your baby or suffocating him. You can also remove the comforters and sheets from your bed and put yourself and your baby in warm PJ’s. If you put your mattress on the floor you also basically eliminate fall and entrapment risks. You will feel if your baby is too hot because you’ll be too hot. Plus he’ll wake you up from squirming/ complaining/ wanting to nurse.
        And no it doesn’t cause attachment issues. Long term studies have found no difference between children who were sleep trained or children who co-slept by the time they are 3. So it’s really up to you. Babies in Japan bedshare and their 6 year olds are riding the train to school by themselves.

  • Love this! My son was born at 27weeks and I held him for the first time when he was 4 weeks old. We went through hell in the NICU for 3 and 1/2 long months. When we got home, we had to make up for lost time. He had oxygen and many medical needs at the time so he required 24/7 care. He physically NEEDED me in all aspects. Now at 9 months, he just likes to be held. And that’s okay! I love it! He’s an infant. Infants are 100% dependent on parents, and some people have the nerve to say “you’re gonna spoil that baby.” If a 3 year old is hungry and you feed them, is that spoiling? No. They need food. Babies need contact and cuddles for many reasons. Why would I ever deprive my son of that, especially since we missed so much bonding time in the beginning?

  • I really needed this. I gave birth to my third almost 4 days ago but this is the first time I’ve been successful breastfeeding and I really didn’t understand why he would scream everytime I put him down and why it seemed like I was feeding all day long. Halfway through reading this my mom came in and said “you’re feeding him again, you should talk to the doctor tomorrow about that because you can’t even put him down.” But reading this made what I already pretty much knew a fact for me. My son needs me because I am all he knows and that is perfectly okay. My nipples may be raw and I may be completely exhausted but I am mom, no one else can be that for him and I’m truly honored to be the one.

  • Just great content right here! Helps me understand my baby girl even more.

  • This is all so comforting to read. Breastfeeding has been difficult (poor latch, flat nipples, back pain) but I still try to keep up with it because he loves it. He really does want to be held almost all the time and sleep has been tough but chest naps are everything. I just hate that I can’t wear him because I have so much lingering back pain from labor. Fortunately my husband does and that’s their time.

  • I love this! I am currently on baby number 3 and shes 6 weeks old. Very fussy, gassy, colicky and sometimes it’s overwhelming but its good to be reminded that there is nothing wrong with that. Some babies just want to be held and that is perfectly normal!!

  • Yes… I can totally relate to this 100% bc I have 4 kids with my 2 oldest daughters being teenagers 16 and 17 now that I had when I was just a teen myself at 17 and 18 first time mom. My first son is 9 years old and then unexpectedly I found out I was expecting again at 35! Was in complete shock 😲 but honestly I was young with my other kids I was still new to being a mom and this time around I am older and more settled down to raising a baby and I’ve sort of spoiled this baby from day 1! He’s always had my complete attention and I’ve been so stingy with him I didn’t even realize until the father told me. 🙄 but now he’s 8 mos and I can’t even go to the bathroom and pee without him screaming and crying for me. I feel lifeless that I can’t do anything without him on my hip and now he’s getting bigger and heavier I can’t deal with it much longer. How can you unspoilt a baby? 👶

  • I love this, but it’s harder to implement when you have other kids. My toddler will destroy the house or pee all over the floor if I’m not with him, and it’s hard to be with him if baby is constantly on me. So I try to put my newborn in bassinet for one nap a day so I can spend quality time with my toddler. My older kid is fine if i have baby while spending time with her, but my toddler wants some time with just me and him, not baby.

    Also, at what age is it appropriate to allow them to be nesters? I mean ar some point they sleep in a crib or own bed. So when is that developmentally appropriate for them? 6 months? A year?

  • I don’t breastfeed my daughter, but she is very clingy to me. She will cry if I’m not in her sight. Drives me nuts. But I guess she just wants to be worth me all the time.

  • Oh my goodness thank you for posting this! I’m a first time mom to now a 7 week old. My babe wants to breastfeed at least every 2 hours. I feel/felt so much pressure from everyone whether (breastfeed vs formula, schedule vs on demand nursing, bassinet vs co-sleeping etc) I worry that if I’m doing things right and why I haven’t been able to get him on a “schedule” and how he is going to be when i go back to work (nurse that works nights) and if it’s hard now, how am I going to be able to do it then? I’m tired of hearing people say “he is hungry again” or “gee what are you design him”. Ugh being a mama is hard

  • how’s about pumping some milk so DAD can fed them too..

  • My little is about to be 3 months old and she only wants to be with me. I formula feed since I was not producing breast milk. I’m currently in the phase of how do I get back to work if she only wants to be with me and cries with everyone else 🥺

  • This was the most refreshing and hopeful blog I’ve read since I started reading mom blogs 🙏🏽

  • I have a 6month old son who is also a pandemic baby and I’m going through the phase where he does not want me to put him down at all he will be content at times playing with his brother or watching cartoons but then he gets bored and trying to comfort him and get my daily house work done is so hard I’m drowning he screams at the top of his lungs and nothing will be wrong he just wanted to be picked up I don’t know what to do my firstborn was not like this he at all they are completely opposite.

  • Whew this is my life & I’m on baby #4. 🙂 I THOUGHT I WOULD HAVE A BREAK FROM DAD, but she only wants me! Lol.

  • Thank you for this. My newborn is 2 weeks old and will not be put down, he is my third baby and the first that I have been attached to constantly. We are breastfeeding and co-sleeping which I actually love, but being unable to put him down just for a shower or to have 10 minutes alone can be tough. Your words have reminded me that this is okay, and that I am doing a good job. Thank you.

  • 😭😭😭😭 I completely needed this article today. We have reached the 3 month mark and baby is only wanting me right now. My husband has been trying to remind me to “put him down” but honestly it’s not possible. Unless I want a crying baby 24/7. Thank you for helping me accept being close to him!

  • I’m experiencing this with my fourth and it’s making me crazy. Helps to know he’s normal.

  • Thank you for this! This is 1000% my situation right now… she only wants me and as much as I am loving it, I kept thinking something was wrong. Putting her down is relatively impossible during the day- she’s getting slightly better about it at night, but Im so glad others experience the same thing and that really this is normal behavior!

  • Wow. Thank you for this. I needed this!

  • Michelle Carriveau

    I can’t even put into words how much I needed to read this. Currently 3 weeks postpartum with my 4th baby and have been in tears wondering what I’ve been doing wrong because my baby constantly wants to be on me. Here I am thinking I’m not giving him enough milk or that something is wrong because he won’t sleep in his sleeper more than 10 minutes. Everything you said is exactly how I’ve been feeling!! But you put it into words my exhausted mama brain can understand. Thank you!!!

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