6 Month Old Baby Won’t Sleep Unless Held

It’s hard to get anything done when your 6 month old baby won’t sleep unless held. Learn how to help your little one sleep on their own!

6 Month Old Baby Won't Sleep Unless HeldI was convinced my 6 month old hated sleep.

Or rather, he slept well enough—but only if he was snuggled in my arms. Any time I tried to put him down, he’d wake up and immediately start to cry. .

The few times he’d keep sleeping only bought me maybe 20 minutes of sleep before he’d wake up once again. So much so that I’d give up and resort to holding him the whole time until he woke up.

As much as I kept hoping he’d grow out of it, 6 months of sleep deprivation made me think that he might not. That I was enabling habits that made it impossible for him to fall asleep on his own. It went so far that I started to think that this is just who he is—that he simply wasn’t a “good sleeper.”

Thankfully, with a few changes applied consistently, I was able to turn things around and get him to sleep without being held. So much so that he was able to sleep a whopping 11-12 hours straight at night—without crying once.

As you likely know, no single solution works for everyone. Different methods can work depending on your baby’s personality (and yours). An easy-going baby could get by with a certain tactic that wouldn’t work for a fussier one.

That’s why I want to offer a few suggestions you could try, keeping in mind your baby’s temperament. Take a look at the ideas below to help him sleep on his own:

1. Teach your baby to self soothe

The method that finally got my 6 month old to sleep 11-12 hours straight at night—in the crib, no less—was sleep training.

I had resisted sleep training at first because I hated the idea of him crying. But I’ve since learned that sleep training gave him the opportunity to at least try to sleep on his own.

At this age, I also knew that he could take in all his calories during the day and sleep longer stretches at night time. That all the rocking and nursing I’d been doing was preventing him from learning how to put himself to sleep.

The difference was night and day. By checking in on him frequently but briefly, he was able to sleep on his own after only two nights.

Free resource: Interested in getting started? Check out a preview chapter of How to Teach Your Baby to Self Soothe! Sign up for my newsletter and learn all about the mindset that makes for successful sleep training. Grab it below—at no cost to you. As one parent said about the ebook:

My baby boy was waking every hour and I couldn’t get him to sleep again. He would fall asleep in my arms and as soon as I put him down he would wake up again. I felt like I was failing my baby and doing everything wrong.

I tried everything and eventually found and bought your book. I followed everything you said to do. I had almost given in, but all of a sudden it went quiet and I realized that he had fallen asleep on his own. I couldn’t believe it. After that, it was much easier because I actually believed that he could do it. It has now been 2 weeks of sleeping 11 hours without waking up. It has changed our lives.

I am so happy and proud of my boy for being able to fall asleep on his own. I can’t believe my baby is sleeping through the night. Something I didn’t even believe possible. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.” -Janitia A.

How to Teach Your Baby to Self Soothe

2. Help your baby settle to sleep

Not ready for sleep training? You can try a modified version, one that combines giving him the chance to self soothe with helping him calm down when he fusses.

Instead of holding him to sleep, put him down awake in the crib. Do what you can to soothe him to a sleepy state, like patting or singing him to sleep. If he whimpers, give him a pacifier or gently rock his body.

And if he’s outright crying, pick him up to calm him down, but not to put him to sleep. As soon as he’s calm, put him back down and allow him to sleep on his own. Repeat this pattern until he falls asleep.

You may see a progression over time. For instance, he may have only slept for five minutes the first time you put him down before he woke up crying. But the second time, perhaps he stretched it to 10 minutes, and so forth.

You’re giving him a chance to sleep away from your arms, but you’re still nearby to soothe him to sleep when he fusses.

3. Lie down next to your baby

Do you have a mattress on the floor? One way to ease the baby out of your arms, especially for nap time, is to lie down next to her. She can begin to sleep next to your warm body as you slowly transition your way out.

While you’re carrying her in your arms, make your way to the mattress to lie down. Set her down on the mattress with your arms still around her. Then, ease your arms out from under and around her so that you’re not holding her. And finally, slowly move away from the mattress so that you can be up and about.

While this doesn’t solve the problem of letting her fall asleep on his own, this does afford you a much-needed break to be able to do what you need to do.

Learn how to stop your 6 month old baby feeding more at night than the day.

6 Month Old Baby Feeding More at Night Than Day

4. Wear your baby

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At 6 months old, your baby is still small enough to be able to be worn in a sling or wrap with the warmth and scent of your body next to his. You’re still helping him sleep, but at least you have both hands free to get things done while he’s snuggled upright against you.

This can also address the most common reasons he might fuss, like needing to burp or dealing with acid reflux. With a wrap, you can keep him upright and provide the comfort he needs.

The biggest downside with baby wearing at this age is that, unlike newborn babies, he’ll eventually outgrow it or get too heavy. But for especially challenging days, using a baby wrap can be a lifesaver to finally get him to sleep.

5. Let your baby play or talk himself to sleep

In the past, any time I’d find my baby awake in the crib or bassinet, I’d scoop him up right away and rock him back to sleep. I assumed that, because his eyes were open, he’d scream and cry. I wanted to prevent that from happening, so I rocked him before it got to that point.

Only later did I realize that it’s okay for a baby to play or talk himself to sleep.

I learned my lesson a few years later when I had my twins. If they happened to open their eyes after I’d put them down, I’d wait and see what they’d do first. Did they fuss and cry half the time? Sure, but they’d also fall asleep on their own, too.

The next time your baby wakes up after you put him down, wait to see what he does first. He might babble himself to sleep, turn his head side to side, and eventually fall asleep.

Expert tip

Hang blackout curtains in the room to block any light that might be keeping him awake. Then, use a white noise machine to muffle sudden sounds that might startle him.

6. Have a sleep routine

Your baby can’t tell time yet, but that doesn’t mean he can’t pick up a few cues that it’s time to fall asleep. Sometimes, all you need are consistent rituals that signal to him that it’s time to sleep. For instance, you can:

  • Play music on his mobile
  • Read a calm book
  • Draw the curtains to keep the room dark
  • Turn on white noise
  • Sing a nursery song

When you do these activities, preferably in the same order, he can associate this bedtime routine with sleep.


Six months of sleep deprivation is no joke for new parents. Thankfully, you now have a few methods to try to get your baby to sleep.

Teach her to self soothe so she can fall asleep on her own. If sleep training isn’t for you, give her an opportunity to try to put herself to sleep before stepping in. Lie down next to her on a mattress on the floor, easing your way out once she’s asleep.

Put her in a baby wrap so that you can at least get things done. If she’s awake in the crib but not crying, let her talk or play herself to sleep. And finally, establish a sleep routine that signals it’s time to sleep.

You don’t have to be sleep deprived, friend—even if it feels like your baby hates to sleep.

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Don’t forget: Join my newsletter and grab a preview chapter of How to Teach Your Baby to Self Soothe below—at no cost to you:

How to Teach Your Baby to Self Soothe

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  1. My son is a light sleeper. The floors of our house creak and the noise carries throughout the house. You can hear someone walking in the hallway and he is now in the same room as his bigger brother. He will not stop crying unless he nurses and is rocked back to sleep and even then he wakes again after a couple hours. I have maybe slept a total of 4-5 hours each night. I’m honestly at my wits end and my boy is now unfortunately sick so it has been a terrible week. He also just cut his first tooth this week too. Any help is appreciated.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Vanessa, It’s definitely rough dealing with a light sleeper and walking on eggshells around the house. I’m guessing being sick and teething aren’t helping much.

      One thing that has helped me is to have some sort of white noise in the room he sleeps in. That way, he won’t startle awake over every little sound. And depending on his age, he might be ready to sleep train so that he doesn’t rely on nursing and rocking to fall back asleep. But if he’s still too young and in the newborn stage, you’ll want to wait a bit longer before teaching him to self soothe.

      Hang in there, mama <3

  2. Our 6 month old only takes 30 minute naps. We have to go rock him and give back his pacifier and help him drift to next cycle. Please suggest ways to overcome this.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      It’s definitely rough when babies don’t sleep much longer than 30 minutes. I know with my kids, the short naps at this age had to do with them not really knowing how to put themselves to sleep between cycles. Have you thought about teaching him to self soothe? That way, should he wake up mid-nap or in the middle of the night, he can put himself to sleep (instead of relying on rocking to do so).

  3. My biggest struggle is trying to get my 6 month old on a sleep schedule. The more tired I am, the less patience I have for the world around me. I often feel bipolar due to sleep deprivation and depressed about the lack of success in the journey of motherhood.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      I hear ya, Maya. It’s so hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you’ve been sleep deprived this long. Have you considered sleep training your baby? Check with the pediatrician, but he or she may be able to sleep 11-12 hours straight at night. I know that that was the turning point for me. Having those evenings to yourself and a full night of deep sleep makes such a difference.