Your newborn has drifted off to sleep after a long comforting feed, and is out for the count in your arms. “At last,” you think. “I can sneak in a shower while baby naps!” You carry your baby over to his bassinet, oh so gently, and carefully place him on his mattress, already imagining the luxury of hot water raining down on you in peace.
But the minute your baby’s head hits the bed, his eyes fly open in surprise, and his little face crumples into tears. Sighing, you pick your baby up again and retreat back to the couch, where your baby immediately snuggles into your arms and falls back to sleep.
Looks like you’re watching Netflix for the morning. The shower will have to wait.
Does this scene sound familiar? You’re not alone. In fact, pretty much all babies go through these super-clingy phases, and for a variety of reasons.
For newborns, it’s a survival thing
The first thing to know is, your newborn’s clingy behaviour is completely normal, and is nothing to do with your parenting skills. In fact, your newborn is biologically hardwired to behave this way. To ensure his survival, your newborn mammal has to stay close to you – his protector and food source, the centre of his universe. In utero, this was easily done: he had cuddles and close contact on tap, and all his needs were taken care of immediately, around the clock.
Once born, your newborn has to get used to a whole new environment, so different from the last nine months he’s experienced inside you. To do this, he needs to feel safe and secure, which is what your arms offer. When you cuddle your baby, he feels the warmth of your skin, can smell your scent (and milk) and can hear your heartbeat, all of which help him feel safe in this new world. However, when these are removed from him (i.e. when you put your baby down) this is immediately noticed and your baby’s survival mechanisms kick in.
As a baby who’s only been in the world a few days or weeks, he of course doesn’t have any sense of distance and the knowledge that you’re not very far away. To him, your absence is a threat to his survival, and crying is his only way of getting you back and feeling safe and secure once again.
Your baby is NOT manipulating you
Your newborn isn’t trying to manipulate you with this behaviour, nor is it going to ‘spoil’ him by giving him the physical contact he needs. Cuddling him and going to him when he cries like this will actually help him become a more secure and confident human being … eventually. Right now though, your little velcro baby is likely to need you with him almost constantly when he’s fresh out of the womb.
Don’t forget, he’s not like you and I, who have been on the planet for years and years and have learnt a thing or two about making it on our own. Your baby is brand new and doesn’t have any of this experience, so we need to ease him into it, which is what the fourth trimester is all about.
It can help to change your mindset about it
Knowing that this clingy, velcro baby behaviour is biologically normal goes a long way towards helping mums get through this tough phase. Like most parenting challenges, this bit won’t last forever. As your baby grows, he’ll become mores settled and secure, and able to explore his world without you more and more. In fact, there will come a time in the near future when he’s no longer that interested in snoozing away in your arms, preferring to get on the floor and practice those new crawling skills he’s been working on.
Then you’ll miss those cuddle sessions!
How to survive your baby’s velcro stage
In the meantime, how to survive this intense period with your velcro baby? Cuddling your baby for hours on end is wonderful, but no doubt you’re likely to start missing the use of both your arms eventually, as trying to get things done one-handed is only doable to certain extent. And you’re completely normal if you’re starting to feel a little ‘touched out’ and in need of your own space.
Here are some things you can do to survive your clingy bub:
- Use a baby carrier – using a comfortable baby carrier will keep your baby close to you and give you back the use of your arms. It’s perfectly okay to let your baby hang out in one of these all day if it’s working for both of you. Just make sure it’s comfortable for your back and supporting your baby appropriately and safely.
- Enlist help – can you ask a relative or friend to spend time with you so they can cuddle your baby while you get some space for that shower and a decent snack?
- Tag team with your partner – take turns cuddling bub with your partner as much as you can.
- Try to make the best of it – if you’re concerned about getting things done around the house, try to let it go for the time being, or get some help in. Instead, maybe make the most of sitting around relaxing – after all, you’ve got the rest of your mothering life to run around after this baby. Why not settle back with a box set or a good read now, while you’ve got the perfect excuse?
- Get out and about – if your carrier is working for you, you don’t have to stay cooped up at home. Get out for a walk in the fresh air with baby snuggling close to you and join the rest of the world, which can be so good for your sanity.
Need some more baby sleep advice? Our Parent School sleep experts can help. Click to find out more or book a one-on-one session.