The Older Baby Who Can’t Be Put Down


I had a really sweet first time mother write in and ask me about her older baby who wants to be held all the time.  Do you all remember that stage with your very first child?  When there were no other children around?


Her question involved another aspect as well:  that of parenting alone for long hours on end and how to get that break when, as the parent, we are just about to lose it.  I think many of us have been there, and I wanted to provide some encouragement.  Perhaps you all have your own experiences to add in, if you can remember that far back to your first child and that sort of mobile and needy one year old stage.


Dear Sweet Mama,

I think it is really common for an infant of birth through even three year of age to want to be held frequently. In some cultures, infants don’t even touch the ground until the baby turns one year old.  In our society,  many parents use slings, particularly putting your older infant on your back, as a solution to this dilemma. I am a huge fan of slings, particularly wearing an infant or toddler on my back so I can go about my own work – which is work around my home or garden.  Some families are really lucky and have a lot of other adult family members around.  But in American society, most of us are not that lucky.  Often we are the only ones home alone with an infant for long stretches of time.


So, this leads to another point….


Attached infants can also learn to be happy and not be held 24/7,if you work in short spurts and think ahead about the environment you are setting up for this.  For an older infant or child who is used to being held a lot,  it takes time to know that this is a rhythm, a pattern and an okay place to be.   Sometimes tying it to some particular task you are doing can be successful for the little one who is truly not used to it.  So, maybe you would like to start with putting your infant down whilst you unload your dishwasher. Take the silverware out in case your older baby can pull up and get into the sharp silverware and set them down on a blanket whilst you are unloading the dishwasher.  Sing to them heartily!  Smile at them!  Think about distraction and including them whilst they are down there. Or, set them up to play with a small tray of water on a sheet or in the sink whilst you unload the dishwasher or in the sink.  You have to think of distraction,  and also be cheery and confident they can survive without being held for ten minutes so long as they are safe.


You can also get down and play with your child on the floor, but I think what most parents are striving for is to have their hands free for a few moments and have their baby not be wailing. 


As far as what to do when you are ready to lose it….We all have moments like this in parenting, especially I think with the first child.  If your infant is in a safe place where they cannot hurt themselves, you can set your baby down. Your baby will cry, you may cry too, but again, if your baby is safe and you are nearby,  they are not going to die by crying. Sometimes too,  just changing the scenery by going outside together, setting your baby down in the grass, or taking a walk together, can also diffuse the moment.


The bigger issue is to think about prevention, and also to have that plan for what you are going to do when those inevitable moments happen.  Think about and plan within your family’s schedule what breaks you need throughout the week, make sure you are eating and sleeping well (nap when your baby naps! for the whole first year or even the whole first two years if you can get it!) think about who you can call to talk you off the ledge at that moment, keep reminding yourself what is normal for that age so you are not expecting too much, love your child, get outside, form a community, pray and develop yourself through your own inner work (religion, spirituality, whatever you call it and whatever it is to you) and enjoy your baby.  We were not meant to take care of a baby all  alone for hours on end – I don’t believe. Community is so important!

Again, make sure you have someone you can call in the moment – a friend, a family member – who could come if you called or you could at least call any day or night. And communicate with your spouse – parenting is hard work, and it is important you have at least some time to yourself each week  for a few hours, if not a period of time each day. Parenting with a partner should be just that, working to create a family culture together.


Many blessings,

13 thoughts on “The Older Baby Who Can’t Be Put Down

  1. Oh yes, I really really remember that! And your response is just what I feel also, that babywearing helps tremendously (for the older baby I find the ergo or mei tei to put baby on the back wonderful for freeing up the hands or just getting out for a walk), having a friend to call on the phone is crucial, working patiently and incrementally to help baby take naps in the bed on her own or play on the floor for a bit, and support from your partner. I think with our first baby I had to really work on asking for help from my husband, he had to work on being responsive to that and empathetic (it was a process!) and I learned to get specific and really ask for time off for me in the regular schedule (two hours off on Sundays to leave the house on my own, for example) because otherwise I was literally on call 24 hours a day, cosleeping and nursing all night and I needed some alone time to counterbalance that. When I had one baby/toddler I also wore her in the ergo and went out for a walk each day for about an hour, and that was just the loveliest part of the day for both of us! And also, YES, this somehow is so much easier when you have your second baby. Really, all these phases go by so quickly but it’s hard to see that when you’re in the middle of it with your first.

  2. thank you, carrie, for this sweet and timely post. i love the practical suggestion of both the sling – honoring the baby’s need – and phasing in, slowly but surely, a new way of being together. it helps a lot, in my view, to be busy with a task and to be able to hand baby something from what you are doing (the wooden spoon you cunningly hid in your back pocket to hand to baby when she wants to touch the sharp or fragile contents of the dishwasher, for example).
    i found with both my daughters that some of the words i would croon to them when my hands were full were, ‘soon, soon’. and ‘almost there’, even before i expected them to understand. especially my second daughter responded to these words quite early, knowing from experience that ‘soon’ and ‘almost there’ meant that her needs would be addressed in a short time. of course, there is no point using these unless they are true …
    crying together is also good and necessary, and the more all moms know that it happens and it’s ok, the easier it will be to let go and let it happen. we were not designed to be alone with small kids for hours on end, it is really a cooperative job, and when enough is enough, we must give in. even small children learn from mom giving in to tears; especially if she has enough energy left to speak soothingly even as she gives up holding it all together. then if she can talk about it afterwards, kids – even quite small ones – learn that meltdowns happen to all of us, even the big-size humans. this creates a kinship and a feeling of okayness for them too …
    thank you again!

  3. At what age (or height? or weight?) did everyone start wearing their babies on their backs? I have an Ergo and a Kinderpack, but I’ve still been using a front carry with my 7-month old. I just find it pretty difficult to get things done with her on my front. Even making a sandwich can be complicated because I can’t see what I’m doing! I’d love to switch to a back carry soon.

    • I started early with our Ergo, 3 months worked with the infant insert and 6 months without it . You are ready & I am sure you baby is too. Go for it, it really is great and baby loves it!!

    • I think you can learn a back carry with a 7mo (I start around 6 months with the ergo) and it will help SO much with cooking, laundry, everything! If possible, have someone show you how to do it, and definitely have someone spot you the first few times until you are comfortable. Then you can practice on your own right next to the bed or couch. Front carry continues to be lovely for walks, soothing, nursing in public, etc.

    • I used a simple ring sling, wearing my babies on the front until they could sit on my hip. I could just swing her around onto my back if I needed to do something quickly, or get her out of the way of something sharp or hot, then swing her back around again.

  4. I have a 4.5 year old who STILL likes to be carried in the Ergo! She is definitely one of those first children who do not like to be left alone. We use the carrier with her almost every day (thank goodness she’s only 33lbs!)

    We started both of our children on the back carry around 6 or 7 months old. Start out with a front carry and slowly and carefully shift to the back. Or have an adult help place the baby on the back. Good luck!

  5. Thank you for this post Carrie. Along these same lines…I’m really struggling with planning Grade 2…around 2.5 year old twins (and a 1 year old baby). I know you mention short stints, but sometimes my twins need help preoccupying themselves. Any suggestions?

    • Chantelle,
      I suggest to work in short fifteen to twenty minute spurts, but also to talk to your family about having several hours ALONE because sometimes it takes fifteen to twenty minutes to figure out where you are, open your planning books and then your time is up. 🙂
      For little ones, I like sensory play outside – a sprinkler, a tub of large lima beans or rice and measuring cups, sand play in a sandbox… Or setting things for a little tea party if your older child can help and supervise and keep the play moving, or dress up.
      However, I think with two and a half year old twins, it is going to be really important to plan some planning times either at their nap times or after they go to bed (work to wear them out that day so they will go to sleep! LOL) or time when they are being watched by another responsible adult to really get some longer stretches of time in. I know how hard it is to plan at night, I am personally really tired and night is not often my most productive planning time. Some mothers have success in getting up early, but I know for many mothers with cosleeping littles, that is tough as well.

      I will keep thinking for you!

  6. Thanks for your thoughts Carrie – they are truly appreciated. I am coming to the realization that like my 7 year old and his school…I need to also plan sensory activities for my twins (we live in the Canadian Rockies so we do spend loads of time outside). Would you know of a resource that has a bank of good ideas for that late toddler age? I sometimes have a hard time coming up with things for them to do.

    They’re in bed early (6:30 p.m.) but they’re also up early. But the day is looming when they will no longer need naps, which is when we have been doing the bulk of our schooling – I have a bit of panic setting in. 🙂

    Your thoughts and encouragement on planning have completely revolutionized the way I look at schooling. Thank you for the effort and honestly you put into each post. They mean more than you know.

    • Chantelle,
      Lots of sensory oriented posts on here, if you put sensory into the search engine box on this blog, I bet a million will come up. Look for the meaningful work for toddlers post – the best sensory experience is heavy work and real work. 🙂

      I am so glad you are finding the planning discussion helpful!

  7. I love this thank you so much Carrie! This is the season of life I find myself in and your words are what I needed right now ❤️

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