“My baby won’t sleep” is a typical comment from lots of parents. However, all babies are different and sometimes the unintentional behaviour of parents can make it difficult for babies to learn self-soothing techniques. As babies get older they begin to self-soothe at night – that is, they settle back to sleep on their own. In this article we’ll look at the importance of self-soothing and offer some tips to help your baby learn to self-soothe, giving you all a better night’s sleep.
The Importance of Self Soothing
For newborn babies, the world is a scary place and our job is to reassure and comfort them. Tiny babies often fall asleep during a feed but when they wake they can be distressed and we soothe them back to sleep, perhaps by singing, cuddling or rocking them.
Around the age of three to six months, many babies begin to self-soothe. They still wake at night, perhaps several times, but they realise they are in familiar surroundings and settle quickly. It’s been found that self-soothing babies generally sleep longer each night, and get longer unbroken periods of sleep too, so helping your baby to self-soothe is really important when it comes to regulating baby sleep patterns.
However, when a baby cries at night and is immediately picked up and cuddled, they don’t get the chance to learn to self soothe, and this results in endless broken nights for parents.
Tips for self-soothing
Self-soothing isn’t something you can teach your baby but you can help them learn this important skill.
Regular bedtime routine
A regular bedtime routine is really important when trying to establish good baby sleep patterns. Be consistent with bedtime, and include three or four soothing activities, such as a bath, a feed, a cuddle, and a story or song. Keep the lights in the bedroom low and place a special toy or comfort blanket in the cot at night. This will create a unique atmosphere that your baby will soon associate with bedtime.
Don’t rock your baby to sleep
Many parents enjoy the closeness of a cuddle and feed at bedtime, but if you always put your baby to bed once they are asleep they’ll never learn how to self-soothe. Try putting babies to bed when they are still awake, being aware of their surroundings will help them to self-soothe when they wake at night. Many babies grizzle when you put them to bed – don’t immediately lift them from the cot, but give them a few minutes to settle on their own.
Waking at night
If you know your baby is not hungry or distressed leave them for a few minutes to see if they will settle themselves. If you need to comfort them, try patting them or stroking them rather than lifting them from the cot. If they learn to settle without being cuddled they will find it much easier to self-soothe in the future.
What to do if your baby won’t self soothe
Sometimes babies are overtired at bedtime and they find it impossible to settle on their own, so it’s worth bringing bedtime forward by half an hour to see if this makes a difference. But ultimately self-soothing is just another stage of a baby’s development. Just as babies learn to crawl and walk at different ages, they learn to self-soothe at different times too. If your baby is not able to self-soothe now stop and try again in a week or even a month’s time.
As this is the last post before Christmas, I hope you, your family, and your friends have an enjoyable and festive day.