How to Teach Baby to Self Sooth - Effective Tips & Benefits

Effective Ways to Train Your Baby for Self Soothing

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Mahesh Patil (Paediatrician)
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Self-soothing is an ideal technique which not only helps your child get into the habit of settling himself, but also helps you get some quality sleep. Teaching your child to self-soothe will prove a blessing for you, as you won’t have to wake up whenever your child is awake. You can start training your child to soothe himself through various techniques before he starts getting absolutely dependent on you for his sleep patterns.

Video: Effective Ways to Train Your Baby to Self Soothe

What Is Self Soothing?

Simply put, self-soothing is a skill that allows babies to comfort themselves to sleep mostly after night time awakening without crying or having comforted by a parent or caregiver. Newborns expect to be comforted before sleep by means such as cuddling, rocking, or patting, and if not given the due attention, they tend to cry. Teaching your baby self-soothing techniques can help him sleep without being attended to constantly.

What Does It Involve?

Self-soothing involves various actions that help a baby comfort himself. Some of the techniques involved in self-soothing are listed below:

What Does It Involve?

1. Using parts of the body, such as hands, fingers, mouth, and face.

  • Sucking the thumb or pacifier
  • Holding their hands together
  • Gently rubbing their eyes
  • Sucking a toy or blanket

2. Touch and vibration-based soothing technique.

  • Rocking your baby in your arms
  • Gently stroking his hair
  • Humming or singing a lullaby

3. Self-exploration through movement.

Under this technique of self-exploration, you just let your baby be creative and allow him to explore acts or movements that are comfortable for him.

When Should You Teach Your Baby to Self-Soothe?

There is no specific age for teaching babies to self-soothe, as experts have different opinions on this. However, it is obvious that babies cannot self-soothe themselves for the first 3 months. They can be trained in this skill after 6 months. Usually, the time frame between 4 and 7 months is considered the best time to prepare a baby to self-soothe.

Find out when you should teach them to self-soothe.

1. Newborns

Self-soothing is a skill babies need to sleep on their own—newborns are not born with it. Their brains are not developed enough to manage their emotions, and that’s why they need parental aid to calm them down through singing, hugging, holding, rocking, or feeding. So, for the first three months, they rely on their parents.

2. After Four Months of Age

By this point, their brain becomes capable of regulating their emotions to an extent, and their sleep pattern also matures. Hence, their dependency level on their parents for getting sound sleep lessens. However, self-soothing should not be misunderstood for complete self-reliance for sleeping, as they are still too young.

Benefits of Self-Soothing for Infants

Self-soothing is an ability which helps babies to sleep faster on their own and is beneficial in the long run. Some of the benefits of self-soothing are mentioned below:

1. Babies Sleep Better and Longer

Research seconds the fact that the babies who can self-soothe themselves sleep at night, better and longer. Moreover, they can also easily fall back to sleep independently even if they wake up in the middle of the night.

2. Encourages Self-Reliance in Babies

Self-soothing encourages self-reliance as babies learn to sleep all by themselves. The skill, when taught at an early age, also boosts their confidence. Kids then are welcome to change and are self-motivated.

Encourages Self-Reliance in Babies

3. Gives More Time to the Mother

Teaching the skill of self-soothing to your baby is beneficial for you as well. Once your child learns how to self-soothe, he won’t be crying and seeking to be comforted. But, it doesn’t mean that your baby will not cry anymore, as it’s the only way he can communicate to you when in discomfort.

4. Helpful in the Long Run

Infants who have learned the skill of self-soothing tend to manage their tantrums as they grow older. They become less fussy and know how to handle things when their parents are not home.

How to Teach Your Child to Self Soothe

Much like learning other skills, there are several self-soothing baby sleep methods you can use to train your baby.

1. Broaden Your Mindset

This involves changing your mindset or perception about the need to comfort your baby to put him to sleep all the time. It is true that as a parent, you cannot see your child in pain, but it may not really be necessary for you to tend to him immediately when he cries. By doing this, you encourage the bad habit of relying on you. Of course, initially, your child will need your nursing to fall asleep. But after some time, you can train him to self-soothe. For this, you need to believe that he is capable of doing so on his own.

2. Set a Routine

Developing a routine for your baby’s day-to-day activities is really crucial. It’s easy to get a baby accustomed to a set pattern at an early age. It also prepares him to expect the next in line activity on the list. For example, if you follow the sequence of bathtime, naptime, snack time, and playtime, then you must follow it regularly. Unexpected activities might induce anxiety in your baby. On the contrary, consistency makes your child less anxious because he knows what’s coming next, including sleep time, too.

Observe your baby’s daily routine; for example, how long he sleeps, how many times he eats and so on, and chalk down the routine accordingly. If he doesn’t sleep at the same time during the day, then you need to ensure that his bedtime is consistent.

3. Do Not Comfort Your Baby Too Soon

Give your baby a chance to self-soothe. Instead of picking him up as soon as he starts crying, wait for some time. Try to distract him with some fun activity or leave him on its own for a few minutes. If the crying doesn’t stop, it is a sign of uneasiness or hunger; then you should pick him up. Listening to trivial complains and cries of a child will only spoil him. So, you better be careful.

4. Lay Your Baby on the Bed When Drowsy

Don’t put your baby to bed when he is fast asleep; else he will continue to rely on you for his sleep. Instead, put him on the bed when he is a little drowsy and half-awake. This will help him sleep without you being around.

5. Stop Feeding Your Baby to Sleep

Many parents make the mistake of feeding their baby to sleep. What they don’t realise is that they are drifting them away from self-soothing. Stop feeding your child before putting him to bed to help him overcome the habit of relying on milk to sleep whenever he wakes up crying.

6. The Eight-Day Trial

Knowing how to help your baby to self-soothe can help you at least begin a trial run for the same. So, here is the trail that you must refer to.

  • Days 1-4: Get a blanket or toy for your baby, which pleases him. Train him to use it as a soother.
  • Days 5-7: Allow your child to get accustomed to this new pattern. He will start showing a strong attachment to the blanket or toy, and then you can start using it to soothe your child to sleep at night. Even when he wakes up crying from his sleep, use the blanket or a toy to calm him down instead of soothing him the usual way. Have patience, since your baby is still learning, and it might be a little challenging in the beginning.
  • Day 8: By the last day of the trial, your baby will be relatively ready to self-soothe himself. On the last day, don’t provide the blanket or toy in his hands. Instead, keep either of the two things in the crib. If he wakes up crying, give him a couple of minutes; he is likely to use that toy to soothe himself.

The Eight-Day Trial

7. Gentle Baby Self-Soothing

You can start training your baby from the age of 3-4 months to 1 year old, depending on the baby’s needs. Since self-soothing requires patience, we recommend you to start the gentle way.

  • Start by putting your baby down from fast asleep to half-asleep, then gradually progress towards putting him down when drowsy then less drowsy and finally when awake.

The key to success here is to have patience and progress gradually. Once you follow it through, your baby would finally be able to adapt to new situations and will learn to settle himself down to sleep without needing you near all the time.

8. Use of Clothes While Maternal Odour

Babies tend to recognise their mothers with her odour. Use of clothes like a T-shirt worn by the mother tied to the baby’s crib can help the baby soothe himself during nighttime awakening.

Tips to Make a Baby Self-Soothe

There are several tricks you can use to train your baby to self-soothe. Check them out and see what works for you.

1. A Crib With Musical Toy

Music is a great soother for people of all ages. You can get a musical crib with a toy attached to it, which plays soothing melodies, inducing your baby to sleep.

2. Consistent Bedtime

Having a consistent bedtime trains babies’ brains to fall asleep at a particular time. Try moving your baby’s bedtime a little ahead if he feels uncomfortable at his usual sleeping time.

Consistent Bedtime

3. Maintain a Relaxed Night Routine

A nighttime routine prepares your child to fall asleep peacefully. You can initiate such a routine by giving a bath, reading a story, or humming a lullaby. Also, dress your little one in comfortable-fitting clothes without a strong odour, preferably full length, to avoid insect bites or cold at night. The lights in the room should be dim; this will enable your baby to fall asleep even if he wakes up at odd hours in the night.

4. Use Proper Soothing Toys

Crib safety guidelines recommend that you choose soothing and harmless toys to put in your child’s crib. For babies below eight months old, it is suggested to tie the toy to their crib, which they can feel, smell, and sense, but can’t pull closer or get entangled. For babies above eight months, you can just drop the toy in their crib.

5. Gradual Reduction in Your Presence in the Room While the Baby Sleeps

You can start with caressing the baby’s hair or back without picking him up while sitting beside the crib. Then, gradually shift to just sitting near without active involvement. Then, try to be just in the room and not be seen. Lastly, just put the baby in the crib and leave the room without paying attention to the baby’s cry for help to sleep.

Dos and Dont’s

Here are certain dos and don’t you must bear in mind when training your baby to self-soothe.

1. Have Patience

You need to give enough time and chances for your baby to self-soothe. Every baby grows and learns at a different pace; don’t rush to pick him up as soon as he starts crying. Give your baby a minute or two to calm down on his own.

2. Bedtime and Feeding Time Should Differ

You are not helping your baby to learn to self-soothe if you are feeding your baby to sleep. As a  corrective measure, shift his bedtime away from feeding time.

3. Stop Encouraging Dependency

It is difficult for your baby to learn self-soothing if you are consistently comforting them by rocking, hugging, patting, etc. Give them their space to explore their own ways to self-soothe and kiss them goodnight and leave them to settle themselves.

What If Your Newborn Doesn’t Self-Soothe?

Most babies can easily learn to self-soothe, but some babies don’t get around it even after training. Consistency and patience are what you will need here.
Also, there’s no best method to teach your baby to self-soothe. It is best to go with your gut feeling and try any soothing method which you believe will work out.

What If Your Baby Can’t Sleep Without Nursing?

In this case, your baby is too reliant on your nursing. To help him grow out of this habit, push the feeding time much earlier than their bedtime or reduce the duration of feeding during sleep.

Some Essential Guidelines to Remember

  • A baby capable of self-soothing can be left when awake to sleep on their own.
  • Don’t feel frustrated if your baby does not learn to self-soothe upon the completion of the eight-day trial method.
  • Practice a new skill with your baby before they can start getting a hold of it on their own.
  • Use only gentle ways to train your baby. Opt for a combination of progressive techniques and exercise to train him to self-soothe. Remember, simply putting your baby down might not be sufficient for him to learn.

Apply these simple methods and tips to train your baby to self-soothe. They will help your baby sleep, and also avoid situations, such as separation anxiety or frustration, and will teach your child to grow on his own.

Also ReadA Guide To Swaddling A Baby

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