How to Teach Your Baby Self Soothe
During my first pregnancy, one of my worst fears was having a baby that was a bad sleeper. When my precious little girl was born, I was exhausted. Her sweet little baby cries were waking me up every hour, but I managed to make it through those difficult first few months.
Using specific techniques and advice I received from friends who had already been down this sleepless road, I was able to teach my daughter to soothe herself back to sleep. Then, when my next baby came along, I was ready to teach him those same self soothing techniques. It has been working well for me so far, and I even found scientific research backing up some of these strategies.
Teaching Baby to Self Soothe
Here are some of the “tactics” or maybe life hacks I use and found useful when comes to teaching your little baby self-soothe.
1. Create a bedtime routine.
In my opinion, one of the most important steps you can take to help your baby sleep is establishing a bedtime routine as soon as possible. Even though newborn babies will not have a night time sleeping pattern, they can still begin to associate certain actions with longer sleep periods. A simple bedtime routine every evening will lead your baby to begin winding down from the day and transition to bed.
My personal routine involves a quick bedtime massage with baby lotion while I sing a simple song. Then I change the baby into a fresh diaper and a specific outfit only for bedtime. (I used a onesie and swaddling suit for my newborn, but I switched to footsie pajamas for older babies.) After that we brush teeth (or gums) and read a short story. I nurse my baby while singing a lullaby before laying them in their bed. By the way, I do a shortened form of this routine for nap times as well.
2. Lay the baby down drowsy but awake.
Another method for you to try is to lay down your baby when he is drowsy but still awake.
Although I have not been successful at keeping my newborns awake, as babies get older I try to lull them into a sleepy state without putting them to sleep. Once babies reach about 3 months, they can usually stay awake while nursing at bedtime. Singing helps to keep them from falling directly to sleep, as well.
According to child psychology researchers, the amount of time infants spend awake in their cribs is related to their ability to self soothe. When babies spend more time in quiet wakefulness, they are able to discovery their own preferences for soothing themselves back to sleep.
3. Let your baby fuss a little.
In relation to the previous point, babies learn to self soothe by practicing soothing techniques. Sometimes babies cry while sleeping, and this is totally normal. It can be disconcerting for us parents, but for babies a few little cries do not always signify a need for anything.
Those aforementioned researchers also found that parents who waited a little longer to go to their crying baby at 3 months and beyond, were more likely to have babies that could self soothe at an earlier age. I have found that my babies slept better during the night when they were not in the same room as me. When I was not right beside them, those occasional whimpers went undetected and the baby continued sleeping for longer stretches at a time.
4. Sleep crutches are great.
I always run a noisy fan in my children’s room to drown out other sounds and help them sleep better. This began with my newborn and continues through childhood. Even though the occasional power outage has caused some panic, I do not regret this sleeping crutch.
Also, fans help promote air circulation and reduce the chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Along with this crutch, I also give a lovey or snuggle blanket to older babies. (Just be careful not to allow something that could smother.)
5. Feed your baby after waking up
A lot of mothers use nursing as a tactic to set their baby to sleep. But feeding your baby to sleep will create a habit that will make you give him milk every time he wakes up.
So, another great tactic recommended for a lot of mothers is by feeding your baby after he wakes up from sleeping. Doing so, will encourage him to find a different way to sleep, such as rocking his head, cooing or sucking and milk will no longer be an external sleep aid.
However, a few specialists suggest that the only time you should feed the baby before his bedtime is during the night time, starting with the bedtime milk.
6. Be consistent!
There are going to be times when you feel exasperated because it seems like nothing is working. I understand that it is tempting to change things in order to find a process that may help your baby sleep through the night. Please do not give in to this temptation.
It is important to be consistent and realize that babies are going to wake up no matter what you do. Consistency will help your baby learn to self soothe, but it will happen on their unique time frame.
To sum things up, there are a lot of methods and tactics you can try when it comes to learning your baby self-soothe.
Based on my experience, having a consistent bedtime schedule and allowing your baby awake time in their own crib are two proven methods for teaching a baby to self soothe. Although different babies may react differently to these tactics, you have to remember that you are the baby’s parent and only you will understand what is best for your baby.
Also, you can listen and speak to your pediatrician, so they can give you some extra advice concerning this subject, because they have been reading the latest child psychology reports too and based on their experience, they should know what does work best.