Cuddling with your baby and making them feel safe and sound when they are upset is one of the best parts of being a parent. It is also crucial for their development, as close contact helps them self-regulate and form an emotional connection with their caretaker.
But sometimes, your baby might want to be snuggled constantly, preventing you from getting any rest or going about your everyday tasks. In that case, it’s essential to know how to teach a baby to self-soothe.
What Is Self-Soothing?
Self-soothing is a technique babies can use to calm down and fall asleep on their own without the help of their parents. For example, babies who have mastered this method will wake during the night, briefly make noise or turn in their crib, and then fall asleep again all by themselves.
Each baby is different, so their self-soothing abilities vary as well. Some are naturals and do not need their parents to intervene, while others take some time to master self-soothing techniques and become more independent.
Finally, you must remember that teaching babies to self-soothe does not mean just leaving them on their own no matter what. If your baby is crying loudly, they might be in pain, hungry, etc. In those cases, you have to tend to their needs.
When Can You Start Teaching Your Baby to Self-Soothe?
Babies can learn to self-soothe at different ages, all depending on their sleep environment and overall personalities. That being said, it is not advisable to teach newborns how to do it.
For one, newborns have extremely irregular sleeping cycles, and they need to be fed regularly in order to grow and develop properly. Thus, leaving them to self-soothe is not a wise idea, as they lack the attributes and understanding necessary to develop such skills.
As babies get older and cross the 5-month mark, their sleeping schedules become more consistent. Moreover, they do not have to eat as often as when they were newborns. This period is thus the perfect time to begin teaching some self-soothing methods.
Again, it is important to reiterate that every baby is a story of its own. So, your baby might be able to start learning much earlier, or it may need your help and physical touch to fall back to sleep for a while longer. Therefore, you should pay attention to your baby’s habits and character and act accordingly.
Without further ado, here are some tricks you can use to teach your baby to self-soothe.
How to Teach a Baby to Self-Soothe: 6 Tips
1. Establish a Bedtime Routine
Routines are essential for babies, especially those who are just a few months old. Thus, you should aim to create a similar sequence of events each night before putting your baby to bed.
For example, you can bathe and clothe them, talk or read to them afterward, or perhaps play soothing music. In addition, it is pivotal to put your baby to sleep at approximately the same time every night.
If your baby is older than six months, you should also not let it nap for more than three hours during the day. That way, you will ensure that it burns through all its energy before bedtime and sleeps soundly through the night.
Finally, you should be warm and affectionate with your baby while putting them to bed. That includes hugs, kisses, playing, and any other form of affection you know they enjoy. Such behaviors will help them feel safe before falling asleep, making the nighttime routine easier to bear.
2. Give Your Baby Time
When you notice that your baby has woken up and is moving around in the crib, do not get up to check on them immediately. Instead, listen to them and take a look at what they are doing through your baby monitor.
It is completely normal for babies to wake up a few times during the night and babble, look around, or play with something in the crib. If they are not crying and aren’t upset, you can just leave them be, as they will simply fall asleep again within a few minutes. In fact, most babies do not stay awake for longer than five to ten minutes.
However, you shouldn’t leave your baby all alone if you can see they are terribly upset and hear loud cries. In that case, you need to check on them and make sure nothing is amiss. For example, they might need changing or have cramps, in which case you need to be there to help.
All in all, you should keep track of what’s going on at all times. If your baby is up for a few minutes, you can safely leave them to their own devices. But if they are in distress, you should go to them as soon as possible.
3. Soothing Without Touching
If your child is crying in the crib, try approaching and calming them down without picking them up. Just seeing your face and hearing your voice might be enough to ease their discomfort. It can also be sufficient to let them know they are not alone.
You should also talk to your baby, coo at them, sing or do anything else that you know might help. That also includes re-swaddling the baby, replacing their pacifier, rubbing their back, etc.
These solutions might not work right away, which is why you need to be patient. At first, you will most likely have to pick up your child and hold them close. But as time passes, they will get used to settling down with your presence and voice alone.
Again, you should always pick up the baby if they won’t stop crying or if the cries get louder. The child might need something other than reassurance, and you should be there to help.
4. Don’t Leave Immediately
While teaching your child to self-soothe, you have to be careful about leaving them alone. If they have stopped crying and seem to be settled, make sure they are really asleep before leaving the room.
This step is essential, as hearing you depart can overstimulate the baby once more, making them even more upset. So, wait it out and try to make as little noise as possible. It might be a good idea to take a seat and stay for a few minutes until it’s safe to leave.
5. Patience Is the Key
If there is one certainty about this process, it is that it will take a lot of time and effort. Your baby might take months to learn to self-soothe, and you should be there every step of the way.
Going through these stages will also be exhausting, which is another fact you have to be prepared for. You will have to wake up a few times during the night and be with your child. In addition, you will have to be awake and alert while watching the monitor by your bed.
Still, remember that every new skill requires time and patience, both for adults and babies. The reward will be more than worth it in the end. That first time your baby sleeps through the night without waking you will be a milestone to remember.
6. Listen to Your Instincts
Finally, you should remember to always listen to your gut. Your parental instincts will develop as you find your footing in your new role. Moreover, they represent the deep connection you share with your child and the knowledge you gain as you grow along with them.
As such, you should always pay attention to these instincts when you hear your baby wake. If you feel like they are just fussing a bit and will fall asleep soon enough, you can leave them be. But if your gut tells you to check on them and confirm that everything is okay, always listen to it.