The dream of any mum, whether a first-timer or not, is for her baby to learn how to self-soothe. If this is the first time you are hearing this term, self-soothing is the ability to put one’s self to sleep without assistance. So, even if your baby wakes up in the middle of the night, if they know how to self-soothe, they don’t need you to fall back asleep.
Did that sound impossible? Can babies actually learn how to sleep all by themselves? Imagine that. No more cranky babies, no more sleepless nights, no more falling asleep while breastfeeding, and no more waiting until they fall asleep before you can. If that is possible, then self-soothing your infant is truly a dream come true.
Fortunately, you can teach your baby how to self-soothe. There are proven techniques to help you and your baby get started. But, of course, you are not without concerns. You might ask: Can all babies learn this skill? If so, how early can you teach your child? What are these tried-and-tested techniques? How long before they start sleeping by themselves?
All that and more we will tackle in this article. So, buckle up and get ready to self-soothe that baby.
Self-Soothing is Important for Their Overall Health
Before we get down to business, we must first understand why self-soothing is not only ideal for parents but also important in the child’s development.
You see self-soothing is a way of regulating one’s emotions. Learning how to self-soothe is your kids’ first lesson in controlling their emotions – recognising their needs and what they need to do to address them.
According to the paediatrician, Dr Badgett, MD, there are multiple ways for children to find things that will help them address their own needs. Some might find comfort in a pacifier, some might just go straight for the thumb, or some just like to cuddle with a stuffed animal.
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Whichever it is, once your baby gets the hang of self-soothing, they are also learning self-control.
Self-soothing has an impact on their physical health too. Uninterrupted sleep or just even the fact that they are on a sleep schedule gives their tiny bodies the time it needs to rest and develop.
In the long run, as your child learns different ways to calm themselves or cope in stressful times, they eventually become happy and well-adjusted children. How’s that for good emotional health?
6 is The Sweet Spot for Self-Soothing
If you’re only in your 1st month as a first-time mum, yes, this news sounds disappointing. But you have to understand, from months 1 to 3, your baby has not developed enough emotional control yet to even take in what you’re teaching them. Around the 3rd or 4th month, some parents may notice their babies are capable of self-soothing, so you may begin at that point.
But, the sweetest spot is the 6th month because this is when they can go 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. So, because they already know they can do that, you can start transitioning them from you being their soother to them being their own.
The 8th or 9th month might not be so ideal for your child is most likely clingier to you at this stage. It’s going to be much harder to discipline them at that point. So, when you hit the fourth to the sixth month, you can get to work.
Now, a fair warning – every child is different. Some babies might pick up on self-soothing right away, and some might take longer. So, you have to be patient. It’s a gradual process.
And, you can’t expect your baby to do all the work themselves. You are part of the process. Dr Badgett says that your baby may have a more active role in this process, but you have to be the one to set them up for success. So, don’t give up easily.
First – Get Everything Out of the Way
Your first order of business is to make sure nothing causes your baby to wake up in the middle of the night. What usually are those things? Feedings. Make sure the baby is fed before putting them to bed. Don’t forget to burp them. Getting gassy might cause them to wake up in the middle of the night.
Next, check their nappies. Always put on fresh ones, so they don’t wake up from wetting their beds. Speaking of getting them comfortable, you want to put them in comfortable clothes as well. Nothing too thin or too thick.
Set up their sleeping area for optimal sleeping. Remove anything distracting in the room. Anything bright and attention-seeking might make it harder for your child to sleep. You might want to invest in blackout curtains to help your child sleep more easily.
If you noticed your child falling asleep to some music or white noise, get that set up as well. The Singapore market has now come out with so many white noise machines, it’s not going to be a problem getting one.
Second – Set Up a Sleeping Schedule
Making your child comfortable and the sleeping area as cosy as possible is only half the battle. For this to work, you’d need to make sure your child follows a sleep schedule. What you’re doing here is conditioning them when it’s time to sleep.
Babies love routines. That’s how you get them to follow. So, when you have a sleep schedule, follow it strictly. Don’t skip nap times or wait too long to put them to sleep at night. Overtiring them can kill any chance of them self-soothing. So, if you want to get to the end of the rainbow in this self-soothing journey, commit to your child’s sleep schedule.
Third – Gradually Stop Feeding Them Before They Sleep
It’s usually the feeding that calms babies down and causes them to fall asleep. But, if they are reliant on your breasts to fall asleep, that’s not really self-soothing. So, try feeding them a bit earlier than their actual sleeping time so that they are already fed before they need to sleep.
Now, this is definitely going to be a challenge if your baby has gotten so used to sleep after a feeding. But, you can try different things to help transition your baby to this change such as giving them a pacifier vs. milk or offering a stuffed toy for them to hug and of course your physical presence.
Fourth – Stay Close But Don’t Carry
This by far is going to be the most difficult for us mums to do, but keep your eye on the prize and you’ll get that baby self-soothing in no time.
For this step, you’d have to resist all of your instinct to go to your baby when they start crying in the middle of the night because they still might. Or at least, wait a few minutes before you go rushing to your crying bub before picking them up.
Again, what you’re doing is conditioning your baby. By refusing to carry them when they wake up in the middle of the night, you are conditioning them to think that it’s okay to sleep in their beds by themselves. You can stand close to their cribs, show yourself, sing a lullaby, pat their legs for comfort, but resist picking them up.
Do this every day until they get the idea. Once you do, pat yourself on the back, get that expensive wine out, and celebrate because you just got your child to self-soothe.
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When it comes to teaching your baby to self-soothe, it’s important to understand that it doesn’t mean you should simply let your child cry it out. You need to pay close attention to your baby’s cues to determine whether their fussiness will pass or if it’s a sign of something more serious.
This area of parenting is not black and white, and it’s important to trust your parental instinct. Remember that every baby is unique and may require different soothing techniques. Take it one day at a time and enjoy every moment (however challenging) with your little baby.
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