Self Soothing to Help Your Baby Sleep Through The Night
Author: Heidi Holvoet, PhD
is the key to help your baby sleep
the night. But what if putting down
awake just doesn't work (and it usually doesn't!)? You
your baby crying unless you rock, hold or nurse her to help with
settling. How to wean from this habit - without
needing to cry it out?
The most effective way is by following my complete award-winning
3-step self soothing program.
A baby who can easily settle herself to sleep
can be put down awake and sleeps.
And when waking up at night, she's able to go back to sleep without
The importance of self soothing explains the all-time classic sleep
her down awake.
Indeed, in the ideal world, she is put down awake and then sleeps
She will then most probably also soothe and settle herself back when
wakes during the night.
But simply putting down awake does not work for most babies.
With well-defined progressive techniques and a bit of patience though
it is absolutely doable to help them learn to soothe themselves ... the
Gentle Self Soothing Method
Unless your baby is a natural self-soother, the age at which you can
expect her to self soothe * really and
consistently * can vary from anywhere between 3-4 months old up to 1
year old or later for some.
At any time, it is important to do the preliminaries ("setting the
stage") and to try and encourage your little one to
settle alone. But if it doesn't work easily, trying to force things in
the wrong way will be a waste of time and harm future success.
proven no-tears methods to teach your baby how to
self soothe are not complicated. They allow you to wean from nursing,
holding, rocking, in the swing, co-sleeping, having you near, ... by
progressively putting down earlier in the sleep stage. The power of the techniques lies
specifically in their being progressive.
By progressing a little bit at a time, baby's body and mind have time
to adapt and truly learn the skill of settling themselves to sleep.
In the bare simple version of the technique you'd hold or otherwise
help your little one and only put her down when deeply asleep.
Then, little by little, put her down a bit
earlier, just a minute or two at first. Then, a few nights/naps later,
put her down earlier again. In this way, you gently move from putting
her down asleep, towards half asleep, drowsy, less drowsy, ... and
You will need to do this several (many for some) times in a row, or
wait for a few
weeks if it doesn't work at all. But when your baby is ready and she
feels your determination - she
will do it.
For best results you also need to set up all preliminaries
(without which there is not much chance of success) and apply the right technique adapted to your baby's age. Refer to my 3-step
guide to wean from any dependent sleep situation for that.
Also think about
- A bedtime
quiet dim nights: a bedtime routine helps your child
recognize time-to-sleep signals and physically helps her body to get
ready for the night. Keeping nights and interaction dim and low at
crucial to keep her ready to go on sleeping without waking up
nightlight: a dim but visible night light helps reassure
and that may be all she needs to go back to sleep when waking
presence: for some babies, knowing that you are around
(sitting next to the crib, or walking around her room, or the corridor)
may be enough reassurance to allow self soothing.
transitional object: a soft cuddly toy, blanket or cloth
can become your baby's best friend. If it is near her when she wakes
up, it can truly help her settle again. Crib
require not to put anything in the crib
with your baby in the first months.
Even if a
particular object may only truly become a transitional object from 8
months or so, it is good to introduce it early. For safety then, choose
a toy you can attach safely to the crib sides so baby can feel
it, touch it and
smell it, but cannot pull it close or get entangled in it.
a little scarf or cloth on
yourself during the day (so it has your smell). Then hang it near her
for naps and nights. Smelling you will remind your little one of you
that can be a powerful soother!
musical mobile or toy: safely attached so it cannot be pulled
into the crib, a musical mobile helps many babies sleep extremely well. If you can find one that attaches to the side,
and that baby can operate (for example by pulling a string - as in the
picture) alone, that can work wonderfully well.
As baby grows, she will
learn to switch it on herself. If she is used to hear it at bedtime, it
can help with self soothing a lot.
pacifier: some babies thrive with a dummy. Do be careful
when she becomes too dependent or you may find yourself running over to
the crib to help find the dummy and put it back in her mouth ...
Why is self soothing so important?
Because no one (babies and adults) ever really sleeps through.
Our sleep comes in cycles:
we go through the different stages of sleep
several times a night. In-between cycles, there is a brief awake moment.
The skill to settle ourselves helps us go
back to sleep without waking up completely.
cannot self soothe yet will
wake up completely at that
moment, need your attention and possibly cry.
Of course some (friends, family members or even pediatricians) will
it out as an "efficient" - forcing - way to teach how to
settle down alone ... But crying it out rarely gives lasting results,
and letting baby cry alone is something most of us don't want to do.
Rest assured, with patience and determination, the gentle techniques as discussed above will
baby self soothe,
gently, consistently and with long-term