Sleep deprivation as a new parent is no joke. New parents, on average, lose about 350 hours of sleep in the first year of a newborn’s life.
Of course, teaching your baby to self-soothe is one way the entire family can start catching up on sleep, but self-soothing takes time and effort. However, it’s well worth it when you can lay your child in their crib and they know how to put themselves to sleep.
If you’re a walking zombie parent who desperately needs sleep, keep reading to learn the basics on how to teach your baby to self soothe.
What is Self Soothing?
Babies love to be cuddled, held, carried, and rocked. It makes them feel comforted and protected, and can even help them fall asleep within the first months of their life.
A baby will reach an age where they can fall asleep without any parental or adult soothing them. This is called self-soothing and involves teaching the baby behaviors that will induce sleep by themselves.
Some babies will catch on quickly, others will have a more challenging time. It depends on the child, environment, and parental involvement. Every baby and family has unique needs.
When Can A Baby Self Soothe?
The first three months of a baby’s life are critical and some of the most challenging for new parents.
During this time, the baby is eating, sleeping, crying, and filling diapers almost around the clock. There’s no real schedule, and time seems to blend as the parents become accustomed to this new normal. Night feedings, diaper changes, and naps are frequent.
Because of this, most pediatricians recommend starting self-soothing at around four months of age.
How to Teach Your Baby to Self Soothe in 7 Steps
Helping your baby learn to self-soothe is hard for newer parents, but not impossible!
Here are 7 self-soothing techniques for babies.
1. Are YOU Ready?
For some parents, guiding their children through self-soothing is harder than they thought. Children grow up quickly, and those three months can go by fast. Be sure that you’re ready to take this step, or you might be inconsistent and lose all your hard work.
Also, speak with your partner and gather their ideas on whether or not now is the right time to teach self-soothing. You will need to be in this together.
2. Create A Routine
By far, one of the most essential steps in self-soothing is having a bedtime routine with baby.
You can incorporate many activities that you want, but ideally, these activities should be low-key and start causing the child to become sleepy. A warm bath, comfy baby sleepers, a bedtime story, or even extra cuddle-time are all elements that convey that it’s time to start resting.
Your routine is important, but sticking to a specific bedtime is equally important. When you start your routine at the same time every day, your baby will know what to expect.
Choose a time that works best for your family and allows your child to get the suggested amount of sleep they need.
4. Choose A Soother
If you’ve been your baby’s soother to help them fall asleep, and you want them to self-soothe, you’ll need to find a replacement. This object can be a blanket, a binky, an age-appropriate stuffed animal, a musical mobile, or a sleep machine. Once you introduce a soother, the baby learns that this object or noise, soothes them to sleep.
5. Put Them to Bed Drowsy
When you have a routine, time, and soother well-established, it’s time to put the baby to sleep, Not too tired, not too awake.
Overtired babies have more difficulty calming down and accepting that it’s bedtime. So watch your baby carefully, and place them down when they are drowsy and starting to drift. This will make it much easier for them and you.
6. Stop Feeding at Bedtime
If you have been feeding your baby to sleep, and you want to help them self-soothe, you will likely have to stop feeding them at bedtime and naptime.
Instead, you can move the feeding time to earlier, but avoid allowing the baby to fall asleep while eating. This is a good habit to break even if you’re not feeding before bed, because the sugars can sit on the child’s teeth and cause dental problems.
7. Be Patient And Consistent
Teaching a baby to self-soothe takes patience and consistency. You must be able to stick to a routine for at least a month before seeing progress. Do your best to keep the routine and follow it exactly for several weeks.
If you’re baby whines or fusses, resist the urge to go in the bedroom, but always check on a baby that is crying.
What if My Baby Won’t Fall Asleep?
For most people, self-soothing techniques work well and the baby settles into a good routine. For others, it takes a little more time.
All babies are different, and so each baby will respond to self-soothing differently. Some babies are simply not developmentally ready and may need more time. Others could be overtired or just have more difficultly getting the hang of it.
Whatever the reason, don’t give up unless your baby isn’t ready. You can always try again when they’re a little older. If you suspect there’s a problem, bring it to your pediatrician.
Get Some Z’s
When you’re considering how to teach your baby to self soothe there are many variables. However, most babies, with consistent routine and dedication, will accept the ability to self soothe, so you can get some sleep.
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