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How To Teach Your Baby To Self-Soothe?

4 min read

Well, you can’t. As in, you cannot teach your baby to self soothe. The baby has to learn it himself. What you can do is give him enough opportunities so that he can learn it himself. This is much like any skill you want your child to master. If you keep doing it for him, he will never learn it himself. So in short, if you keep soothing your baby to sleep, he will not learn to self-soothe. So how and when to give him this opportunity? Read on.
Teach baby to self soothe

When Is The Baby Ready To Self-Soothe?

Experts say that while a new born does not know how to self-soothe, he will be ready to do it by the time he is 4 to 7 months. This is because, by the time a child is 3-4 months old, his brain becomes mature enough to handle his emotions. So even if he wakes up, let’s say, in the middle of the night crying, he can go back to sleep without your intervention. Of course, some kids might take a longer time. But generally, most kids can self-soothe by the time they are 6-7 months. DO NOT expect a baby to soothe himself before the age of 3 months, he is too immature to handle his emotions and needs his mumma and papa to soothe comfort him.

Why Should You Let Your Baby Self-Soothe?

Most of us parents are very sensitive to our kids’ tantrums. In fact many of us think that it is our duty as a parent to soothe the baby when he is upset. This leads to us intervening every time our children are upset – we soothe them, nurse them, rock them and put them back to sleep.
However, research suggests a very strong correlation between self-soothing and more sleeping. That is, a child who can self-soothe sleeps better and more than a child who cannot. Imagine this scenario. Your child wakes up in the night for reasons best known to him. He does not know how to self-soothe, he will soon cry loud enough to wake you up. You will then proceed to give him milk or rock him to sleep. On the other hand, if your child knew how to self-soothe, he would have gone back to sleep immediately, thus sleeping for more time (and not breaking your sleep!). Self soothing is not just a technique that helps in infant hood, but also when your child grows up. For example, he will not have a hard time when he is at a daycare, he can sleep when you are not in the room or are attending other things, plus he can soothe himself when he is upset.

How To Teach Your Child To Self-Soothe?

All the tips that teach your child to self-soothe ultimately points to two things:

  • Fixed bedtime
  • Consistent bedtime routine

Baby self soothing
Babies are creatures of habit. If your child is used to a certain set of bedtime routine (like a warm bath followed by a change into night clothes followed by a bit of soothing music etc.) in a particular order, he immediately becomes used to this routine. He will start considering the first of the routine as a cue for the second one and the second as a cue for the third one and so on, until the last part of the routine which becomes his cue for sleeping. If done consistently – consistency is the key here – then by the time your night time routine ends, you will have an extremely drowsy or even sleeping baby in your hand!

Give Your Child The Opportunity To Learn To Self-Soothe

Another key factor in teaching the child to self-soothe is giving him the opportunity to do so. You can use either of the two strategies to do this: doing it all of a sudden i.e. not tending to him when he wakes up in the night and letting him cry it out or doing it gradually by first reducing the time you take to soothe, then by being present but not touching, then by being a little away (like near the door) and so on. Chose a technique that you are comfortable with and you are confident of being consistent. For example, if you are weak hearted, then “doing it suddenly” and “letting the baby cry it out” might not work for you.
There are few other tips that might help:

  • Comfort objects like a favourite teddy or blanket that will give your child a secure feeling when they wake up in your absence
  • A night light that will remind them that they are in the safety of their room
  • Co-sleeping which is very common in India, where the parents double up as the “comfort object”
  • Pacifiers are also known to help a baby self-soothe

If, despite trying all the tricks in the book consistently, and your baby still refuses to self-soothe, then may be it is a good idea to take a step back and wait for some time – your child might just not be ready for self-soothing. Here are some awesome bed time rituals for your baby.
To understand how to get your baby to sleep through the night read Does Your Baby Not Sleep through the Night? here.

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