The top 8 tips for teaching your baby to self-soothe
Many new parents struggle with poor sleep, particularly during the first year. You may feel exhausted from trying to do the right thing. Baby needs feeding and changing and he cries all the time, or so it seems. With so many opinions on what to do or not do, when baby cries, it is no wonder you end up confused and in despair.
Waking up in the middle of the night disrupts your sleep cycle and, even if you fall back to sleep, the quality of sleep will not be the same restorative value as unbroken sleep.
So, there is a lot of talk about self-soothing, what the heck is that?
Simply explained, it is a method of teaching baby to comfort himself when he wakes and you aren’t there to provide immediate comfort. You can start teaching baby how to self-soothe from the age of six to nine months, but it is never too late to start.
From our perspective, whilst it is great to be able to teach this to your baby, the future ramifications for self-soothing are incredible. Primarily, you are establishing the foundations for when your baby becomes an adult.
You will be teaching your child how to manage his emotions. He will learn that he can create his own solutions to problems and not expect others to solve his problems for him. In a society where young people struggle to cope with the stresses of life, you can help to build the next generation of adults that have the ability to develop solid coping strategies.
Let’s get back to your baby
Right now, your baby has no idea how to control his emotions. His instincts drive his impulses. He wants food when he is hungry and cuddles when he is awake.
In this relatively small window of opportunity, your baby has not yet developed established sleep patterns. When your baby wakes in the night because he is hungry, then he needs a feed. However, if he wakes in-between feeding times, he will benefit from learning how to soothe himself back to sleep. A tired baby is a crabby baby, so if he can sleep for longer periods, he will be happier during the day.
As your body clock adjusts to your baby’s sleep cycle, this will mean more sleep for you! The benefits of self-soothing are far reaching for you and your baby.
Here are eight top tips to teach your baby how to self-soothe
TIP 1 – Self-soothing for a baby is as simple as being able to suck his fingers or toes. If you are swaddling your baby at night, make sure that he has his arms free. If his arms are restricted, it makes it impossible for him to self-soothe.
TIP 2 – Create a set routine for baby’s bedtime. This can be your own routine but may include a warm bath, a lullaby, rocking, or singing to your baby.
Tip 3 – If you currently rock your baby to sleep, you may have noticed that he becomes disturbed when you put him down to sleep.
Can you recall the times you have fallen asleep watching the TV. You dropped off so easily? Maybe the fire was glowing and the room was warm. You had eaten a meal and you felt content. You drifted into a beautiful, deep, sleep. At midnight, you woke up and staggered up the stairs. You got into bed and lay back. Damn! You now cannot get to sleep!
It is the same for your baby if he falls asleep during a feed or when rocking him.
From now on, put your baby down when he is drowsy, before he falls asleep. Try this during the day and progress to the evening sleep. Reduce the amount of time you spend rocking your baby before you put him down to sleep.
Tip 4 – When your baby wakes and starts crying, wait for a moment before rushing to his room. Leave him for a couple of minutes – or less at first. Give him the chance to discover how to self-soothe.
Tip 5 – Change your thinking – it is a natural response to want to dash to your baby as soon as he cries. It is also natural to want to stop his tears.
However, think for a moment, you want your child to be resilient as he grows. You want him to be able to cope with life without falling apart at the first hurdle don’t you?
We think we have to protect our children from the world but, in reality, it is better for your child to learn how to cope with his world. By teaching your baby to self-soothe now, you are helping him to cope with the challenges of being a teenager, dealing with the stresses of college and the demands of his peer group.
Tip 6 – If your baby is awake, don’t pick him up straightaway. He can see you without the need for instant cuddling. If he wakes up when you put him down, resist the urge to pick him right back up again. Within a few weeks, he will learn that he can see and interact with you without having to be picked up
Tip 7 – Feed baby when he wakes up – this is turning things on its head a bit isn’t it. Usually we expect to feed our baby, get them sleepy and then put them down to sleep. By changing this one pattern, you may see radical changes. There are many benefits from this change. Can you remember what nutritional experts tell us about sleeping after eating?
Don’t go to sleep on a full stomach.
The digestive process slows down during sleep and, as your metabolism winds down, this further reduces the digestive process.
By feeding after baby wakes, you reduce the risk of colic. It allows his digestive process to work efficiently when he is awake. He will have more energy during the day and be less crabby.
By not feeding baby before sleep, he will learn other ways to get to sleep.
He may coo and suck his fingers. He will find his own ways to sleep.
Although we listed this tip some way down the list, it is one of the most important in implementing change for your baby in learning how to self-soothe.
Tip 8 – As Freddie Mercury said ‘we all need somebody to love’ So, give your baby a comfort item, something that he can cuddle and become attached to. It may be a soft toy. Blankie’s are a popular choice.
Instead of finding a soft old blanket for your baby to suck and chew, you can buy a beautiful purpose made one that he will love.
By giving baby something of his own, you are also demonstrating that he can have his own ‘tools’ to teach him how to cope with life as he grows to a teenager and adult.
Have faith in your ability to follow through with some of these ideas. Trust your baby can and will quickly learn how to self-soothe. It will make a massive difference to your sleep cycles and help baby to learn some positive ways to help himself.
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If mom is happy and relaxed, guess what? Yes, baby will be happy and relaxed. Yay!