Recently, I was on a social media community page and saw a lot of people weighing in on babies and the idea of self-soothing. Some people were going at it. What ages is it for? Does it harm the baby? What does it say about the parents who “force” it on their baby? The list goes on. I started to think “I wonder if parents are thinking the same thing.”
I decided to write this blog to help give some extra information in hopes that it can clear things up. As always, do what YOU as the parent feel is right. If there are specific concerns speak to the pediatrician or reach out to me for more sleep questions.
What is Self-Soothing?
Self-soothing is the ability for the child to be able to fall asleep on their own. They might cry a little or make a little noise, but don’t really need intervention on the parent’s part. Believe it or not, sucking their fingers as newborns is even a way to self-soothe. Humming before falling asleep, maybe even a little “song,” anything like that can be considered self-soothing.
Every child will learn to self-soothe; it’s just a matter of when and if the parent’s mental state can wait. Let’s be honest……parents are tired! Without sleep, we can only go for so long and research proves the damage to someone who isn’t sleeping properly. Parents can chose to wait until their child learns to self-soothe which can take up to a year, or they can introduce techniques to help them get there faster. It’s completely up to the parent and what is right for them and their baby.
Is It Harmful?
There is no evidence that teaching your baby how to self-sooth is harmful to them. Everyone has their own opinions but they’re not the parent to your child, so my advice is do what’s best for the family and drown out the noise.
Sleep training your baby allows for them to learn how to self-sooth and there’s many different methods used based on the child’s age, personality, needs, and the parent’s needs. I always tell the parents “if you’re not ok with the method, it won’t work,” so always make sure you as the parent are comfortable and willing to try.
In an article on Medical News Today, studies showed that sleep training and teaching your baby how to self-soothe is most beneficial to the parents and caregivers while still giving your baby the sleep they also need. Studies show that “sleep training can reduce the symptoms of depression in caregivers” because sleep deprivation is real and has a mental effect.
Ages for Self-Soothing?
Newborns aren’t usually capable of self-soothing because they need more food, have irregular sleep patterns (circadian rhythm) and need that extra love from their parents.
Once in the infant stage, 4 months and beyond, a baby’s sleep pattern starts to mature and they can get longer stretches of sleep in, which is why sleep training can begin at that age. Their brain development has matured a little and we can begin the self-soothing process.
How to Help Your Little One
Newborns- you can try to swaddle your baby and give them that comforting feeling, always give them a dark room, and white noise all night long. You can also start a bedtime routine to provide comfort along with bringing that into their routine when they’re old enough to sleep train so they know what’s coming next. Kids thrive with routine. Pacifiers are also a way for them to self-soothe, along with a little swinging/rocking, and of course…hugs and kisses.
Infants & Toddlers- routines are a great way to give security to a child because it allows them to know what comes next. It sets the tone for sleeping and that in itself is a form of self-soothing. Provide them with a dark room (red night light if they’re toddlers and afraid of the dark), white noise, and a security object like a lovey, blanket, or stuffed animal are great ways to help them self-soothe.
Always go with your gut. If you aren’t comfortable with what a professional tells you, don’t do it. Research credible sites and articles to make sure you have all the information when making a decision. Your child WILL learn to self-sooth at some point. It comes down to if you as the parent can wait. If mentally, you can wait or if you know it’s best to intervene and help them once they reach 4 months of age, it’s your call.