As newborn, your baby needed allll the help from you to fall asleep. As your child grows and their brain matures and develops, this need for help lessons.
What is self-soothing?
Self-soothing means your child is comfortable in their own sleep space and confident in their ability to fall asleep and return to sleep all on their own.
1. Place your child in bed awake.
Around 3 months of age, your baby is becoming more and more aware of their surroundings. This also means they are more aware the pattern and associations of being bounced, rocked, or fed to sleep. One of the most common reason children wake often is because wake in a different place than they were when they originally fell asleep. When you place your child in their bed already awake, they are aware of where they are, so when they wake they are not confused about how they got there and where Mom or Dad is. Over time, this will also help your child sleep much better through the night because they won’t need help from you to return to sleep after a brief waking.
2. Begin to loosen the feeding to sleep association
This goes along with placing your child in bed awake – rather than feeding at the end of your child’s bedtime routine, feed at the beginning. This helps your child to separate eating and sleeping because you will naturally have a few steps in between the feed and placing in bed. This will also help your child to sleep longer stretches for both naps and bedtime because they will not be waking and looking for more food to fall asleep.
A worry for many parents is that their child won’t have a full belly when they go to bed, but if you keep your routine short and sweet – no more than 20-30 minutes including the feeding - they will still have a full belly as they drift off to sleep. Check out this blog for more information on creating a bedtime routine you start tonight!
3. Listen to your baby’s sounds
Babies are noisy sleepers! My little one was the noisiest and squirmiest little sleeper I’ve ever seen. It took me a couple of months to discern her true wakings from her normal squirming and grunting, but once I got it we both slept more peacefully because I was no longer accidentally waking her from sleep! Pausing to listen and watch your child, instead of responding to every sound is key to helping your child learn to self-settle and sleep well. If your baby has recently fed and you know all other needs are met, that is a great opportunity to pause and give your little one some space to settle and fall back to sleep all on their own!
4. Introduce a comfort item during your bedtime routine
Before 12 months, we want to avoid adding any objects to your child’s crib , but that doesn’t mean you can’t introduce a comfort item. At some point during your bedtime routine (or nap routine) add in a comfort item. You could have your child cuddle with a small blankie while you feed or maybe snuggle with a small stuffed animal while you read a book or sing a song. Including a comfort item while you are cuddling or feeding during your sleep routines 1) helps your child make an association with sleeping (or preparing for sleep) with this item and 2) your smell is transferred onto the object, so when you do introduce it to the crib it already has a familiar and comforting scent.
Encouraging self-soothing is a key step in your helping child gain confidence to sleep independently. These 4 tips helps you to do just that! Whether you choose just one tip to try or combination of them, Each one is a step toward establishing a foundation for independent sleep!
Are you ready for better sleep, but nervous to get started? I would love to connect with you! Choosing to sleep train is a very personal decision. At Guiding Star Sleep, I help you understand your child's sleep, I give you a step-by-step action plan to reach your sleep goals AND I am here as your personal cheerleader every step of the way! Click here to schedule your free 15-minute Introductory call!