Self Soothing | Check list

Self Soothing | Check list

Self Soothing | Check list

Self Soothing 

Teaching your baby to self soothe means they can put themselves to sleep independently, which is strongly linked to being able to also go back to sleep unaided by you.

Self soothing is what creates longer naps and longer nights, making self-soothing the holy grail when it comes to better sleep. Once your baby has nailed self-soothing, you can kiss goodbye to those 2 hourly night wakes and 45-minute naps.

Self-soothing can also help with early morning wakes, coping with illness, and sleep regressions. It is the one skill that most sleep consultants will focus on to help you fix your baby’s sleep challenges.

self soothing guide

Self-soothing or self-settling?

Note: Self-soothing is used in the infant world to mean a baby’s ability to settle to sleep independently from awake. In the psychology world self-soothing refers to any behaviour an individual uses to regulate their emotional state by themselves.

Infants require a lot of co-regulation from their care givers when it comes to regulating emotional states, we do all of this lovely co-regulating in the pre bed time routine, ensuring our babies go to bed, happy, calm, full bellies, and ready to sleep.

Dr Thomas Anders on self soothing

Dr Thomas Anders who discovered self soothing behavuour in the 1980’s describes it here:

“Rather, the older infants were better able to fall back asleep on their own without a parental intervention. These observations led us to classify crying awakenings as “signaling awakenings” and quiet awakenings as “self-soothing awakenings”. The developmental shift from signaling to self-soothing awakenings began to appear around 2 months of age. The sleeping parent was unaware of these self-soothing awakenings and, thus, when these awakenings predominated, parents reported that their infant had slept through the night.”

 Self-soothing from going to bed awake

He goes on to describe their most surprising discovery about self-soothing when looking at the time-lapse videos they used. This is now mainstream information in 2024.

 

“The observation that surprised us was that the infants who were put into their cribs still awake and were able to fall asleep on their own, were the infants who were more likely to be able to put themselves back to sleep after a nighttime awakening. That is, they were significantly more likely to have more self-soothing awakenings after they had “learned” to fall asleep on their own at sleep onset. Or, in other words, infants who had “learned” to fall asleep at the beginning of the night were able to repeat this behavior in the middle of the night.”

Learn how to put your baby to bed awake with our mini guide.

You can see why self soothing or self settling (they mean the same thing in the world of infant sleep), is so important for a good nights sleep, and good naps!

Self soothing and sleep consultants

Anders goes on to explain how they helped parents presenting to the sleep clinic with sleep troubles. One could say sleep consultancy was born!

“In general, we emphasized a gradual introduction of putting the infant into the crib awake at sleep onset; a 3–5-minute delay before responding to a signaled awakening; and, the use of a sleep aid in the crib. But we tailored these suggestions and the speed of their implementation to fit the needs, beliefs and capabilities of a particular family.” 

Sounds like a holistic sleep plan to me!

Ok now that you understand a little more about self soothing and it’s history, lets look at the 5 pillars you want in place before you start to think about self soothing teaching.

self soothing sleep consultant

Self soothing 5 point check list

1. Age: As much as Anders says the development of self-soothing behaviours begin to appear at 2 months old, at that young age we can’t use behaviour modification like sleep training to work on this. If you want to work on self soothing actively, its best to wait until your baby is 4-6 months old.

2. Health: Because you are going to have to interpret any crying or grizzling your baby does while sleep training to teach self-soothing, you will want to know that your baby is in good health. If you have worries like your baby is in pain from colic or reflux, then you’re not going to be able to be consistent with sleep training. Get the all-clear from your baby's doctor if you’re worried they might not be well enough for sleep training.

3. Sleep environment: Having a nice dark, not too hot, not too cold place to sleep will make a world of difference. Think about your sleep on an aeroplane vs at home in your room with the curtains pulled. Create an ideal sleep space and sleep training and teaching self-soothing will be much easier!

4. Awake time/routine: In order for your baby to take a nap or settle to sleep at bedtime, or even back to sleep in the night, they need to have enough sleep dept so that their body wants to sleep! This is where having an age-appropriate routine or the right awake window will help. We need to reduce your baby's total daily sleep as they age to protect night sleep and ensure they continue to self-soothe at night. To learn more about this listen to my podcast.

5. Pre-sleep wind-down: Going from awake to asleep gets harder and harder as your baby gets more and more interested in the world around it and more into “play”. This is why a pre-sleep wind-down becomes so important. This helps your baby transition from awake to asleep with lovely cuddles, and snuggles and a consistent sequence of events that are both predictable and soothing. Don’t underestimate the power of a good pre-sleep ritual before embarking on teaching self-soothing. I have solved many sleepless families with just a better pre-sleep winddown!

Self soothing are you ready?

Once you feel like you have ticked off these 5 pillars, you are ready to teach your baby to self-soothe and settle to sleep independently! Welcome to longer naps, longer nights, and easier bedtimes!

Take the self-settling course designed for 4-12 month olds and get access to the bonus content.

  • Self-soothing through sleep regressions and illness.
  • Routines.
  • Case studies from real clients who we taught to self-soothe.
  • Roadblocks to self-soothing and the solutions we use with our clients.

Get all this, plus the video library on self-soothing strategies and the 90-minute self-soothing master class!

 

self soothing course

Thomas F Anders: Self soothing scientist

Distinguished Professor University of California.

Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine,

Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry and Human Development, Brown University,

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