One of the most common questions parents ask me is how they can encourage their baby to self-settle. There are so many myths surrounding self-settling, it can be difficult to know where to start. My aim is to help parents get back to sleep and so hearing all these myths has prompted me to write about the truth!
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If you want your baby to self-settle, first you need to know the facts. So let’s debunk one myth at a time. Then we can move on to how you can help your baby to self-settle.
Myth 1: Babies are unable to self-settle from birth
This is completely untrue, yet seems to be a common belief held by many parents. All the babies I’ve worked with, in fact all babies the world over, can self-settle from birth.
The most important thing you need to do if you want your baby to self-settle, is to believe in his or her, ability to do so. Once you understand your baby can self-settle, you can start breaking any bad habits that may have formed to prevent this from happening.
Myth 2: My baby can’t soothe herself!
Yes she can! All babies can soothe themselves. Another common misconception when it comes to self-settling is that your baby needs your assistance in some way to be able to sleep. This is why parents fall into bad habits such as rocking or feeding their baby to sleep.
I know from my experience of working with babies for the past 15 years that all babies have the tools to soothe themselves. We just need to let them learn to do it.
Myth 3: The only way for a baby to learn to self-settle is to leave him or her to cry it out
Some people believe, leaving a baby to cry will promote self-settling because, by doing so, the baby has to learn how to soothe himself. Again this is another myth and quite a dangerous one at that.
If a baby who is left to cry eventually stops, it is because they have given up thinking their caregiver will come and help them. Essentially, they won’t bother crying because they don’t believe anyone is going to help. This is not the same as learning to self-soothe and can be traumatic for both baby and parent.
I never use controlled crying as a method to help babies sleep, because I vehemently believe it is not good for the baby or the parent. There are many other ways you can help your baby learn to self-settle without using controlled crying.
In my opinion, every baby will benefit from learning to sleep well. There is really no need for that process to be traumatic or difficult.
Myth 4: It’s cruel to even think of sleep training a baby
Again this is completely false. Between four and twelve weeks is a perfect time to start sleep training by encouraging good habits, setting a flexible routine for you and your baby and ensuring your baby is able to self soothe. However, it is possible to sleep train a baby or toddler at any time.
It isn’t cruel to sleep train a baby; in fact the opposite is true. By doing so you are instilling good sleep practises for life.
Myth 5: The ability to self-settle is a developmental leap which my baby will achieve on his own
Actually, all babies are able to self-settle from birth. They can achieve this but they need us to let them do so! If we don’t allow our babies to self-settle, I’m afraid they’re not just going to start doing it.
The most important way to do this is to introduce good habits from the beginning, therefore avoiding the need for any sleep training later on. All the parents I work with are able to this and you can too.
See you new-born baby as a completely fresh slate. Whatever you do to help them sleep is what they’ll rely on. So if you rock your baby to sleep, he will learn that rocking leads to sleep. If you feed your baby to sleep, she will always want to be fed to sleep. If you put your baby in his cot while still awake and allow him to fall asleep by himself, then this is what he’ll learn. It’s up to you to decide what you want to do to help your baby sleep.
By all means make your baby comfortable and snug – swaddling or using a nest can help with this. You can also use sleep triggers such as music or baby massage, so your baby is relaxed and recognises when it is time to sleep.
By setting in place a good routine from day one and avoiding bad habits such as rocking or feeding to sleep, your baby can and will learn to self-settle. If your baby learns this vital skill from day one, there will be no need for sleep training later on.
If you’d like me to help you set up good routines to encourage self-settling, please get in touch. Over the past 15 years, all my babies have learned to self-settle – I’m confident I can help your baby too.
In order to demonstrate how babies are capable of self-settling at any age, I’ve put together this video so you can see my baby, Henry, self-settling at 10 days old. He suffered from reflux and cow’s milk protein intolerance and, as you can see, he really tried to fight sleep! If he can self-settle then any baby can, I guarantee it.
Please click HERE to view the video of Henry self settling at 10 days old.
By ignoring the myths and believing in your baby’s ability to fall asleep without aids or prompts, you can teach your baby to self-settle. I’m always on hand if you’d like some assistance with this and we can work together to help your baby get a good night’s sleep.
I hope you’ve found this article useful. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments below and I’ll reply to each one.
To see more of Hannah's work or for more information on the services she offers please check out the Yummy Baby Group Website