The chance to raise a child is a wonderful gift for any parent. Children are the essence of life, and it is vital for parents to embrace this important role with full attentiveness. As an adult, giving your full attention is easier to do, if you, yourself, are well-rested. Finding balance between getting enough sleep and raising a child can be a difficult challenge for any parent; however, it will be much simpler if you can teach your little one to self-soothe themselves. Self-soothing is a wonderful lesson for children to learn, and you can begin to teach them self-soothing techniques as early in life as possible.
What is Self-Soothing?
Self-soothing is defined as the ability to calm one’s self, by using a variety of techniques. It is the ability to relieve yourself out of a state of high, anxious arousal or stress. Self-soothing can be learned at any age, but is especially useful for parents, when they teach their young children how to self soothe. Exactly how to teach your baby to self-soothe is not always an easy task, but it is one that your child can build-on throughout their lifetime; therefore, it is an important lesson for them to learn.
What Age Should a Child Learn How to Self-Soothe?
Most experts agree that babies as young as just a few weeks old can learn some self-soothing techniques. However, babies, children, and adults are never too old to learn some activities and patterns that will help them to soothe themselves. No worries. If you did not begin teaching your newborn techniques on how to calm themselves down, you are not too late to begin anytime in your child’s life.
How To Teach Baby To Self Soothe
Learning any new habit, or routine, takes some time to establish; therefore, patience will be a good virtue to have when teaching your little one to soothe herself/himself. Each child will adapt this new lesson at a different rate, so no need for alarm if it seems like your child is slow to learn their own soothing technique. Below is a list of ideas that you can use in order to facilitate the learning of how to get your baby to self-soothe themselves to sleep.
Choose a Consistent Bedtime Each Night
Children thrive on pattern and predictability. As much as you can possibly arrange, make bedtime the same time every evening. Your child’s own internal clock will eventually be able to predict the approaching time of calmness and sleep, and this will become a soothing technique for him/her. One important thing to remember is that overtired babies, similar to overtired adults, can be irritable and may have a difficult time calming down. This is another reason why little ones thrive on routine and regular bedtimes.
Establish Routine Procedures for Nighttime
Once again, remember that children love predictability, so choose a few activities that you can do most evenings that will elicit a soothing environment. Some of these activities may include; bathing your child, reading or singing quietly, snuggling together, or just rocking your baby a few minutes before putting him/her to bed. This routine will become a signal for your child that it is time for rest. If you give your baby a bottle just before bedtime, then make sure your baby isn’t falling asleep while still drinking. Your child is not learning to self-soothe, if he/she is nodding-off with a bottle still in his/her mouth. Instead, finish up the feeding routine prior to placing your child in their bed.
Put Your Child to Bed While He/She is Still Awake
It may take some practice for your child to adjust from being warm and cozy in your arms to lying on a mattress all by themselves; however, eventually, they will make the adjustment. When you put your child to bed while they are still sleepy, but not asleep, then they will eventually learn that they are safe and settled-in for a restful period. Some noise from your child is reasonable, as they doze off to sleep. Some crying is even reasonable. Try not to rush back in to your baby’s room for the first few minutes after you put him/her to bed. As long as you know that your child is safe and secure within their crib, then give your baby a little bit of time to adjust alone and hone-in on their self-soothing techniques. If your child begins to get worked up too much, after those first few minutes, then enter the room and settle them down. Try again the next time, and the next, and even the next if your baby hasn’t learned how to self-soothe yet. Remember, patience is your friend.
Give Your Baby Some Physical Freedom
One of the most effective ways to teach your baby to self-soothe, is by allowing them the freedom to suck and play with their own fingers, hands, or even their feet. As your child develops, loosen the swaddling material that you’ve used with them since the beginning of their new life. If you allow your child to have access to their own hands and feet, then they may learn more quickly to soothe themselves with their own physical touch.
As with any of us, some days are going to run more smoothly than others. You may feel like some evenings turn out exactly as you want them to, and other evenings it may seem that your child is never going to sleep. Your new little child has a lot of things that he/she is trying to learn and figure out about the world around him/her. Perhaps your child just isn’t developmentally ready for the self-soothing lesson right now, but he/she will be ready one day. As a parent of a young child, you just need to keep trying to teach your baby to self-soothe, and know that your baby will learn in due time.
What Are the Benefits to Self-Soothing?
Teaching your baby to self-soothe is a very important lesson. It is one that can carry-over to many different aspects of their lives, as well as creating groundwork for benefits that will last throughout their lives. The ability to self-soothe will help your child become a more confident, happier person. Your child can also learn to become more independent and enjoy their own company. Below is a list of a few other benefits that teaching your baby how to self-soothe can create.
A Self-soothing Baby Can Calm Themselves Down
Frequently, when a child wakes up during the night, parents tend to rush in to the room, in order to see if anything is wrong. For a baby that has learned to self-soothe, he/she may be able to soothe themselves back to sleep, without intervention from a parent.
Baby Will Learn to Control Emotions
When a child learns that they can soothe themselves, then that ability will spill over in to other areas of their lives; such as, when they are frustrated or angry, or when they are bored and need to create an outlet for the boredom. In the long run, children who do know self-soothing techniques are generally less cranky or fussy during the daytime hours.
Child Will Have the Ability to Concentrate/Focus
Learning how to self-soothe is not an easy task for some. Self-soothing requires focus on oneself and not waiting for an outside source to calm you down. As your child learns that he/she can take care of themselves, then their confidence will grow and blossom. You and your child will become more relaxed in your everyday activities.
Child Will Learn to Enjoy Their Own Company
Of course, babies do not wish to be left alone for long periods of time, nor should they be! However, when you are fully aware that your child is safe from any harm, it is a good habit to let them have a few minutes at a time alone, in order for them to learn that they are “okay”, and they can soothe themselves. Remember that “alone” does not mean “lonely”.
Life Will Become More Predictable
A child that has self-soothing capabilities will become a child who sleeps for longer periods of time, and will enjoy a deeper, more restful sleep. You, as the parent, will also enjoy a better sleep. As you and your baby become accustomed to your newly adopted routine, then life will become more predictable, and will feel less chaotic than the early stages of life with a newborn.
Does It Really Matter if You Teach Your Child How to Self-Soothe?
As a parent, there will be times when you doubt the choices that you make regarding your child. No parent is perfect, but we have a tendency to try to make the best decisions that we possibly can for our children. Whether or not you teach your child how to self-soothe, they will continue to grow up and become older children or adults. You will have to decide what is right for your own situation. Perhaps you are most comfortable teaching your child to soothe themselves some of the time, or maybe your child adapts easily to self-soothing, and it is a non-stressful lesson for them. Each child is different, as each parent is different. For the majority of situations, babies tend to be less self-focused or need less intervention throughout their lives, if they have learned the fine art of taking care of themselves, which possibly begins with self-soothing techniques.
Tips and Tricks that Provide Aid for Teaching Babies How to Self-Soothe
If, and when, you decide to teach your baby how to self-soothe, then there are a few things that may help you along the way. Perhaps one of the main things to have is patience on your part. Remember that this is not a lesson that will be learned in a single day, but instead will be learned with loving, constant support from you. Below is a list of a few other things that may help.
- Give your child a “lovey” to have with them when you are not around. This may be a stuffed animal, a blanket, or a favorite toy that comforts your child.
- Play soothing music, quietly, that will help relax your child. Lullabies or classical music are usually good choices.
- Invest in a sound machine that creates “white noise”. White noise is a constant noise, such as a fan or a continuous hum, that blocks out other noises. Some babies find this comforting, because it inhibits the outside noises going on in other parts of the home.
- Essential oils are often used in order to provoke calmness and relaxation. Lavender is a popular choice.
- Use a nightlight that will provide a soft glow throughout the child’s bedroom.
- Use overnight diapers. If your child wakes due to extreme wetness during the night, then invest in overnight diapers, which are much more absorbent than traditional diapers. This may help your child sleep for longer periods of time.
- Place an activity center on the side of the crib. Choose one that does not have too much stimulation, as the crib should be a place of rest and relaxation; but, an activity center can entertain your child for short periods of time.
Things to Avoid When Teaching Your Baby to Self-Soothe
There are also some activities that you should try not to do, when you are engaged in teaching your child how to self-soothe. A few of these things include; rocking or feeding your baby to sleep, driving your baby in the car or pushing him/her around in the stroller for the sole purpose of encouraging sleep, and giving your baby a pacifier every time he/she becomes fussy or tired. Remember that in order to teach self-soothing techniques, then your child needs to be aware of what they are practicing. Putting your child to bed, while they are still slightly awake, is the best practice for long-term results
learning the art of self-soothing is not an easy thing to master, but it is very beneficial, if it is taught in a supportive way. Your child should not feel abandoned, as you teach him/her how to self-soothe, but instead, secure in your love for them and your constant support. Patience is a fine virtue, and it is one that is vital for continued, successful parenting.