Getting Your Baby to Calm Down on His Own
Does your little one settle down easily on his own, or does he need you right there to help him calm down and fall asleep? Self-soothing is a skill that comes easily to some babies, but other little ones have a temperament that makes it more challenging. Once your baby is developmentally ready to self-soothe, you can help him by gently nudging him toward settling down himself.
What Is Self-Soothing?
Self-soothing means your baby is able to calm down on his own without help from you. It's often associated with bedtime. If your baby is a self-soother, he can fall asleep on his own without being rocked or fed. But it can also refer to awake time. Can your baby calm down on his own if he gets upset, or does he need constant holding, rocking or cradling?
A baby who struggles with self-soothing can be difficult for parents to handle. You feel like you can't do anything on your own because you're constantly tending to your little one. Helping your baby calm down on his own gives you a break and makes bedtime and playtime easier.
When Do Babies Start to Self-Soothe?
Your baby's temperament has lots to do with his ability to calm himself. Some babies are born with a calm personality and can go right to sleep without intervention, even at a young age. Others cling to their parents for what seems like forever.
Most babies start developing self-soothing skills around 6 to 9 months. Like all milestones, some infants reach the point of self-soothing early while others take longer. Your baby may need help realizing he's ready to calm down without your touch.
Preparing Your Baby for Self-Soothing
If your baby is a little too young to self-soothe, do a bit of advance preparation. Setting good sleep habits from the start helps. Once he reaches a few months old and settles into a routine, stick to the same bedtime each night. Starting the bedtime routine before your baby gets overtired means he isn't worked up, so he may be able to fall asleep on his own.
The routine leading to each night's bedtime is also important and should involve the same activities each night, so he knows what to expect. Aim to put him in his crib when he's drowsy but not yet asleep. That may mean you need to feed him a little earlier, so he doesn't fall asleep while eating.
Tips for Teaching Your Baby to Self-Soothe
If your baby still needs a nudge toward settling down on his own, try these tips and tricks:
- Use your voice to help your baby calm down instead of instantly going to pick him up when he cries. Using a calm, reassuring tone can help him realize he's fine and you're still there even if you're not holding him.
- Keep yourself calm whenever you try to develop his self-soothing skills. If you get upset or seem stressed about his crying, he feeds off that tension.
- Expand your soothing technique options. Patting your baby gently, singing to him and giving him a pacifier are all ways that can help him calm down.
- Change the comforting techniques you use instead of always using the same option.
- Play gentle, soothing music, or use a white noise machine to create a calm atmosphere in your baby's nursery.
- If your baby has trouble self-soothing during awake time, encourage him to play with toys and explore the environment.
If your baby still doesn't seem to calm down by himself, be patient. Some babies aren't developmentally ready to fall asleep or stop crying without your loving touch. Keep trying, but don't get upset if your child needs a little more time.