Getting your baby into a good sleep routine will help you both get a sufficient night’s sleep, waking up happier and healthier. Managing your babies sleep can be one of the most challenging aspects of parenthood, so having a baby that can naturally self-settle to sleep can be a huge blessing. If your little one is the opposite and can’t fall asleep by themselves then don’t fear, there are a number of ways that you can teach your baby to self-settle. Here are our top tips on teaching your little one how to fall asleep on their own.
What is Self-Settling?
When a baby self-settles it means they are able to fall asleep in their cot, or sleep environment, themselves, without being rocked or cuddled by a parent. Having your little one self-settle means that you will get much more sleep yourself and won’t have to worry about your baby waking up crying because they need you to help them return to sleep. Babies that self-settle generally sleep for longer periods of time. Newborn babies won’t be able to self-settle as they adjust to the outside world, but some naturally learn to settle themselves to sleep from the age of 3-4 months. However, it may take time for your little one to learn the art of self-settling; some 6-month-old babies, or older, can still struggle to fall asleep themselves, so be patient and take everything at your own pace.
How Do I Teach My Baby to Self-Settle?
There are a few different ways that can help your baby to fall asleep themselves once they are old enough.
Create the Perfect Sleep Environment
One of the most important tips to helping your little one self-settle is to ensure that their nursery or room is dark, quiet, and at a good temperature. You should create an environment at night that soothes and relaxes your little one so that they can become sleepy themselves. Play white noise to help encourage your baby to self-settle in their cot. Make sure your little one is sleeping away from loud noise, e.g. a TV or busy road, if possible. Their nursery should also be kept at a temperature of 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit, or 20 – 22 degrees Celsius. This sleep environment should become their consistent place of sleep too, somewhere that they relate with going to sleep for both naps and night.
Don’t Let Your Baby Fall Asleep in Your Arms
Another crucial tip for getting your baby to self-settle is to stop them from falling asleep in your arms. It can be tough to wake up your baby when they are in your arms, but it is necessary in order to make sure you can all get more sleep during the night. When your little one falls asleep in your arms they are getting used to having you with them when they sleep, which can make it more difficult for them to fall asleep themselves. When your baby begins to get sleepy or the time is coming for a nap, place them in their cot while they are still awake, so they can get used to falling asleep without your help. Also, if your baby is falling asleep in arms when they cycle through their sleep into a light sleep phase their brain will check to see if all the factors that were in place when they fell asleep were there and if they are not they will wake fully looking for those factors to be replaced. Hence why when you continue to hold your child while they sleep they will generally sleep longer!
Create a Routine
Create a routine so that you create structure around nap times in the day and the same bedtime at night. This will help your little ones to become sleepy themselves as they will get used to napping in their sleep environment each day. Create a bedtime routine that can help soothe your little one, such as a warm bath, lullaby or story before putting them into their crib to fall asleep. Cycle your feeding schedule alongside your sleeping schedule but feed after sleep rather than right before so that you can avoid feeding to sleep which can be a key factor in an inability to self soothe in the same way as holding to sleep.
Reduce Time Rocking and Cuddling
Rocking your newborn baby can be a great way to get them to sleep, but it can also mean they get used to the feeling of being rocked and cry without it. Once your baby reaches 3 to 6 months old, reduce the time you spend rocking them and gradually phase it out until they can fall asleep without it at all. It is completely normal for your little one to cry a little when you first try and adjust them to sleeping themselves in their cot. Support them, in a way that fits with your parenting style, while they are getting to know this new way of sleeping while allowing them to learn their new skill around self-settling to sleep. Remember, that every baby is different and yours may just need more time before transitioning to self-settling at night but being consistent in the changes you are making will be key to them achieving self-settling.
Introduce Healthy Sleep Associations
A great way to help teach your baby to fall asleep without relying on you to comfort them is to introduce healthy sleep associations. A healthy sleep association can be the perfect transition if you are struggling to get your little one to self-settle. White noise as previously mentioned can be an ideal sleep association; many babies find it easier to fall asleep with white noise. Other good associations to try out include a teddy bear or baby lovey. Make sure any external associations you introduce for your baby are safe and will not put their safety at risk.
The most important thing to remember when trying to get your little ones to sleep themselves is to withhold expectations and be as patient as possible. Get in touch with us at Babogue today to help your baby sleep. Erica is a certified child sleep consultant and offers families choice in how their work on their child learning the skill of self settling. Babogue's online sleep program, The Sleep Series, and its 7 Steps to Better Sleep gives parents details of 5 techniques that can be applied while working on self settling with your little one.