Debate about self-soothing as a solution when waking up in the night
February 13, 2019
Dialogue from Peace at Home Parenting’s Private Facebook Page
We’re having some debate about self soothing. The doctor told us that our 4 month old son needs to learn how to self soothe in the night when he wakes up and be able to get himself back to sleep.
During the day, he sometimes cries when he is bored and wants to be held. Once we pick him up he is fine and just wants to laugh and play.
I have started swaddling him and putting him in his crib during the day when he won’t let us put him down. At which point he screams until someone picks him up.
Should we let him cry until he figures it out or should we pick him up? And how do you train a baby to self soothe to get themselves back to bed at night without practicing doing it during the day?
- Comment: My oldest will soon be 14. He was my Velcro child for the first four years of his life. We co slept with him and I had him in an ergo carrier as I needed my hands to get things done. He would nap on my back as I vacuumed (as a baby 6mnth – 2yr) or cooked dinner. He now of course sleeps in his own room and is very independent and self assured. I asked a mom who had kids that were already adults what to do. She said each child is different and if my child wants to be held then do so. That will give them the reassurance that they need to be able to separate and explore. Ironically my youngest had no interest in being held much after being an infant as he always wanted to keep up with his brother. He is now more ‘attached’ than when my oldest was the same age (elementary school age). Do what works for you and your child. As a side note skin to skin contact or holding your child/baby is great for helping them calm their nervous system down.
Someone once said to me in terms of parenting: the days can go by really slow but the years go by really fast.
- Comment: I would disagree with your doctor. 4 months is too early to expect self-soothing from all babies. Some may accomplish it but many will not. Brain science would highly recommend that you help your child soothe every time. As they grow, they may need you less and less but you don’t want their brain bathing in stress hormones from being left to cry. We tried crying it out as recommended to us for our now 19-year-old. It was stressful for all of us and not effective. Trust me, they will be in college before you know it! Give them all the love and nurturing while you can even though you are exhausted! Best wishes!
- Comment: They are only a baby once. Pick him up, love on him. That’s what he needs, and that’s what will make him feel stable and grow up knowing he is protected and loved. Our son is almost 14, our daughter is 2. Both kids got snuggles and picked up when they needed it. Every time. The 14 year old is a troubled sleeper, always has been. The 2 year old is independent and knows we will always come for her so we have no issues with bed time anymore. She lays right down and she’s out all night.
- Comment: Agree with all the above. Pick him up. Enjoy. There only little for so long. Trust your instincts.
- Comment: Personally, at four months, I feel they need the contact. We started working on self soothing when my babies were closer to eight months, it wasn’t easy! Snuggle then as much as you can, soon enough they’re in high school! Happy Parenting!
- Reply: us too 7-9 months is when we worked on this with our kiddos…and we now have an 8,5, and 2 y/o who are wonderful sleepers.
- Comment: I agree with everyone above—4 months is so young to expect self-soothing. Love on that baby! Having said this, you need to do what is best for your whole family— in other words if you need a moment, it is okay to sometimes let the little one cry. But I wouldn’t expect the baby to self soothe consistently at this age. Of course, all kids and parents are different— and thus what works for one parent-baby relationship— even in the same family—may not work for another. Hang in there! These baby days/ nights are hard but fleeting! And a key to enjoying them is not having unrealistic expectations for the baby or yourself.
Comment: JoAnn Robinson from Peace at Home Parenting: There is something magical that happens with many 4 month olds–they are becoming aware of their surroundings and want to be engaged in it. Their distance vision is improving and the world is now in focus and very interesting. Our daughter went through this…didn’t want to nap, wanted to be held and engaged. I just about lost it without those daytime naps. It lasted for a couple of months and then napping came back. The advice of your peers is good. Your doc is not entirely off-base, however. Your son may need more support to slow down and disengage from the ‘excitement’ of being awake. Help him get ready for sleep with darkened room, humming one song over and over or using a wave or rain sound maker. Use one consistent phrase that he will learn as a cue that you are leaving him. Try to have 10 days where his go-to-sleep times are not interrupted so that you can focus on the routine you want to create. He may no longer like swaddling. His arms and hands are gaining strength and purpose as his brain develops; some children cease to enjoy swaddling at this age. My children began using a pacifier at this age to help them self soothe, but our daughter especially, needed lots of time in the Snuggly carrier until she was 5-6 months old. Do children need to practice during the day what you want them to do at night? Not necessarily, although for moms who want to stop co-sleeping or having baby on them during all naps, I do recommend they practice during the day first. We’re here if you think you would like some individual coaching/support through this phase.
Comment: Here’s a great article on the science of attachment parenting. Impact of attachment, temperament and parenting on human development
Comment: Oddly enough, it helps with naps or bedtime if you put them down before they are cranky tired. Singing and connecting and touch in the crib make the crib a magical yummy space. I leave the room when she is happy and return to reconnect (but rarely pick her up at this point ). … Babies are building trust. She trusts that I have not left. Bit she has a happy, independent nature, and each child is unique.
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