Teaching your baby to self-settle can be a tricky concept to conquer, but once you have it down and your baby’s sleep starts to improve you will be so glad you taught them these lifelong sleep skills. There are a few things that are important to remember when you start this journey of teaching self-settling, and I wanted to go over those crucial factors in this blog to give you a better idea of what you can (and shouldn’t) do during this process. Following these steps can improve your baby’s sleep and help you both get the sleep you need!
Assisting Your Baby To Sleep Can Hinder The Process
If you’re anything like I once was then you probably help your baby get to sleep by rocking them, feeding them, holding them, laying next to them, bouncing them, swaying them, etc. The truth is that as mothers we want to make sure our babies are getting the sleep they need, so therefore we do whatever it takes to get them to sleep. What we don’t realize in that moment is that this actually creates a habit, can cause issues down the line and interferes with the sleep training process. In order for your baby to learn to self-settle - or fall asleep independently - they need to be given the chance to do so. Putting your baby down in their crib awake, but ready for sleep (meaning their wake window is over), for all sleep is very important. When you do this you are allowing them the chance to fall asleep on their own. If they start to cry, then you can choose a sleep training method that works for you and your baby to solidify them learning to self-settle. Same days will be easier than others, but once your baby starts to fall asleep independently and sleep starts to improve, you will be happy you stayed committed to this process!
Appropriate Wake Times Are Vital
Keeping appropriate wake times can be critical when teaching your baby how to self-settle. If your baby is up for too long or not long enough, they won’t settle well. Being overtired or undertired are two of the main culprits when it comes to not being able to self-settle (along with assisting them to sleep), so being aware of their wake window and sticking to that will be very helpful. This will ensure that when your baby is laid down for sleep they are ready for sleep and can fall asleep much easier.
The Sleep Environment
Having a sleep environment that promotes good sleep can be essential when teaching your baby to fall asleep independently. There are a few recommendations I have that will help make this process smoother, helping your baby to be calm and relaxed and allowing them to drift off to sleep nearly effortlessly. These things mimic what baby heard/seen/felt in the womb, so are very soothing to them, which can be of a great help when sleep training your baby.
- The first thing I would suggest is to make sure the room they are sleeping in is very dark, and I’m talking pitch black dark. Even the slightest bit of light can cause the melatonin (the sleepy hormone) being produced by your baby to decrease and this can lead to frequent wakings, early wakings and a tough time when settling for sleep. You can get blackout film that you put right on your window and you can also get black out curtains (I use both with my son) to completely get rid of any light seeping in.
- The second thing to have in your self-settling arsenal is white noise. This noise needs to be a continuous sound that doesn’t get louder or quieter. If it does get louder at times, it could actually cause wakings, so make sure to get a continuous sound. It is important to make sure the sound isn’t too loud or too quiet as well. For example, I use a fan in my sons room as it is a continuous sound and it is loud enough to drown out any noise outside his room.
- The third and last thing I would suggest is to make sure your baby is in a swaddle (for babies 4 months and younger or babies who are not yet rolling over) or a sleep sack. This will ensure that your baby isn’t waking from being too cold. Until the age of a 3, a baby doesn’t know how to pull a blanket back on themselves. So when you put them in a sleep sack, it will cut down on any wakings due to being cold, plus it is much safer to have them in a sleep sack than with blankets. Blankets are a hazard, especially for young babies, and can potentially cause SIDs, so it’s best to avoid using them.
I swear that I probably say this in every blog and to every parent that speaks with me about sleep training, but I have to because it is so very critical to the whole sleep training process. I know how hard it can be as a parent when sleep training your baby. You can hear your baby crying and you want to assist them to sleep and get it over with because listening to them cry breaks your heart. I get that in the fullest because I’ve totally been there myself. Three times. Remember that there will always be some amount of crying when you are sleep training your child (this doesn’t mean you have to let them CIO - there are plenty of sleep training methods that don’t do CIO, but tears are inevitable when sleep training) because they are protesting and want to be put to sleep how they are used to. But you MUST stay consistent and stick with whichever sleep training method you have started using with your baby. If you apply the sleep training method some times, but not other times then you are only going to confuse your baby and hinder any progress that is made. When you do this, it delays the sleep training process and can make things much harder and it can take much longer to get results. So, when I say that being consistent is key I am not even in the slightest bit over-exaggerating. Staying consistent will ensure that the sleep training process will improve and you will all get the sleep you so desperately need - sooner rather than later!
If you liked this blog, then you would love my group on Facebook called Sleep Little One where I give exhausted parents advice and tips on how to improve their child’s sleep. There are other parents, just like you, who you may find very helpful as well! Come join us today!