Teaching a Baby How to Fall Asleep by Themself

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In the beginning when a baby is new and feeling scared of the big world around them, they need to know their parents care for them. During the first 3 or so months it’s necessary for a baby to know they are well taken care of and soothing a baby to sleep (usually by patting, rocking, cuddling, making soothing noises, etc) will help form an attachment as well as allow the baby to fall asleep easier. Most babies need a bedtime feeding to help them fall asleep and sleep through the night. Most will need an overnight feeding until the age of 3-4 months (2 or so months’ time if they can sleep through the night).

Once sleeping through the night is established (2-3 weeks of consistency), then you can begin to have baby learn how to fall asleep on their own. The best way to do this :

Have a routine
Every night should be as close to the same as possible to prepare baby for sleep. Whether you choose to do a bath (usually not for cleaning, just relaxing and play), reading a few books, singing, telling stories, going on a walk around the block, etc, a baby comes to learn that a certain routine happens before bed and it helps them get mentally and physically ready for sleep. (For us, we change him into a larger diaper, put him in a sleep sack, give his night time feeding in this particular upholstered rocking chair and when he shows signs of tiredness (he puts the back of his hand against his temple) and while still awake, we transfer him into his bed. We then either give him some more “milk” or his “sou-sou” [pacifier] to suck on.)

Darken the room (this is good for naps too)
If baby’s room is bright with sunlight when it’s time for sleep, invest in some room-darkening curtains, shades, etc to help ease the baby into sleep by preparing the environment. It’s been proven that dimmed lighting and less sunlight in a room increases drowsiness and helps prepare a baby for sleep. Some children prefer a dimmer environment, others prefer a dark environment, and others prefer a dark environment with a night light.

Have less noise in the environment, but not dead silence
A baby should have a variety of noises present while sleeping for many reasons. A good idea is to dim the noise level, if possible, but not to get rid of all noises. A baby needs to always remain in the real world and have a tolerance for “natural noises” and be able to fall asleep in any situation. While high-decibels are detrimental to a baby’s sensitive ears, upper moderate noise is ok for them (think restaurant noise) and so is stark silence. Getting baby used to this range is good for them long-term since it allows them to be able to sleep in any circumstance.

Do the 5-10-15 minute rule
This is something that’s an great way to help a baby learn to put themselves to sleep. You do baby’s normal bedtime routine, then place them in their crib/bed. Calm the baby down if they begin to fuss by offering more milk (making sure to burp accordingly), talking to them gently, telling them all the fun things you have planned for tomorrow that they’ll need sleep to be able to do, offering them a pacifier, putting a hand on their body, turning on some gentle music, using a toy that lights up and plays soothing music, telling them “it’s ok”, “time to go night night”, “bedtime”, etc will help them associate what’s happening with those words. Once they seem content for about 20 seconds, tell them, “It’s time to go to bed. I’ll be in the other room if you need me,” and leave. Invest in a monitor or spend the next hour or so in a room near their bedroom. If the baby begins to fuss, start a clock for 5 minutes. If the baby is still crying after 5 minutes, go in the room and see what they need. Try not to remove them from the bed/crib if possible. Offer more milk, burp, tell a story, talk soothingly, sing a soft song, tell them they need to go night night, offer a pacifier, etc. Soon as baby is content again, tell them “It’s time to go to bed. I’ll be in the other room if you need me,” then leave. If baby cries, set the timer for 10 minutes. If still crying, go in and comfort. Repeat with 15 minutes. If baby is still crying and they don’t seem tired at all, take them out of the crib and do another soothing activity.

Never let a baby “cry it out”
If you know that your baby is overtired but is having trouble sleeping, that is the only appropriate time to let them cry themselves to sleep because nothing else works. A baby thrives by knowing it is being cared for and loved. On any old occasion to let a baby “cry it out” teaches the baby that they cannot trust their caregiver to meet their basic needs and many problems will come from this. Don’t let other people say that you’re “spoiling” your baby by being attentive to baby’s needs. Babies who are promptly tended to tend to cry less overall than babies who are left to “cry it out”. Not only that, but this old-school way of handling babies is neglectful.

Take a 15-minute break if you need it
If you’re feeling overwhelmed at any time and need to step back for your own sanity/well-being, put the baby in a safe place (their crib), shut the door, go somewhere where you can relax, and give yourself some time to breathe and calm down. This is not being a bad parent, this is acknowledging that you can only provide for your child when you are not stressed and overwhelmed. As soon as you’re under control again, go tend to the baby or call a friend or loved one to help you or give you a break from caring for the baby.

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