Children are amazing, and when you have one of your own, you love them all the more. One of the most difficult parts about being a parent (especially a new parent) is the crying and tantrums. The first few months of your new one’s little life will likely pass in a blur of stress, exhausted feedings, diaper changes and night-time rocking. But, by the time your little one hits 5 years old, they should be sleeping more or less through the night. Should, being the operative word.
All children need to learn to self-sooth, starting at a young age. This process allows them (and you) to get more sleep. There are a gazillion books on the market that will tell you the “right” way to get your little one to self soothe. The truth is, there isn’t really a right way. If the idea of letting your little one scream for 15 minutes while you sit outside their door feeling like the biggest jerk in the world isn’t your cup of tea, don’t do it. Find a way that works for you.
Here are a few (mostly painless) ideas and tips for getting your little one to self-soothe. Pick and choose what works best for your little family.
Create a routine: One thing that helped my daughter was creating a routine. Every single night we did the exact same thing. Pajamas on, cuddle time with stories and a few songs and then she went to bed. Start early before they even know to protest! If you follow a routine they will quickly associate the routine with quiet, sleep time. Starting a routine early is a great way to create a habit, they’ll learn to soothe naturally and with less fuss.
Give them a comfortable object: Many little ones enjoy sleeping with a stuffed animal of favorite blanket (wait until they are at least 6 months old before you leave a toy in the crib with them). But, a pacifier is another great comfort object. The pacifier provides an oral stimulant that is often comforting to a little one. You can ensure their pacifier stays close by while in a stroller or car seat by attaching it to some string. This lets them quickly access their comfort tool all on their own. If they can easily reach their comfort object, they’ll quickly learn that they can sooth themselves.
Wait just a minute: The idea of letting your little one scream bloody murder never settled well with me, but you can teach them to wait by waiting just a minute or two when they start to cry. You can usually tell what type of cry you are getting from your little one, if you can tell they aren’t hurt or sick, just wait a minute after they start fussing. Taking a little extra time to respond not only teaches them a little patience, they’ll learn to cope on their own faster.
Alone time: Helping your little one soothe themselves isn’t just for nighttime. You can help reinforce the behavior by letting them alone during the day too. Set up a blanket or playpen and let them play. You can hang up toys or other objects for them to play with. If they start to fuss, wait a minute or two before you respond. If your little one is being coddled and held all day long, you’re going to have a much more difficult time getting them to do things on their own, especially self-soothing.
Helping your little one self-sooth is essential for your sanity and their well-being. It is far easier to start teaching them to self-sooth when they are younger. As they get older, they get set in their ways. Starting good habits when they are little means you don’t have to rely on letting them cry-it-out or other extreme measures to get your little one to fall asleep on their own.
Stick with a routine and keep it consistent and your little one will be self-soothing in no time.