Settling to sleep is a learned skill. How easy or difficult settling is for your baby depends on a number of factors, including his personality, sleep environment and general health, to name but a few. However, by far the most important element of how and when your baby learns to independently settle is the person who’s putting him or her to bed.
Here we share some expert advice for settling your baby to sleep.
Babies learn to bond through closeness and comfort, by feeling loved, secure and content; in essence, by you repeating your nurturing over and over again. Young babies need lots of close contact, and you’ll probably feel inclined to include that cuddling into their settling. They learn to fall asleep with you around and often fall asleep whilst feeding.
This is, of course, perfectly fine early on, but if you now find yourself with a six-month-old who has learned to fall asleep only by being fed, held or rocked, or wakes frequently in the night, you’re likely to be looking to make some changes. Having a baby who can’t self-settle is exhausting for you, and overtiredness is not good for his development either.
Here are some tips on mindful settling:
- Once your baby is six to eight weeks old, look at what he seems to need to settle and decide whether the routine makes sense for your baby, you and your family going forward.
- Write down all the actions you currently have to take to help your baby settle, and eliminate them gradually, one by one.
- Make time for making the changes – clear your schedule for a few days to start the process.
- Be calm before starting, as any fear or anxiety will probably make the situation worse.
- Try to put your baby down for naps at a similar time each day and do a bedtime routine every night.
- Be responsive, not reactive – if you feel you need to make changes, make a plan, be calm, feel courageous and see it through.
- Babies learn by repetition, so teach your baby gently and calmly to settle with less help from you, and then repeat and repeat.
- If it becomes very difficult, take some deep breaths, centre yourself and remind yourself of the benefits to your baby and your family.
- Do not react to resistance. See a way around, and troubleshoot without going back to old patterns. Keep going, gently and consistently.
- Enlist the help of your partner and other caregivers at home; talk to your friends and feel their support.
- Build some time for yourself into every day and simply try to enjoy being a parent.
The repetitive patterns that have become the only way your baby will settle can really trip you up in the future when your baby has become a toddler who still can’t settle without your help. Making mindful changes early can spare both of you lots of sleepless nights to come.
To learn more about sleep and settling, check out Deborah’s website: www.infantsleepresources.com.