A mother cradles her baby and asks herself, "when do babies learn to self-soothe?"

When Do Babies Learn to Self-Soothe?

The topic of teaching infants how to self-soothe has become a bit of a debate among mothers. We ask, “when do babies learn to self-soothe?” and want to determine some sort of timeline in order to set expectations. The truth of the matter is self-soothing is a technique that has to be taught.

An example of self-soothing is one of the most popular and highly debatable methods of teaching a baby to fall asleep on their own termed “the cry it out method.” Some mothers believe that the only way to teach a baby to soothe themselves is to leave them to work it out by themselves rather than offer soothing. Naturally, babies cry when they are distressed. If they are used to being rocked or nursed to sleep for naps and bedtime and parents suddenly let them try to figure it all out on their own, they will not take it too well. However, the notion that teaching a baby to self-soothe involves lots of crying and neglect toward your child is a misconception. When your baby is at an appropriate age, you can begin teaching them how to self-soothe with some simple steps.

Until around six months of age, babies need their parents’ comfort and care. Many first-time parents complain that their newborns are too clingy and don’t want to sleep unless they are being rocked, carried, and comforted by them. Some of the fuss stems from the fact that new parents are sleep deprived and want to be able to put their babies down so they can get some rest. However, the other half of the complaint is a result of a fear that they will encourage a bad habit if they don’t let their babies work out their fussiness and let them learn to fall asleep on their own. Research shows that at such a young age babies need their parents’ comfort. You are not doing a bad thing by letting them take naps on your chest or putting them in a carrier when you are trying to get things done around the house. Newborns need to be close to their parents. However, around six months of age is a good time to evaluate your nap and bedtime routine and make some simple changes to gradually teach your baby how to self-soothe.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to assess what changes need to be made to gently and effectively teach your baby to fall asleep on their own:

Do I have a consistent nap and bedtime routine?

Making sure you have a routine is a simple way to cue your baby to sleep. It lets them know that it’s time to settle down and that they will soon be in their crib. Try to establish a consistent routine such as saying, “it’s time to go night-night,” then walking to the bedroom, rubbing their bellies and turning off the lights before leaving the room.

Are they falling asleep while breast or bottle feeding? Or are they awake when it’s time to put them down to sleep?

This is a hard one, because most moms enjoy the bond they have with their babies while they feed them just before they put them down to sleep. However, teaching them to fall asleep while feeding can create a bad habit – they will rely on that comfort to help them go to sleep rather than soothe themselves. It’s crucial to put your baby down awake so they learn to put themselves to sleep rather than rely on you to rock them to sleep.

Are they aware that I’m leaving the room after I put them down to sleep?

We’ve all done it – tiptoe out of the room to make sure we don’t wake them once they’re asleep. However, it’s important for your baby to realize that you are walking out to become comfortable with the situation. It helps them realize that “mommy or daddy are leaving me alone, because I’m capable of putting myself to sleep.”

So, when do babies learn to self-soothe? The answer is simple. Babies learn to self-soothe when we teach them how to do so! We hope these tips can help parents make it a steady and comfortable transition for the entire family.

 

RELATED QUESTIONS

Any self soothing sleep methods I should use for my 2 month old? I would like to try all possible options before using the “cry it out” method.

My baby just woke up screaming so I went in a soothed her but didn’t pick her up because we’re trying the self sooth method. I set a timer for every 15 minutes but it’s killing me to hear her cry. Am I right in doing this?

What are your moms opinion on pacifiers? My LO is a month, today is the first day giving her one just because she wouldn’t stop crying. Any thoughts would be appreciated. I feel like I’m failing to teach her self soothe.

Any advice on how to get my 2 mo to self soothe? Do I let him cry it out? He refuses to take a pacifier, and only wants to be on the boob to fall asleep. What can I do?

Is this self soothing idea something real moms use, not just an idea I keep hearing about?! Just the thought of it kinda upsets me but if it works, it works!

I attempted trying to get my 6 month old to self soothe by letting him cry for one minute, then going in to comfort. Letting him cry for two minutes, then comfort. Finally I gave in and picked him up. I can’t do it. He had tears everywhere and was so upset. I don’t know what else to do!

I’m having trouble with my 12 mo old .. He doesn’t know how to self soothe so I find myself having to rock him or pay his back to sleep.. Another thing I have also been trying to wean him off the midnight bottle and it’s also a process to get him back to sleep…

What can I do to help my daughter self soothe herself to sleep? She only wants to sleep when I’m near her…

At what age do any of you think your child should learn self soothing?

How do I teach my dd to self sooth without letting her cry it out?
 

Get more great advice and meet other moms. Download the SmartMom app today.