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Oh Joy / 8 Tips to Encourage Self-Soothing

Oh Joy / 8 Tips to Encourage Self-Soothing

We've finally crossed over that 3 month newborn hump where things are starting to fall into place a little better over here. I'm still tired and haven't slept a full night in three months, but I can see the light at the end of the sleepy tunnel as Coco gradually sleeps for longer stretches at night.

I'm always hesitant to talk about sleep training because even the phrase "sleep training" can stir up so much controversy between parents who believe in cry-it-out vs. the no cry method vs. co-sleepers vs. independent sleepers and every variation of parenting or sleeping style in between. With Coco being our second, Bob and I knew how we'd do things differently (and implement things sooner) with Coco this time around…

(click below to read more)

I read a lot of sleep books when Ruby was a newborn, and while I learned a lot, you sort of have to know what style of sleep method you're planning on implementing to make them really helpful. You go into it knowing what you generally believe in and then let the book be your guide. I recently read the new book, The Happy Sleeper, by Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright. And what's different about this book is that they discuss sleep on a larger level and give tips that you can implement regardless of your parenting/sleeping style. I found it super helpful as I was starting all over again with teaching my second baby how to sleep. For me, the way they talk about self-soothing made so much sense. In the same way that you might wake up in the middle of the night—but then quickly go right back to sleep—babies need to be given a chance to learn how to do that, too.

I asked the authors to share some highlights with you guys as I found this book to be extra helpful when I was putting Coco on a nap schedule over the holiday break. Since then, she is able to fall asleep on her own and self-soothe herself back to sleep. We know when she's ready to take a nap and get her to sleep before she gets over-tired and overly cranky. No more rocking, no more hours of fussiness. It used to take an hour or two before Coco would finally settle down for the night, and we now have both kids in bed around 7:30-8pm every night. We simply swaddle her up, give her a paci (which she sometimes just spits out), she makes some sounds for a bit, but then she's able to fall asleep on her own within 5-10 minutes. The key in making every aspect of her sleep better was teaching her to self-soothe.

Here's an adaptation of my favorite part of the book which gives some quick tips on helping your baby learn how to self-soothe…

Oh Joy / 8 Tips to Encourage Self-Soothing

Helping Your Baby Become an Expert Little Sleeper

Here’s a question for moms and dads of little ones: Which babies wake up more at night, the “good” sleepers or the “bad” sleepers?

The answer is they’re the same! Both groups stir and wake multiple times a night (just like we do). The “good” sleepers just know how to self soothe, so we don’t hear from them. They open their eyes slightly, roll into a comfy position, maybe tuck their loveys under their chins, and drift back…

It’s no surprise then, that self-soothing is a really important sleep skill for your baby, both now and in the future. Many sleep problems for children of all ages (preschoolers and school age kids too) have to do with trouble self-soothing, so it’s great to understand and support this ability early on.

 

How Self –Soothing Develops

Newborns need a lot of soothing from us—remember they have been nestled, carried, and bounced naturally for nine months. In fact, the “vestibular” sense, or the sense of motion, is one of the very first senses a fetus develops (at just 10 weeks after conception—when baby is still smaller than a fig!), so she has spent almost all of her precious little life feeling your movements. The first few months are also the time when soothing and responding to baby’s cues is essential. As you do this, your baby builds trust in you; as she builds trust, she will naturally feel more relaxed. Babies who feel this security will explore more, develop naturally, and become more independent over time.

Gradually, your baby will go from needing a lot of external soothing (shushing, rocking, and so forth), to taking over this job herself. When she starts to self-soothe, she might do this by tucking her legs up, moving her head from side to side, or making little noises to get comfortable—whatever she figures out as her own personal technique. It’s really sweet to see babies find their special ways of self-soothing. 

As the parent of a newborn, you get to watch this process unfold. As you nestle with her, pat, feed, and bounce her, you can also look for chances to let her flex her budding sleep skills. The following tips will help you with this goal.

 

8 Tips to Encourage Self-Soothing

1. Follow your baby, not a schedule. Little babies aren’t built to follow a schedule. They have their own little patterns (like becoming drowsy after 90 minutes of awake time) and feeding frequently. Hang in there and allow for your baby’s natural biological rhythms to mature. It takes about 5 or 6 months for most babies to mature enough to sleep through the night (if they wake to feed after this age, most are able to self-soothe and fall back to sleep after the feeding rather than being rocked and fed into a deep sleep).

2. Put your baby down awake. Make it a goal to put your baby down awake at least once a day. A major reason babies wake up and cry is because they find themselves in a sleeping place they didn’t go into knowingly. Every baby is different, though, so don’t worry if yours can’t fall asleep on her own yet—she will get there! Some parents find it takes many months of practice to encourage this skill.

3. Loosen the feeding-sleep association. Gently remove breast or bottle at the end of a feeding before baby falls asleep. You can repeat this over and over until your baby is comfortable falling asleep without feeding. It can take persistence!

4. Discern your baby’s sounds. Babies are super noisy! If your baby is fussing, whining, grunting, squawking, babbling, (in other words, not truly crying), resist the urge to swoop in! Babies make all kinds of sounds on their way to self-soothing.

5. Use the “Soothing Ladder” to avoid over-helping. If your baby wakes up at night and cries for about a minute, be curious about the least intrusive thing you can do to settle her. Briefly try the sound of your voice, a gentle pat, or reinserting the pacifier before going straight to feeding. If you do this repeatedly, your baby has space to show you when she’s ready for less help from you.

6. Daytime independence.  Look for moments during the day when your baby is happy to hang out solo. What better way to nurture confidence and self-regulation. If she's alone and playing with her hands or staring at shadows on the wall, don't feel like you need to entertain her.

7. Transitional object.  Also known as a lovey or blankie, this is a soft, special object your baby can use to help her self soothe.

8. Tummy time.  Tummy time is important for your baby’s sleep. Once she can roll and move (usually around 4 months), your baby has skills for getting comfy and sleeping well – being able to move and choose her own sleeping position will be a huge benefit to her when it comes to sleeping through the night.

— Adapted from The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night’s Sleep—Newborn to School Age, by Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright. (Tarcher/Penguin Random House, December 2014)

{Top photo from our newborn photo session by Luke & Katherine of Max and Friends, bottom photo by Oh Joy}

85 comments

  1. So does she take her naps at the same time each day? My little guy is almost 5 months and sleeps and takes naps well, but the length chances from day to day, so each day the times are a bit different.

  2. As someone who is now sleep deprived for 10 months and working through sleep training with my son, I wholeheartedly agree with your ‘and implement things sooner’ thought! Next time I won’t be so scared to sleep train… and we all could have been sleeping better for months by now! 🙂

  3. Thanks for this post! My baby is 7 weeks and I’m dying over here from a lack of sleep! Question about swaddling – does Coco fight the swaddle at all? Whenever I swaddle my baby, she fights to get out of the swaddle even though she sleeps better swaddled. I have to swaddle her then bounce her to sleep then put her down so she won’t fight the swaddle. Then when she wakes up, she finds herself confined and starts to fight the swaddle which makes her fully awake so I have to start the whole process over again. Also – who knew baby made so much noise in their sleep! Mine grunts like a champ!

  4. Question…. I’m about to have baby number 2 myself as well 🙂 and was wondering….. We have a smaller home and I sometimes worry about noise control. Does one child ever wake the other frequently?

  5. Oh, I’m bookmarking this post in my “baby” folder! I’m hoping that I’ll be able to open it within the next year 🙂 Exciting things to come! I’m reading “Bringing Up Bebe” right now and the book echoes many of these sentiments. Bravo for getting little Coco on a more routinized sleep schedule! Hopefully your life will become a bit saner now! 🙂
    Circus & Bloom
    ♥♥♥

  6. Oh, I’m bookmarking this post in my “baby” folder! I’m hoping that I’ll be able to open it within the next year 🙂 Exciting things to come! I’m reading “Bringing Up Bebe” right now and the book echoes many of these sentiments. Bravo for getting little Coco on a more routinized sleep schedule! Hopefully your life will become a bit saner now! 🙂
    Circus & Bloom
    ♥♥♥

  7. Oh, I’m bookmarking this post in my “baby” folder! I’m hoping that I’ll be able to open it within the next year 🙂 Exciting things to come! I’m reading “Bringing Up Bebe” right now and the book echoes many of these sentiments. Bravo for getting little Coco on a more routinized sleep schedule! Hopefully your life will become a bit saner now! 🙂
    Circus & Bloom
    ♥♥♥

  8. Oh, I’m bookmarking this post in my “baby” folder! I’m hoping that I’ll be able to open it within the next year 🙂 Exciting things to come! I’m reading “Bringing Up Bebe” right now and the book echoes many of these sentiments. Bravo for getting little Coco on a more routinized sleep schedule! Hopefully your life will become a bit saner now! 🙂
    Circus & Bloom
    ♥♥♥

  9. Oh, I’m bookmarking this post in my “baby” folder! I’m hoping that I’ll be able to open it within the next year 🙂 Exciting things to come! I’m reading “Bringing Up Bebe” right now and the book echoes many of these sentiments. Bravo for getting little Coco on a more routinized sleep schedule! Hopefully your life will become a bit saner now! 🙂
    Circus & Bloom
    ♥♥♥

  10. Oh, I’m bookmarking this post in my “baby” folder! I’m hoping that I’ll be able to open it within the next year 🙂 Exciting things to come! I’m reading “Bringing Up Bebe” right now and the book echoes many of these sentiments. Bravo for getting little Coco on a more routinized sleep schedule! Hopefully your life will become a bit saner now! 🙂
    Circus & Bloom
    ♥♥♥

  11. Oh, I’m bookmarking this post in my “baby” folder! I’m hoping that I’ll be able to open it within the next year 🙂 Exciting things to come! I’m reading “Bringing Up Bebe” right now and the book echoes many of these sentiments. Bravo for getting little Coco on a more routinized sleep schedule! Hopefully your life will become a bit saner now! 🙂
    Circus & Bloom
    ♥♥♥

  12. Oh, I’m bookmarking this post in my “baby” folder! I’m hoping that I’ll be able to open it within the next year 🙂 Exciting things to come! I’m reading “Bringing Up Bebe” right now and the book echoes many of these sentiments. Bravo for getting little Coco on a more routinized sleep schedule! Hopefully your life will become a bit saner now! 🙂
    Circus & Bloom
    ♥♥♥

  13. Oh, I’m bookmarking this post in my “baby” folder! I’m hoping that I’ll be able to open it within the next year 🙂 Exciting things to come! I’m reading “Bringing Up Bebe” right now and the book echoes many of these sentiments. Bravo for getting little Coco on a more routinized sleep schedule! Hopefully your life will become a bit saner now! 🙂
    Circus & Bloom
    ♥♥♥

  14. Oh, I’m bookmarking this post in my “baby” folder! I’m hoping that I’ll be able to open it within the next year 🙂 Exciting things to come! I’m reading “Bringing Up Bebe” right now and the book echoes many of these sentiments. Bravo for getting little Coco on a more routinized sleep schedule! Hopefully your life will become a bit saner now! 🙂
    Circus & Bloom
    ♥♥♥

  15. thanks for sharing joy! as we prepare for our first little one to arrive, i’m so concerned with the lack of sleep especially in the beginning. we def. want her (and us) to get as much sleep as possible! xo, j

  16. Your babies are SO adorable!
    I’m not a mother but I’m starting to get acquainted with all the “quirks” of motherhoods, I loved reading these tips. Might come in handy in the future 🙂
    Rita
    heyrita.co.uk

  17. Hi Tara, great question. Running a fan on low or using a sound machine (nature sounds) will help as a sound barrier. The great news is that after about 6 months, babies, toddlers, and even younger school age kids can have the same nighttime schedule (let’s say about 7:30pm – 6:30 or 7am) and in the long run they usually get accustomed to each others noises and sleeping through it all 🙂 — Heather

  18. Have you tried those zip-up swaddles? That might speed things up and make her a little less likely to fight it. Mine always struggled during the burrito-making process but as soon as they were wrapped up tight they relaxed and zonked out.

  19. Does your swaddle allow baby’s arms to be folded to her chest (rather than straight down at her sides) – that’s a more natural and comfy position for the arms, and eventually allows them to reach their face to self soothe. I like the Wombie swaddle, which gives a little room for movement and also has a zipper so it’s quick. – Heather

  20. Hey Min!
    I think Heather is going to answer your question in the comments section as well. For us, I thought Coco hated to be swaddled too and she def. fought it in the beginning so for the first couple months we didn’t swaddle her and she slept ok but never really got past 3 hours straight and get waking herself up especially after she wasn’t super tiny and new anymore. So we started swaddling her again for naps and nighttime and while she didn’t love it at first, they get used to it within a couple days and usually sleep much better.
    Best!
    Joy

  21. Hey Melissa,
    She naps around the same time every day but it’s not exact. Similar to your son, it depends on how long her naps are and that dictates the time for the next one. I did find the 75-90 minutes of awake time rule mentioned in this book worked really well for us. We just remember when she woke up from her last nap and put her back down for the next nap within 90 mins of being awake and that seems to be a good sweet spot for her now. Her naps are not always the same length but generally they have started to get more consistent as we get more into a routine with it.
    Best!
    Joy

  22. We got spoiled with out first born and he was always very good at going to sleep on his own. Our second wasn’t and I wasn’t good about sleep training early on and I am now paying the price. He is 16 months old and still needs to be rocked to sleep for naps and at night. He cries and cries if he is put down before he is sound asleep and we hate doing this since it breaks our hearts and keeps my older child awake. I’ve known for a while that I need to help him learn to sooth himself but this post has motivated me to get going on it. Looks like I have so reading to do.

  23. I whole-heartedly agree with all of these. I’m a career nanny, ex-teacher and now a mom (14 month-old girl). Kids who can’t self-soothe as infants have trouble self-soothing as toddlers, being independent children, etc. They lack confidence and get bored easily (and cannot practice delayed gratification). Whether this is because parents who swoop when they are infants also swoop when they are older, I’m not sure. But seeing these patterns made me Ferberize. We cut out one nighttime feeding at 3 months, then did cold turkey at 4 months. If she was distressed, we’d soothe and enter the room, do pacifier, etc. But after a week she was sleeping solid through the night. Naps, on the other hand, are sporadic. We go by her schedule and how long she sleeps. Very active play/outings cause her to nap more. If we’re just at home playing quietly she’ll nap less. Every child is different personality-wise, but if parents are disciplined enough these tips WORK and create happier babies and families! Thank you for posting. I wish your family continued success 🙂

  24. Babies absolutely cannot self-soothe; it’s not in their make up. There are hundreds of articles, doctors, and research that supports those claims. Nowadays, it’s astounding to me -ASTOUNDING- when I read about authors and parents who STILL advocate for tiny babies to self-soothe. Especially when there is so much evidence that proves stress, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and addiction are common long-term side effects of sleep training an infant. Also, it decreases their ability to form healthy relationships later in life. I have a four year old and she still needs help working through big emotions. Dr. Sears and Dr. Jay Gordon provide really gentle approaches for helping a child learn to sleep better at an age that is safe and appropriate (12 months is THE earliest anyone should even attempt to sleep coach a baby).

  25. Additionally, attachment parenting/ aka gentle parenting has proven time and time and time again that children who are kept close to their parents are more quick to become independent and more confident as a younger age than their peers who were “trained/broken” to self-soothe.

  26. This post was great! My first baby was born a self soother – literally – he played with his hair and moved his mouth like he was sucking from day 1 . The second baby is now over a year old and still trying to find his way to self soothe. he can fall asleep on his own, but once a night he can usually be found sitting straight up against his crib crying loudly and desperately for a hug. They are all so different and I am looking forward to curiously figuring out the least intrusive method of getting him back asleep.

  27. I found this to be a good book. Although I don’t believe in the 5 min checks. The checks in my opinion should be done as needed she may go through patches where you can’t leave the room or 10 min patches. I am a big of Angela Lansbury and getting to know your child and their unique crys and sounds to know when to go in and what to do when you go in and check. Our move towards self soothing was very gradual and natural.

  28. Hi! I have a 3 week old– should I start sleep training her now? She usually falls asleep whike nursing, but should I start putting her in her crib while awake or half way awake now? My oldest son needed lots of rocking to sleep. I would like to avoid that for my second child! She doesn’t mjbd the swaddle and has slept 4 hrs and 45 mins for her longest stretch! Thanks!

  29. Hi Tracy! With such a little one you can try the tips mentioned above (like seeing what happens if you put her down awake – you never know!) but I wouldn’t let her cry for more than a minute or so at this age – likely she needs a lot of soothing, regulation, and on demand feeding from you. If you’re curious about it, though, and really listen to her sounds to know if she’s saying “come here, i need you!” or just grunting, moving, etc… over time she’ll become more capable. The key is the curious stance as time goes on. Thanks for the question! Heather

  30. Hi Joy! I’m so glad you posted this! My baby is 10.5 weeks old (I think our due dates were close!) and probably because he is my first I am always wondering if I could be doing something better! I live in Japan and they don’t believe in sleep training so it is hard to relate to my friends here! They just think it should be expected that babies wake up several times at night and if they cry you should always offer the breast to bond with your baby. Interesting cultural difference!
    I love that the author is replying to comments! I read The Baby Whisperer and was left with so many questions! How do I dreamfeed…he will not suck if he is sound asleep. He wakes up all the time grunting and whining, I think from gas/reflux, so I am trying different ways to help him with that but I’ll try to wait a little longer before swooping in to help! I only feed him once between 3 and 5 am…I’m wondering how you can go through the night without feeding! My breasts get so full and it’s uncomfortable to sleep! I’ll try the 90-min rule for naps! I’d love to see what Coco’s schedule looks like now!

  31. As a parent of a tricky baby who dealt with food sensitivities, reflux and a straight up strong-willed personality, I just wanted to jump in to say – don’t worry if these tips don’t work for your baby. Things may take a little (or a lot) longer, and you may have to be insanely patient, but you can get there! My son JUST started sleeping through the night at 18 months old. We are slanted more towards the attachment parenting philosophy, but also did some sleep coaching with him. It feels good to be getting rest again. If these things aren’t working for you – you are NOT doing anything wrong as a parent! Some babies just take a lot longer than others. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from talking with everyone I know about sleep it’s that babies fall on a spectrum. Some are ready to be on a schedule and sleep in longer chunks from early on and some are not. Every baby is different! Next time around, I hope I get a sleeper ;).

  32. Hi Melinda,
    It’s so true that every culture has different ways of going about it and even in the US, there are so many methods and preferences. Really, you have to do what works for you. Any tips or suggestions are just that, and I like to use what I learn and apply them to what makes sense for our family and our specific children and their personalities.
    Just my personal opinion here, but feeding only once at night is great for a 10.5 week old! Coco feeds once or twice right now as she toggles between waking up once or twice between 7:30pm-7:30am. There were a few nights she sleep over 8 hours straight and my boobs hurt like crazy! But once they start sleeping longer regularly, your body gets used to it as well.
    Coco’s schedule looks generally like this. We base it on a wake time of 7:30am and a bedtime of 7:30pm and feeding every 3 hours during the day. The nap times are approximate and depend on how long her previous nap was and based on her going back to sleep after 90 minutes of awake time. Her naps vary from 45min-2 hours depending on the time of day. I am definitely the kind of parent that likes to stick to a general schedule but we are flexible with it day to day.
    7:30am – milk
    8:30/9am – nap
    10:30am – milk
    11:30am/12pm – nap
    1:30pm – milk
    2:30/3pm – nap
    4:30pm – milk
    5:30pm – nap
    7pm – bath and milk
    7:30pm – bedtime
    Hope that helps!
    Joy

  33. I’d say as early as month 2 it’s great to start thinking about these. In the first 4-6 weeks or so babies drift between awake and asleep so much, but after they “wake up” a bit in the second month, see what happens if you put them down awake. Of course still feeding on demand and responding, but still good to think about discerning those noises and giving them small amounts of space.

  34. I agree 100% and was dismayed that no one brought this up. Of course you can sleep train a baby but there is a price to pay that may not be apparent until adulthood. If sleeping is your main priority then these methods will help you reach your goal but the ‘science’ does not uphold these methods at all. Better to read The Science of Parenting by Margot Sutherland which is based on over forty years of research from more than 400 studies from all over the world. It very clearly and unequivocally shows that leaving a baby to cry for extended periods without soothing causes chemical changes to the brain that lead to major problems with depression and other problems in later life. I know that most parents cannot leave their babies screaming but so many do as they are encouraged to think it’s the only way .i shudder when I hear the term self-soothing.

  35. Same here, we will do it a bit differently with the second one! My first one is 9 months old, and was sleeping 8 hours at night and taking great naps during the day. We just did the basic tricks: routine before going to bed, pacifier, I never let her cry for more then 4 mins (which is as much as my heart can take 🙂 ) and then went in to sooth her, but she quickly learned it by herself.
    Then things changed at 6 months. Around that time she started solid foods, and we went for a long trip to our families places. When she woke up in this unknown places, instead of trying to sooth her in other ways, I would just feed her and she would fall asleep. Now we find ourselves at 9 months, while she keeps waking up every 2/3 hours for feedings. Letting her cry is not an option (because we got neighbours complaining and because it doesn’t feel right to me). So we’re trying a new thing this week: daddy training! And guess what. it’s working! I left the room for a couple of nights, left a bottle with daddy in case she wants it (which she never did), and when she wakes up daddy will try and sooth her. First by putting her pacifier back in, if needed he’ll sing some lullabies. And like this she is learning that she doesn’t need milk to get back to sleep! For now she gets her last feeding at 00:00 and the next one at 6am. It is starting to work out, but I will definitely check out “the happy sleeper”!

  36. Babies can and do self-soothe. My daughter used to laugh and sing herself to sleep. When she was really tiny weird hear a SHORT cry followed by sucking her hand/pacifier. The parents commenting on here, not to mention Joy and Heather, are proof that babies can and do self-soothe. Whether you believe they SHOULD or not is a completely different issue. But we should not ignore evidence-based facts that babies self-soothe. Whether such self-soothing causes problems later in life is up for debate.

  37. I’m so happy that you posted this! I’m a first time mommy and I’ve read a dozen articles about developing good sleeping habits, so it’s really really nice to have the summary in one place. One thing I always wonder though, is how early can you, or rather what age is it appropriate to start “training” your baby? It has sounded to me like you need to wait until your baby is like, 3 months or 6 months old. My baby boy is only 6 weeks and I understand it’s not an age where he could be ready to start any “training.” At least the more serious, get-down-to-business training.

  38. I haven’t read this book but I’ve heard a lot about it, so my apologies if this is redundant. Does it mention the American Association of Pediatrics recommendation of room-sharing with your baby for at least six months? The benefits for breastfeeding and SIDS reduction are well documented enough that the medical community got behind it, so I think it’s worth a mention. It is considered normal and beneficial for babies to feed at night for longer than some think. Much support to all you tired mamas and dadas out there … it’s hard work but worth it!

  39. Yes and yes, thank you Ty Ty’s mama 🙂 We do support room sharing and extended breastfeeding in the book (for moms who are able to). These tips are for taking a curious stance and allowing baby to slowly develop self soothing skills over the first 5-6 months of life, but this is independent of feeding at night (which, as you said, is very normal for babies to do – that’s why tip #1 says that it’s normal for babies to feed at night beyond this age). I breastfed my little ones for about 2 years a piece (though not at night after a certain point), and we’re big proponents of the idea that breastfeeding and good sleep are compatible 🙂

  40. Hi Joy, I enjoyed reading this post, it is interesting and makes a lot senses even to someone like me, who don’t have children yet. I passed it onto my friends who do have babies, and they find it to be very helpful!

  41. Hi! Can you tell me who makes the adorable multi color polka dot fabric your holding in the video and that your baby is wrapped in the above picture? I must fine some, it’s gorgeous! Thanks for the wonderful video and post, I really enjoyed them!!?

  42. So you don’t feed CoCo for 12 hours after 7:30 pm bedtime? Won’t she become dehydrated (as told to me by nurses and researching on the Internet)? But do you change her diaper at all within those 12 hours?

  43. I think I’ll be adding their book to my baby sleep library! We’re expecting #3 in May so you’d think we’d be experts by now but I love hearing different perspectives. We co-slept with our first and were pretty much 100% “attachment parenting” (that term bugs me since it makes it sound like you’re not attached if you’re not prescribing to a lifestyle or something) but we realized with #2 that independent sleep was a big priority so everyone could stay sane and #1 could get all the attention she needed. I feel like it was really empowering as a mom to learn what her cues meant and that they didn’t always mean she needed ME (or my boobs, or a sling, or 2 hours of rocking). That said some of the best parenting advice I ever received was “take what you need and leave the rest” so just figure out what works best for your fam folks! Thanks for a great post Joy!

  44. Hello!
    She currently wakes up twice at night to eat and for a diaper change. So she eats twice usually during the night from 7:30pm-7:30am.
    Joy
    Sent from my iPhone

  45. Oh Addie, I am in the exact same boat. I used to judge the parents of non-sleepers until I got one, and have found all methods to help her self soothe not helpful. Good luck (to us)!

  46. Thanks for the reply, Joy! I hope I can get to a schedule more similar to Coco’s someday! Right now it’s more like 9am-9pm because the 7:30 “bedtime” takes so long for him to fall asleep. I try to look for hunger cues and am trying to learn about his different cries. Sometimes I think I accidentally feed him bc after he does not go back to sleep and still seems fitful (but sometimes I just need to empty my breasts!) and sometimes I can hear his stomach growling! But he wakes up all the time–like every hour! He’ll doze off and then wake up grunting or whining like he is trying to pass gas but can’t. I bicycle his legs, massage his belly, try to put a band around his waist, try to have him sleep at a 45 degree angle, etc. I’m hoping this kind of works itself out after three or four months and then he’ll be able to sleep longer! I tried putting him down when he looked tired and it took over an hour and the nap ended up being only 20 minutes…I’m guessing that bc he doesn’t nap well it also affects how he sleeps at night! I hope you’ll continue posting more things like this! 🙂

  47. Hi Joy!
    Thanks for sharing. My daughter was actually born the day after yours, so I enjoy all your baby posts and seeing Coco grow similar to my daughter, Daphne. Daphne is on a very similar schedule to Coco, and I was wondering what your or the book’s advice is on staying home vs. out and about during the day. I love that Daphne is on a schedule and she actually sleeps all night from ~8:45 – 7am, but I am generally afraid to take her out of the house too much during the day for fear of her missing her nap / not sleeping as well, etc., but sometimes I go stir crazy at home. Do you find you are able to stay on schedule outside of the house?!?

  48. Hey Amy!
    I know how you feel about not wanting to mess up naps! We were homebound a lot with Ruby in the beginning. But since Coco is our 2nd, she has to nap on the go at least once a day (and usually twice a day on the weekends), otherwise, Ruby would never get to play outside or we’d never get to all go out together as a family. But we do time our activities around Coco’s nap schedule as best as we can. For example, if we’re going to go out to lunch or dinner, those time coincide with Coco’s 2nd and 4th nap and so she’ll either fall asleep in the car on the way and stay asleep in the car seat or I’ll wear her in a wrap while we eat and she sleeps great that way. I just try to make sure that she gets at least two good naps at home per day for the days we’re on the go but generally still stick to her schedule when not at home and make sure she’s in a comfy place during nap time.
    And congrats on your babes sleep! That nighttime sounds like a dream!
    Hope that helps!
    Joy

  49. Funny. Having a baby comes with no sleep, rush meal time, rush shower etc… if u cant stomach all these, easy. Dont have a baby. Dont make a baby if you are only happy with the good bits! Babies need everything in you. They dont stay long as a baby. Maybe try yoir best then to cherish that. This sleep training thing, self soothe thing is nothing but a trend. Some parents think they are cool following such. Self soothing? Self settling? All i can hear is a poor baby crying herself to sleep just bcause parents wants to have a peacful dinner or a good 8hrs of sleep. That is parenting at its best. Sorry not sorry.

  50. Thank you for the recommendation! I look forward to reading this book soon, as this is my first pregnancy. These ideas all ring true to me.

  51. Hi Ladies! This post comes with PERFECT timing! My little one (also my second, born just a few days after Coco! :)) is almost 16 weeks, and is having a tough time self soothing! I find myself popping in her paci nearly every sleep (especailly naps) after 45 minutes, and at night from 2-4. She’s not hungry, just waking. Long story short, do you ever find that the paci is stopping her own ability to soothe? She is still swaddled, so she can’t use her hands, and the paci works- I’m just getting exhausted with constantly needing to pop it in her mouth. Not sure what to do!
    xxoo

  52. I’m so glad I came across this. My son was actually born 10 days after Coco. We’re having a really hard time getting him to sleep. No matter what I do he won’t fall asleep until 1am. I’ll definitely give some of these tips a try but I was wondering if there’s anything I can do that will help him fall asleep earlier.

  53. Hi Danielle,
    Sounds like your little one still has days/nights a bit confused, which is really common. One of the ways to signal your baby’s brain to go to bed earlier (more in line with nightfall/7pm) is to expose him to morning sunlight (indirect, that is – not too much direct sunlight). Morning sun helps regulate the circadian rhythm. It takes time for those days and nights to completely fall into place but you could inch bedtime back by 15-30 minutes a night and you will eventually get there. Also babies at that age need to be awake (without even a catnap) for about 2 hours or so before bed to build up enough of a drive to fall asleep and sleep well. — Heather

  54. Thanks for this article Joy. We’re just about to have baby #2 and I’m hoping to both be more relaxed about the sleeping thing this time AND be more on top of things – which totally sounds contradictory… but I mean be more relaxed about letting the baby squawk a bit and not rushing to feed him/her all the time at night and being more on top of things by letting him/her have more opportunities to self soothe.
    Thanks again!
    Julia Kristina

  55. Thanks for the great tips! To all the mamas out there, tired and stressed, hang in there! I have had four sweet babies, and different tricks worked for different kids. I co-slept with 2, 2 liked their crib better, one I could lay awake, swaddled and he would go to sleep peacefully, the other 3 I nursed, rocked, cuddled. Go with your instinct most of the time, each of my kiddos is so, so different. So try different things, but enjoy the time getting to know your babies personalities, and don’t get frustrated if one thing doesn’t work like it did for someone else!

  56. There is a huge difference between a baby self-soothing and leaving a baby to cry for extended periods.
    Self-soothing is the description of a baby assisting itself, as all humans need to do.
    Leaving a baby to cry is one of hundreds of techniques used to attempt to train a baby to learn to sleep on its own.
    The article above talks about a baby safely tucked in its bed making noises for a few minutes and drifting off to sleep, not being left for hours unattended.
    If the term self-soothing makes you shudder it is because it is mis-used, not because there are any negative implications to this natural behaviour.

  57. Thanks for introducing me to the Happy Sleeper! My baby is 11 weeks and the 90 minute nap schedule is working well (although the naps are often just 30 minutes). Things at bedtime are a little more difficult. She has trouble getting to sleep – despite an evening routine. She fusses unless I hold her until we go to bed. Should I be trying to put her in the crib and going to her each time she calls for me? Or, is she too young to expect more? She is swaddled; but, does not take the soother. Any advice would be appreciated!

  58. So happy to have found this post! I recently started reading The Happy Sleeper and am about to start the Sleep Wave. However, my son loves to be swaddled in the Miracle Blanket (ok only his arms because his legs got too long!) Do you find that continuing to swaddle her makes the self soothing more difficult? We are going to crib from rock n’ play sleeping so it should be interesting, just trying to decide if I should go cold turkey from the swaddled arms too as he busts out of the Woombie and Halo!
    🙂

  59. Hi Marit!
    We transitioned Coco out of her swaddle around 4 months. Some people go cold turkey but that didn’t work for us and instead we did one arm out for a few days, them both arms out. It took about a week for her to totally get used to it but it worked!
    Joy

  60. Any tips for a baby who won’t nap in his crib? My baby is 11 weeks and for 6 or 7 weeks now he won’t stay napping In his crib and will only sleep bein held, in the car, car seat or stroller. I know he likes motion but he needs to get used to napping in his crib. He will wake up 10 min after I lay him down over and over. He sleeps well in it at night. I’ve tried putting him down awake many times but then we spend an hour trying to get him to sleep and he misses a nap completely.
    He can’t keep a soother in his mouth so that doesn’t help. I still swaddle him because he startles a lot, but he does like sucking on his hands and will get out of the swaddle when he wakes up.
    I have read this book but I’m not sure if he’s too young to start training.

  61. Hi Shelly! Thanks for reading the book You’re in a transition phase here, so it’s tough but it will get easier soon. It’s really normal for babies at this age to wake easily in the crib (or anywhere flat and still, on their backs) – it’s not that your baby doesn’t like it, or won’t be a good napper, it’s just that he’s unfamiliar and still developing his ability to self-regulate and find a comfortable position/way of soothing and sleeping. I would give yourself the goal of putting him down for one nap per day in the crib (the morning nap is usually most successful), and doing whatever you need to do after that (stroller naps, carrier, nursing and napping on you). If you do this, he’ll have some practice with his own sleep space in the daytime and it will grow from there.
    Best of luck to you! Heather

  62. Thanks Heather! I’ll keep trying; I’ve been putting him in his crib for the morning nap now for over a month but maybe he just needs time and to grow a bit older. How long should I keep trying to get him to nap each time before just letting him sleep on me in orde to get a nap in? I usually try for an hour, sometimes two.

  63. I bought the book at the recommendation of this post and it was really helpful in getting my daughter to sleep 8-9 hour stretches, until she hit 4 months. Now 5 months old, she falls asleep on her own every night, but doesn’t soothe herself when she wakes up in the middle of the night, and I’m afraid that I’ve maybe introduced a new night feeding (two times when it was just once). Between her first cold, ear infection, and now teething, her sleep for the past month has been really bad! How can we help her get back to sleeping long stretches, and get back to once/night nursing?

  64. Hi Katie, You’re doing great with having her fall asleep independently a the beginning of the night! It’s really common to see regression in sleep around 4-5 months. Like you said, teething, colds, and also new leaps in brain development make babies more wakeful at night and more attached to (and aware of) their sleep associations. At this point, 2 feedings a night is pretty good and normal for a 5 month old, but you could also wean one of them if you want to. In Chapter 4 there’s a section on weaning night feedings that would be helpful if/when you decide to wean one of them. Good luck to you and your little one, Heather

  65. Hello, we are now reading the Happy Sleeper and trying to get our little guy (4 months old) to sleep better at night and during naps. We were on a sleep-eat-wake schedule with him but he would take most his naps in his swing and now we moved him to crib. His naps now are sparatic and much shorter since being in the crib. We are now trying to figure out how to fit in his feedings when usually we would feed him after his long naps. Any advice?

  66. Hi Jessica! You may be past this dilemma already, but it’s very common for babies 3-5 months to have short naps (20-40 minutes). Usually those babies who catnap will start to lengthen out their naps again around 6 months, so hang in there! Use the window of awake time in the book to know when your baby is ready to nap, and you’re right that now feedings are not necessarily timed with wake ups — Heather

  67. Thank you for this read.
    I think self-soothing actually goes a long way in helping a child to develop their independence.
    It can be done with a lot of love and patience and will go a long way in getting the baby and everyone else to rest better

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