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How to encourage self soothing in your newborn

Updated: Jan 26, 2022

I find that all mamas start receiving all kinds of comments of this sort when they get pregnant: "Oh, enjoy your sleep now because you will definitely miss it!" or "Forget about sleeping 7-8 hours straight again!"...

I'll be honest: I hate these comments. I find that there are a thousand things you can say to a new mom to encourage her on this beautiful journey that it is to have a child and, also, it is simply not true.

I have shared many times how my two kids sleep 12 hours straight and yes, my second started doing that being only 5 months old! It couldn't be easier! Why? Because I encouraged self soothing from the start using the technique I am about to teach you!

The Self Soothing Ladder is a very gentle technique that allows you to respond to your child at all times because that is exactly what you should be doing, but also takes the opportunity to start practicing the ability to fall asleep independently, and we will do this very gradually.

So, how do you implement this?

When you are at a good spot mentally and physically after having the baby, you can start practicing this technique. I encourage you to start with the first nap, as it is usually the easiest because there is a fair amount of sleep pressure. You can feed your baby until she is drowsy or very relaxed and then put her in the crib and leave (yes, leave). Wait. She may go to sleep right away or she may cry. If she does the first, awesome! just make sure that she was truly drowsy but awake and not pretty much asleep (that's cheating, girl ;-)) But if she cries, you can start from the very bottom of the soothing ladder.

  1. Your presence: Enter the room and get close to the crib. Do not touch or pat your baby. Just be there. Newborns have a very strong smell and know when mommy is around. Have you ever entered the room where your baby is and suddenly he has started crying when he was fine? There you go. Wait 30 seconds. Baby is still crying? OK, go up one step.

  2. Your voice: Shush or say something in a quiet and calm voice. If you shush, don't be afraid to do intermittent and rather loud shushing as babies love this. Again, do it for 30 seconds before climbing up a step. Not enough? go ahead and climb to step 3.

  3. Replace paci/lovey: If your baby sleeps with a pacifier or a lovey (I don't encourage a lovey until baby is older but I know that reality is sometimes different) you can put it back on or give it back. Again, 30 seconds. If your baby doesn't have either, you can go straight to step 4.

  4. Your touch: Pat or caress your baby a little. It is better if you only do until he calms down and not until he falls asleep, but again, do not stress. The goal is to have him fall asleep in the crib and not your arms!

  5. Jiggle the crib: Rock the crib a little. As with the shushing, babies tend to prefer a rather intermittent and kind of energetic jiggle rather than a slow rock of the crib. Of course, I hope you get me. I don't want you to get too energetic but also not so very kind that baby almost doesn't feel it.

  6. Pick your baby up: Up to this point, if you have used all of the previous steps and none of them have settled your baby, you can go ahead and pick your baby. I want to encourage you to try and just settle her and put her back down when calm and try again. If, after a couple of tries you feel this is not working, go ahead and climb to the very last step or help him fall asleep in your arms.

  7. Feed baby: The reason this is the last step is that, with newborns, we want to try to avoid the association of feeding with sleep. Feeding should be for nourishment, not for sleep.

The idea behind this is that you try ever step for around 30 seconds before going up a step.

If you are responding to a night wake up, you can have two scenarios:

  1. It is time for a feed: Try the first few steps of the ladder for 15 seconds and end up feeding. You will be just getting baby used to this.

  2. It is not time for a feed: Try the full ladder for 15 seconds each steps before you feed.

Remember we are practicing, so don't get frustrated if you climb the whole ladder the first few times. One day your baby may go to sleep on step 3 and some other day you will need to go all the way to step 5, but this gives you and your baby room for practice.

I really don't want you to get frustrated with this. You have enough with all of that you have in your plate after having a baby. But very young babies learn super fast and I want you to take advantage of this! You may have a great sleeper sooner than you think!

Regressions will come, they have to. But when you have a baby that knows how to self soothe, you may not even notice the regression or, if you do, your baby will be able to navigate it more smoothly and go back to his usual amazing self very fast.

Please, please, please, do let me know if you try this! I want to know how this works for you! And, should you have any questions, I am available either in the comments here or on Facebook or Instagram!


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