Falling back to sleep after an unexpected wake-up can be challenging even for adults, so how do babies do it? There are a few methods of self-soothing that you may notice your baby using to lull themselves back to sleep after startling awake.
In This Article
What is Self-Soothing?
A baby who is able to self-soothe can fall back asleep with little or no crying and no caregiver assistance after waking up during the night or naptime. An infant’s ability to calm themselves back to sleep sometimes develops naturally with age, but sometimes parents or caregivers have to nurture self-soothing behaviors in their baby. Whether by natural progression or encouragement from caregivers, there are a few common techniques babies use to self-soothe.
When Can Babies Self-Soothe?
It is completely natural for babies to wake during the night, and even after your little one begins to learn self-soothing techniques they may not be able to soothe themselves each and every time they wake up. However, anywhere between 3 and 6 months old, babies begin to be developmentally able to self-soothe. Once your baby reaches this age range you may begin to notice some repetitive behaviors that act as a mechanism for self-soothing.
Newborns cannot self-soothe as older babies and toddlers can. But, their caregivers can employ soothing techniques that will help them fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Some great soothing techniques for newborns include:
- A consistent bedtime routine
- A comfortable, low-stimulation sleep environment
- Hushing or using white noise
- Swaddling with secure, comfortable swaddles like the Zen Swaddle and Zen One
Baby Self-Soothing Techniques
When your little one reaches an age where they are developmentally able to self-soothe, one of their go-to techniques could be shaking their head. It is common in infants and can even be a sleep-aid moving into their toddler years.
Leg and hand movement can be soothing even for adults when trying to fall asleep! You might find your baby kicking their legs out or thumping them against their mattress, or they may rely on playing with their hands until they drift off to sleep.
Thumb or Hand Pacifier
A very common method of self-soothing in infants and toddlers is to put various fingers or their whole hand in their mouth. It almost simulates a pacifier and can be very calming. The Zen One has adjustable features that allow for arms completely free or in mesh sleeves, perfect for thumb suckers!
How to Encourage Self-Soothing
Even if you don’t subscribe to methods of sleep training that involve not intervening when your baby wakes-up during the night. It can be helpful to take steps to encourage self-soothing behaviors in your baby to minimize the number of times you need to check in on them during the night. Some ways to encourage self-soothing in your infant or toddler are:
- Putting baby to bed tired but not asleep
- Letting baby sleep in their own space
- Giving them baby some time to try to self-soothe before intervening
Common questions from new parents