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Self Soothing Baby Techniques: How do Babies Self Soothe?


Falling back to sleep after an unexpected wake-up can be challenging even for adults, so how do babies self soothe? 

There are a few self-soothing baby techniques that you may notice your baby using to lull themselves back to sleep after startling awake.

We’ll guide you through how to encourage baby self soothing techniques in this guide along with other ways you can empower your child to sleep soundly through the night.

It’s usually best to encourage self-soothing behaviors before separation anxiety kicks in full force, around 8 to 9 months. It can be hard for your little one to learn to soothe themselves back to sleep when they’re already worried about being separated from their favorite adults.  - Healthline

What is Self-Soothing Baby?

First things first - what is a self-soothing baby? 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 self soothing baby techniques we’ll share later on.

Baby sleeping in Nested Bean Zen Sack.


What to do

How to do it

Why it works

Keep in mind




Look for clues to the problem. Is your baby opening her mouth? She may be hungry. Is her diaper wet? She may need to be changed. Is she rubbing her eyes? This is a sign of fatigue

A baby usually cries to indicate she’s uncomfortable – hungry, tired, wet, or gassy. The tears frequently subside once you give her what she needs.

If your baby has outbursts of inconsolable crying, awakens shrieking and cannot resettle, or is unable to sleep for one three-hour stretch at night, contact your pediatrician.


On a receiving blanket, hold your infant’s forearm straight against his right side. With your free hand, pull the fabric from his right shoulder down and across his body. Repeat on the left side.

Swaddling provides security and comfort and keeps babies from hitting themselves. When you restrain their movements, they focus on your soothing attempts, not on what was bothering them.

Since it limits their movement, swaddling is best only for newborns. The key to successful swaddling is tight wrapping. A loose blanket will pop back open and can pose a breathing hazard.




Give your baby a pacifier or your clean knuckle to suck on (your fingernail may have bacteria underneath it).

Babies may receive instinctive comfort from sucking even when they’re not hungry because many of them start sucking their thumb or other fingers in the womb.

Use this method only after you’ve successfully established breast or bottle feeding. For most breastfed infants, this is around six weeks; with bottle-fed infants, wait three to four weeks.





Put your baby over your shoulder, or try what pediatrician William Sears, M.D., calls the “colic curl.” Slide your baby down your chest and cradle your hands under his bottom, tilting his legs up slightly.

Agitated babies often arch their backs or tense their stomach muscles. Changing positions moves them out of these postures, and the close contact with your body calms them down.

Fathers can also try the neck nestle. Snuggle your baby’s head against the front of your neck and hum a low-pitched melody. The vibration of Dad’s deep voice may lull a tense infant to sleep.



Place your infant in a cradle, baby swing, sling, or front carrier and rock her. Take her for a car ride, or strap her in a bouncy seat on a clothes dryer as you stand beside her.

Gentle, rhythmic movements and vibration are comforting to infants because they are similar to what fetuses experience in the womb.

Rock your baby at the same rate as your heartbeat (60-100 rocks per minute). With the car ride technique, put her in a car seat and drive for 20 minutes or so. Carry her back into the house in her car seat.


Place your baby on a flat surface such as a bassinet or a changing table, and apply a natural, cold pressed fruit or vegetable oil. Gently stroke your baby’s skin and knead his muscles.

Baby massage calms your infant because of the skin-to-skin contact, which can result in improved sleep, less fussing and gas, and better breastfeeding.

Parents benefit, too, as infant massage causes them to relax as well.


Hum a lullaby or have your baby listen to a white noise-a vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, or fan. You can also buy CDs or sound machines that play a range of white noise selections.

Musical rhythm is regular and steady, so it lulls infants to sleep. And the whirring sound of white noise mimics what they heard inutero.

Lullabies work well for babies 2 months and older, who can begin to associate music with sleep. White noise is best for calming newborns as it can be heard over their crying.

When Do Babies Self-Soothe?

So, when do 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.

Baby asleep in Nested Bean Zen Swaddle.

Can Newborn Babies Self Soothe?

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:

Baby Self-Soothing Techniques: How Do Babies Self-Soothe?

How do babies self-soothe? Let’s get into the three most common self-soothing baby techniques: head movement, limb movement, and pacifiers. You can watch for these signs as indicators of development. 

Head Movement 

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. 

Limb Movement

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. 

Baby self-soothing with hands 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!

Baby asleep in Nested Bean Zen Bodysuit.


How to Encourage Self-Soothing Baby

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. We’ll highlight some ways to encourage baby self-soothing below.

Putting Baby to Bed Tired but Not Asleep

This technique involves creating a bedtime routine that relaxes your baby and signals that it's time to sleep, but allows them to fall asleep independently. This could include activities like a warm bath, a gentle baby massage for sleep, or reading a quiet story.

The goal is for your baby to associate their crib or sleeping area with the process of falling asleep. When they wake up during the night, they're more likely to be able to fall back asleep on their own in this familiar setting. Learn more about the role of a consistent newborn bedtime routine and sleep associations in our blog. 

Letting Baby Sleep in Their Own Space

Designate a consistent sleep area for your baby, such as a crib or bassinet. This space should be comfortable, safe, and conducive to sleep. It’s important that this area is used primarily for sleep to strengthen the association.

Sleeping in their own space helps babies understand that bedtime is for sleeping, not playing or interacting. It also gives them the opportunity to become comfortable with their environment, which is critical for self-soothing. 

We have a detailed guide on when should baby sleep in their own room along with tips on transitioning baby to crib if you want to learn more.

Giving Baby Some Time to Self-Soothe Before Intervening

When your baby wakes up during the night, wait a few minutes before going to them. Often, babies will fuss or cry briefly before finding a way to soothe themselves back to sleep.

This doesn't mean ignoring your baby’s needs. It’s about giving them the opportunity to develop the ability to settle themselves. It’s important to respond if the crying continues or escalates, as this might indicate a need that requires attention.

Introduce a Comfort Object

A soft, baby-safe object like a small stuffed animal or a blanket can be a source of comfort for your baby. This object can become a part of the bedtime routine and serve as a soothing presence through the night.

Ensure that any comfort object is safe for your baby’s age and is used in a way that adheres to safe sleep guidelines. You can even use our weighted sleepwear, such as our swaddles or sleep sacks, as a comfort object. 

Speaking of which, let’s talk about how you can use the best transition swaddle to allow for self soothing baby…

Swaddling With Arms Up/Out

You may be wondering…why swaddle baby with their arms up? The benefits of swaddling are that you can prevent your child’s start reflex from waking them in the night. Unfortunately, though, this creates a problem for self-soothing babies who want to suck on their thumb. 

This is why learning how to swaddle with arms out is such a great idea. When you swaddle with arms up, you give your child the ability to move their arms freely and self-soothe. 

This swaddling method encourages baby self-soothing with hands, fostering motor skills development as well. While the arms are up and free, the rest of the body is snugly swaddled, providing the cozy, secure feeling that babies enjoy, which can aid in better sleep.

We have swaddles designed specifically for this here at Nested Bean. Learn what a difference they can make in your newborn’s sleep habits by ordering yours today!

Consistency is Key

Stick to a consistent bedtime routine and sleep schedule as much as possible. Consistency helps reinforce your baby’s sleep patterns and makes it easier for them to understand and adapt to bedtime expectations. 

If you make changes to your newborn sleep schedule or baby nap schedule you run the risk of dealing with sleep regression.

Be Patient and Responsive

Every baby is different, and the process of learning to self-soothe can vary greatly. Be patient and responsive to your baby’s cues. If a particular strategy isn’t working, it’s okay to try something different.

Wrapping Up Our Guide to Baby Self Soothing Techniques

As we conclude our guide on baby self-soothing techniques, remember, the journey to independent sleep is unique for each child. Introducing a consistent bedtime routine, allowing your baby to sleep in their own space, and understanding the right time to start these practices.

We have more tips on navigating the world of baby sleep in our blog. You can learn reasons why your baby fights sleep or your newborn cries when put down, when to stop dream feed, when do toddlers stop napping, home remedies for teething baby at night, wake windows by age, when to transition from sleep sack to blanket, what to wear under sleep sack, and more.

From baby self-soothing with hands to using their head and limbs, we hope this conversation on how babies self soothe has left you with clarity. Embrace these self-soothing baby methods and you'll be on your way to fostering healthy sleep habits, ensuring peaceful nights for both you and your little one!

Athena S.

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