19 answers

Teaching Baby to Self-soothe

My 6 month old will only go to sleep while nursing or being rocked by his daddy (or in the car). I know we need to help him learn how to put himself to sleep and not rely upon us or other unhealthy associations. We are extremely reluctant to make him cry it out. Has anyone had any success helping your child learn to self-soothe WITHOUT forcing him/her to endure extended periods of crying?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you to everyone who responded! We have read a few books on the topic and find Dr. Sear's Baby Sleep Book the best for our situation. We are still in the process of trying different tactics, including fading out, introducing a "blankie" for sleep time, etc. Basically, nights are still tough, but we've seen some improvement (less waking) and much better and longer naps in his crib.

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I too was reluctant to cry it out and I'm glad I didn't. There is a great book called the No Cry Sleep Solution. It gives really good tips on gradually teaching them to soothe themselves. However, be prepared for it to take a long time. It took us almost 6 to 10 months to get my son to the point he is now, which is a simple drop off in the crib. Good luck you'll be glad you did it.


The way I did it was let her cry for a few minutes...like 1-2 before going to get her and help her to fall asleep, then the next night I let her cry for 2-3 minutes...and so on. It only took I think maybe 3 nights to get her to go to sleep on her own. Now she actually prefers to be in her crib to fall asleep. If she's in my arms she arches and fusses until I put her down. It was especially hard for me to do it that way because that was my favorite time of the day...rocking her to sleep...but like I said she prefers to be in her crib now, so I guess that's good too...haha.

Also do you have a routine? Like a bath and reading him a book before bed time? That helps too. And I kid you not, we use lavendar bed time lotion on her skin after a bath, and it works wonders...(sometimes I even put it on my skin if I'm having trouble falling asleep, it's such a relaxing scent!)

So start out slow and see how it works out...atleast he won't be crying for too too long before you pick him up. Good luck!

More Answers

Hi S., you should be very proud of yourself for continuing to nurse your son on to 6 months old (and hopefully longer.) I must start by impressing upon you that nursing and daddy rocking are NOT UNHEALTHY associations and that your both doing this for your son is not a bad thing, you are doing it because you know it makes him happy. What is better than going to sleep happy. Not wanting to let him "cry it out" is a sign that you and your husband are sensitive to the fact that your son is still just a wee little thing and that all he wants is to be with you (morning, noon, and night of course). Think about it, isn't that what you would want, the comfort and love of the people you trust and love, in a world where you can do very little for yourself? Infants are simple, as are their needs. I hope that no one is making you feel like you are doing a bad thing by listening to your instinct and going to your son when he calls. The reason you feel this distress is because you are trying to fight a natural maternal and paternal instinct -- to respond to a helpless human being -- and do what others are dictating is the "right thing." When you respond to your child you are simply teaching him that he matters to you, that when he cries he means enough to you that you want to sooth him, and that, my dear, is a wonderful thing for your child to learn. By letting him cry it out you are saying: "when you call for me, I am not going to respond. You must deal with it even though you are in distress." And he will, your child will learn to shut himself down and fall asleep. Indeed he will become that self-soother everyone has told you is so great, but it will not be because he is comfortable with it, he'll do it because he learns that he has no choice. Remember that your child is going to be a child for such a short period of time in your life. When he is off to 3rd grade with his friends, and being around his parents is "uncool" you will look back and think about how he felt cuddled up in your arms as he nursed and your husband will think of the small baby breaths that your son breathed on his neck as he fell asleep on his shoulder. It goes by very quickly, and you will get a lot of parents, like myself, giving you some well-meaning advice. What you have to do is listen to your instinct and know that only you and your husband know what is right for you and your family. Read what everyone has to say and go with what you feel is right. All the best of luck!

7 moms found this helpful

I believe that babies have mommies for a reason and part of that reason if for soothing. I am a mom of five and each had different levels of need.
i think its important that moms realize that, it is a need to be soothed not a want.
I have never allowed any of my children to cry it out so to speak i have however allowed them to cry while I gave myself a much needed time out but not for long.
six months old you are still the ultimate pacifier when she sleeps on your chest and hears your heart beating that comforts her when you sing quietly while you rub her back thats comforting
being a mom is one of the hardest jobs ive ever had
To me self-comforting is unnatural
the key is doing what in your heart feels right to you for your baby, you have the strongest instincts as to what she needs and its 100% effortless just listen to your heart and dont let anxiety get in your way or the well meaning advice from others who will tell you your child will be spoiled
You are the one responsble for her comfort not her shes too little, and you'll feel great when you go with the natural flow of things.
I have a twelve year old who needs more comforting from me now then when she was an infant, sometimes i still need the soothing of my moms embrace or even hearing her voice.
bottom line,
Ifs shes hungry feed her
if shes wet change her
if shes sleepy help her to sleep with a method that makes you feel good
dont complicate it, your a mommy, and your heart not anything else guides you on how to do it the right way.
I know that wasnt the advice you were seeking but I hope I've helped
Joy, peace and blessings from me to you, MB

2 moms found this helpful

I had the same problem with my son. He only fell asleep when nursing. So I wouldn't let him. If he fell asleep, I would take him off the breast...and wake him up. But when we did put him to sleep, I made sure he was awake but drowsy. So, if his daddy rocks him to sleep, don't let him fall asleep fully. Once his eyes start to close put him in bed. If he wakes up when you put him down, just stroke his head and talk to him in soft tones...don't pick him back up. Then as time goes by and he gets use to this routine, put him to bed more and more awake, until he's fully awake when he goes to bed. When he gets this far, he may not go to sleep right away, but as long as he isn't crying leave him be. You may also want to introduce a "lovey". I read somewhere that if kids have something in bed with them it helps them soothe themselves if your not there. My son goes to bed every night with his monkeys. He is now 2 and a half and in a big boy bed. He goes to bed so easy every night it's unbelievable. Some nights it may take him awhile to fall asleep, but all we do is...read a book, turn on his music, kiss him goodnight and leave the room.

1 mom found this helpful

i guess it depends on how much of a problem it is to rock or nurse baby to sleep. I had to untrain my "trained night feeder" and only because he started nursing ever 45 minutes for 4 hours or more during the night. I did do a method that has had him crying - but never longer then 5 minutes before going in to check on him. The same paper work my sons dr gave me can be read on the internet here: http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/pa/pa_nightfd_hhg.htm

I just had to remind myself he was crying for me (which i love to give him!) but that he NEEDED his sleep more then his want of me. I found having a consistant bedtime routine helped tremdously in changing him over from nursing to sleep and sleeping in our bed to nursing before bed. a simple routine might be to bath or clean up/diaper change, PJs, nurse baby (we nurse right in mommas bed!) a book (my son would recommend Goodnight Moon) before going in his bed.

hope that helped and good luck!!

1 mom found this helpful

i have the same problem. What did you do? Please help, in desperate need of sleep.

Self soothing is a developmental milestone and you can't force it on a baby, so you are doing the right thing. Don't worry about creating bad habits, your baby will surprise you one night and just soothe himself. We have a soft hand puppet our son really likes and we have an aquarium music machine that he can turn on and off if he gets up at night. That really helped him. Don't be afraid to let him complain or even cry a little in his crib, but you are the mom and you know when he is complaining and when he needs you. Just trust yourself.

Put him a the crib and play some soothing music, my son loves baby Boc.


I tried everything to get my son to sleep through the night. It was not until he was 17 months old and we had to abruptly wean (for a medical reason) that he finally slept the whole night and has been since. NOW, i am NOT suggesting that you wean, I am however suggesting that it is completely normal for a nursing baby to want Mommy all the time, even at night. My son was good at sMy son did very well when we got him a blankie (it made by angel bath from Nordstrom's and is the best blankie). I used to give it to him to hold while nursing, that way he would associate the blankie with comfort. This helped tremendously and he took to it right away. Also, you can use a fading away technique that worked too. It is not a cry it out method, but works on the same idea. You have your bedtime routine (nursing should not be the last thing) and then you put baby down in the crib. Let him play , fuss whatever. You can rub his back, sing, all the while using key words to get him to associate with sleep, "it's night, night time," let go sleepy." Try walking oujt of the room slowly. I used to sing a song and creep put of the room saying night night and I love you continuing to sing while leaving till out the door. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not. It also helps to have a set bedtime and to make sure that naps during the day are not too late. That way at bedtime baby is really tired and will more easily fall asleep. You can get some great tips from DR Sears' Sleep Book. Good Luck

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