Teaching Baby to Self-soothe

Updated on May 03, 2010
S.S. asks from Essex, CT
19 answers

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?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

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.

Featured Answers



answers from New York on

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.



answers from New York on


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



answers from New York on

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


answers from New York on

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


answers from Rochester on

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


answers from New York on

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


answers from Fort Walton Beach on

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



answers from Hartford on

I think with time and persistence from you, he'll get the hang of it eventually. Having your husband rock him to sleep is a great start! Soon, have your husband rock him until he's almost alseep and then stop rocking but keep shooshing gently. Then have your husband just hold him and shoosh. Then have your husband put him down and lay next to him or at least stay very close and accessable to him and shoosh. Then, from there, you will eventually be able to just shoosh for a brief period of time. Eventually you could start to wean him off of the shooshing in the same way. This method really does work as I've used it a few times myself. Mom can get back into the mix after a while, but make sure that you give the baby time to disassociate nursing with sleeping. Then mom will be able to rock and shoosh too without being expected to nurse.

This method takes time and patients. It is definately not a week long process, but instead should talk a matter of a couple of months or more. But by the time your child is 13 or 14 months he should be sleeping pretty independantly without crying it out, nursing, pacifiers or rocking.

Good luck!



answers from Albany on

We were rocking parents. I could not stand to listen to the screaming. We both worked all day, so that was our time with him when we could rock him to sleep. It did not take very long and I enjoyed it. He is almost three and I stopped rocking when he was about a year old. Sometimes I miss that but he is very cuddly and loves to sit with me or lay next to me on the couch. I would never give that up. I have two older boys and I did the crying themselves to sleep thing. And I really regret it now. Good Luck, and if it really doesn't bother you than just rock him.



answers from New London on

My daughter was the same way. She would only fall asleep in our arms while we were giving her her bottle. I tried the whole cry it out thing, and that was awful. So I just kept doing what she was comfortable with and one day she started struggling when I sat down with her to eat her bottle. So I put her in her crib and she rolled over and went to sleep. I think that he will grow out of it in his own time. Good luck



answers from Albany on

I've had that problem with my second son and most of the time my almost 5 month old. During the day and sometimes at night, I just let them cry and cry. Just take it step by step with him and it hurt me dearly!!!! Step by step will be let him cry for 5 minutes then pick him up, then the next night, let him cry for 10 minutes then pick him up. Just keep increasing minutes each night. I do it during the day for my third son and he's learning to self soothe. I have learned that if he's still crying and i know that if he doesn't stop, then something is bothering him. He hates sitting in soiled diapers. He might had a bubble that he can't release and it's hurting him or whatever it may be. But they haveto eventually learn or you are going to do it for a long, long time. He knows and learned that if he cries, he gets picked up or comforted. He may be the type who needs comforting at night time which I have heard there are children who do, but I had to work on it with my second son before my third one came and it was difficult and now he goes to bed by himself and his older brother does too. I did that only at nap time, but thankfully, my husband did that at night time to break that cycle. Let us know what happens and what worked for you and maybe we can learn some other techniques that we could keep in mind. I pray for you.



answers from Cleveland on

Have you tried a pacifier? My first daughter was in love with hers. She slept the entire night since she was like 5 months. I love pacifiers. My youngest child(2 months) doesn't like pacifiers, so i rock her a bit ot sleep, feed her a bottle and turn off the lights and off she is to sleep. Good luck. Try bathing her with Johnson's & Johnson's soothing bathtime soap. It smells great and it calms them a bit.



answers from Albany on

Morning S.,

I might not be helping your situation, but I played classical music for my first-born while he was in his crib for bedtime. I started this right away though, so I'm not sure if that will work in your case. It may be worth a shot, and I'm sure he will cry a little for the first few nights. I can't imagine though that it would be anything strenuous.

My only other thought is to get him something special that he likes very much, whether it be a particular blanket, stuffed friend, etc. Only allow him to have it at night even though it is now his favorite. This way, it will be eventually clear that it's bedtime, and clear that he gets it to self-soothe.

Good luck, S..



answers from Hartford on

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



answers from New York on

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




answers from New York on

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.



answers from New York on

Hi S.,
my son is now 41/2, but I never wanted him to cry it out either. What we did was put some music on for him. It was winnie the pooh that played soft soothing music. My husband and I didn't want to rock him and I couldn't nurse. But I wanted him to be calm at sleep time. So we thought music would do the trick




answers from Denver on

This can be so exhausting and heartbreaking to work through. I suggest figuring out WHY you are shooting for this, and use those reasons as reminders (as encouragement) when you are feeling like giving up. If it is merely because other people say you should - then maybe this isn't the right decision right now.

We struggled with my daughter a few times with this. Different things worked at different stages in her life. Found we ended up having to tackle the problem again after long visits to family in which her routine had been altered.

When she was little - putting her down when she was calm and not yet asleep.....staying and patting her back and 'shooshing' seemed to work. The key was to only provide this reassurance of touch and sound when she was fussing and to stop immediately when she stopped fussing. Initially this took HOURS, and each night it took less time, until we were no longer doing it. You must have some endurance for the first few nights to outlast and stay consistent.

When she got older - touch and sound were more likely to wake her up, so the previous technique no longer worked. Instead I followed advice from SUPER NANNY. This technique is for the child that will stop crying the moment you pick him/her up - indicating they are just wanting to be with you and that nothing else is really the problem (assuming you have already made sure they have a clean diaper and fully belly etc.) She suggests that you put the child down and walk out - they start to wail....count in your head until you return in to see them. Lay them back down and walk out again. No eye contact, no talking - not trying to engage them. They will wail again - this time wait 2x as long as last time. Keep doubling the time. It took 3 times of me going in to lay my daughter down before she settled in. Now if we need to do it, it usually is one time. IT WAS HARD.

I wish you luck - there is NO one right answer!



answers from New York on

I am not sure of the actual name of the product. But you can find it in any toys-r-us or Babies-r-us. Its a teddy bear that you can velcro onto the side of your baby's crib, and when it is turned on it sounds like a mothers heartbeat from inside the womb. Before I was given this bear as a gift. I would have to craddle my son in my arms for almost a good half hour to get him back to sleep. Now with this "miracle bear" as I call it. I can leave him laying in his crib and just rub his back for a few minutes and he's calm and back to sleep.

Maybe it'll work for you as well.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions

Related Searches