Posted in Baby sleep, Blog, Featured, Mother, Shawna

How important is self-soothing?

Before I became a mom, I had never heard of self-soothing, much less worried about it. If you told me that I would spend hours and hours discussing it with other parents, I would have been about as credulous as if you’d told me I would someday be able to spot different baby brands on sight or that I would really, truly love making baby food.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about self-soothing over the past 19 months. I’m one of those weirdo moms who never sleep-trained my daughter. I mean, I’ve done tons of little strategies and plans, read lots of books, and taken more sleep notes than I care to admit, but I never did any Ferberizing or other “cry it out” techniques.

I did once try to get Quinn to “cry it out” when she was about nine months old and sleeping two four-hour and one two-hour stretches every night. After five minutes, she was hyperventilating and vomiting, and I’d decided that in our case, it really wasn’t the right path. Especially after it took me two miserable hours to settle her back down, compared with the usual 10 minutes of cry-free cuddle.

I’m not saying I oppose it outright. Just in our case, it didn’t seem to make sense, and I couldn’t bear to do it given my daughter’s response.

Overall, this path has really worked for us. I can say now that my 19-month old happily sleeps through the night almost every night. It was unspeakably hard at times over the past year and a half, but Quinn was one of those babies who was always pretty easy to get down for bed(after the first three months) and who soothed back down relatively easily during the night. Of course, it was never without cuddles, a song or a rock. But it didn’t involve miserable hour-long routines involving a bouncy ball, walking her in a carrier, marathon nursing sessions, or other things that might have made me think that things weren’t going so well.

She was also always improving, however slowly, and was a good napper most of the time. I also quit my job after only two months back at work, so on the really bad days, I was able to lie down with her during her naps. I really don’t know what I would have done without that!

Still, she didn’t do her first five-hour stretch of sleep until she was 13 months old. It was hard! But within a month of that, she was sleeping six or seven hours at a stretch, and within a month or so more it was eight or nine. These days, she wakes up once a night like five times a month, and the rest of the time sleeps a blissful 10 hours.

I feel like I really made the right choice for this particular baby. But my one nagging worry is that she can’t self-soothe at bedtime. We cuddle up, sing a few songs, rock in the dark, and then I put her in her crib when she’s mostly asleep, about 20 minutes later. There are plenty of parents (and doctors) who would cringe at that, fearing that Quinn doesn’t really know I’m setting her down, and that she won’t be able to transition to ever getting down on her own.

I figure she must have the skill set to self-soothe, because she does it several times over the course of a night. I have always hoped that like talking, pottying and just about everything else babies do, that she will learn bedtime soothing over time with my loving guidance.

But then I hear a horror story about a four-year-old who purposely weaves her fingers into her mother’s hair so she can feel when she tries to leave at bedtime, or a 7-year-old crawling into bed with his parents almost every night.

So far, getting older has just made things better for us. Especially now that Quinn is verbal. She calmly tells me that she’s ready for her nap (she’s on a pretty set schedule, but she usually also likes to inform me she’s ready), and we talk about how after we cuddle, she will take her rest in her own bed. She seems very calm and well-adjusted about the whole thing.

Over the past few months, there have even been a few naptimes where Quinn has asked to go right into her bed, foregoing any cuddle or rock time. I sit by the side of her crib, and listen to her talk to her stuffies about how it’s nap time and they’re all very sleepy. It seems like it’s all just falling together naturally, but I’ll keep you posted…

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  1. I think you’re right, that they all just get there over time with guidance from you! Your instincts tend to be the best guide with your kids 🙂 That is so so so so cute that she talks to her stuffies about it being naptime! Adorable 😀

  2. You know, we’re pretty much in the same boat. We do a lot to get our 18 month old down at night and for a nap (although nap time is a bit quicker): books, sitting quietly with her, sitting next to her crib, etc. But, I don’t worry about it much. Sometimes I wonder how it might change where we’ll put her in bed and have her fall asleep more on her own, but I figure that eventually we’ll be able to have a conversation about it and that she’ll learn how. Right now, I don’t think that she would really understand that kind of conversation.

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