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What Does Teaching Your Baby to Self Settle mean?

What Does Teaching Your Baby to Self Settle mean?

At The Sleep Store we're here to support and guide you to decide what is best for YOUR family. Since 2006 we've helped thousands of families find the sleep solutions they need. In this article, you’ll find a number of different techniques and terms that we use across our articles and Sleep Support Groups when it comes to teaching your baby to self settle. Hopefully this will give you a quick insight into what each of these mean, an overview of what is involved, and where applicable links for further information on this technique.

We see a lot of terminology used when we are talking about encouraging or teaching babies how to self-settle. For clarity, here are a few of the main ones and what we mean when we refer to them.

Positive sleep associations

By positive sleep associations we mean things your baby can/will associate with sleep and bedtime, which don’t require parental input over and over or all night long. For example, rocking and feeding can become sleep associations however your baby will likely ask for these to be repeated when they wake between sleep cycles at night. Some examples of helpful sleep associations are:

  • White noise

  • Dark room

  • Woolbabe sleeping bag and cosy pjs

  • Cuski or other safe lovey such as Kippin or Sleepytot

Self-settling / self-soothing

By self-settling, we mean baby falling asleep in their own bed without being helped all the way to sleep, and (ideally!) resettling themselves between sleep cycles overnight (apart from when they are due for a feed).
This tends to become important around the four month mark, when babies' sleep starts to mature and they naturally begin to wake more frequently as a result. This is often referred to as the “four month sleep regression”.

There are lots of ways to help your baby learn self-settling skills at this age. At The Sleep Store we suggest starting by gently encouraging this behaviour with the use of positive sleep associations and some gentle techniques.

The Sleep Store gentle technique

This is suitable for younger babies 4-6 months as well as older babies, and involves gently and gradually reducing the amount of help offered to baby to get them off to sleep.

Gradual withdrawal

Suited to older babies as well as toddlers and preschoolers, Gradual Withdrawal or GW is exactly what it says on the tin. Over a period of time, gradually withdraw from your child’s room.

Pop outs

Best suited to toddlers and preschoolers, this method has the parent ‘popping out’ for brief periods, returning as promised and repeating until the child is asleep.

VR / Verbal Reassurance / Ferber

This is where baby is put to bed, and then checked on/reassured at increasing intervals until they are asleep. This helps baby to 'self-settle' or fall asleep without needing to be helped back to sleep.

SS / Spaced Soothing

Spaced soothing is very similar to VR, however we often refer to it in place of VR when we are suggesting smaller intervals that do not increase in time, and perhaps offering some more hands on reassurance at check ins.

Note: These two above techniques for teaching your baby how to self-settle are generally appropriate for older babies (6 months+). They are sometimes mislabelled as CIO “cry it out” as they do involve some crying, however baby is fully supported with regular check ins and reassurance - we don’t suggest or recommend any full CIO methods where baby isn’t checked on or reassured.

Positive sleep associations are still really important at this age and/or when using these techniques.

CIO / Extinction

This means putting baby to bed and not tending to them again until the morning. We do not suggest this approach at any age.

It is really important to note that there is absolutely no right or wrong way for your baby to be settled to sleep. Feeding, rocking or holding to sleep is absolutely fine and wonderful for as long as it is working for you, no matter the age of your baby. Equally, it is totally ok to want to move toward more independent sleep. At the Sleep Store we're here to support in what you decide is best for YOUR family.

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