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Baby Sleep: The Importance of Self-Soothing

Teach your baby to fall asleep on his own by helping him practice self soothing.

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One of the most important skills a baby can learn is the fine art of falling asleep on his own. In the first 8 to 12 weeks of life, if your baby can do this easily, by all means, start to practice putting him down awake and letting him fall into a deep sleep without your extra help. If, however he seems to really need the extra rocking, body contact or sucking to fall asleep, these early weeks are the ones to give him just that. Babies like adults, go through cycles of deep sleep, light sleep and brief wakings throughout the night. Adults hardly notice these shifts and generally get through a night without disruption. In the first few months when babies are meant to feed throughout the night, this will not present a problem. They will however need to learn how to fall asleep and how to get back to sleep on their own after these normal intermitted night wakings. When you hold back from always being the soother, you are allowing your baby to develop a self-soothing habit that will be his for the rest of childhood. By 4 months, babies also have an increased capacity for memory and can learn from repeated experiences. While he did not come into the world knowing how to settle himself to sleep, he is now capable of learning. The teaching is easier before a baby makes fixed associations to how he goes to sleep and before he learns to sit, crawl or pull himself to standing.