Mastering the art of self-soothing

slef sooth

It’s funny if you asked me about self-soothing a month or so ago I’d simply think it meant Jack getting himself back to sleep in the middle of the night. But no, oh no apparently babies are meant to be able to master settling themselves to sleep for daytime naps, with no bottle, no rocking, no singing, no nothing. Really? Yes, really.

One of my last posts mentioned I was reading up on daytime nap routines. Knowing Jack was a happier baby after he’d have a nap made me want to work out how I recognised he was tired and understand his daytime sleeping routine some more. I did start by reading Gina Ford’s Contented Baby, courtesy of a friend who lent it to me. Thanks Paula. Gina’s nap time theory is good and I get it, yet actually getting your baby to adhere to it is quite difficult, especially if you want to venture out of the house and have a life. Her book did make me recognise however that after two hours of being awake, Jack has a whinge and it’s because he’s tired, yes tired after just two hours. Bingo we were starting a daytime nap routine.

Gina tells you when your baby’s tired to put them in their cot and allow them to self-soothe to sleep. Sound easy enough right? The reality is in our household, it’s not.

Reading up some more on the subject made me feel even worse. Currently to get Jack to take a nap I’ll rock him to sleep in my arms, give him the bottle, rock him some more, sing to him, stroke his head, try the bottle again, and sometimes even put Jack in bed with me while I shut my eyes and pretend to go to sleep (crazy lady) and finally, anywhere between 20 minutes to 1 hour later, Jack falls asleep. Hoorah! But no hoorah moment for me after reading ‘expert’ views on self-soothing, as all of these things are huge no no’s *bangs head against wall*.

With this in mind for the past couple of weeks I’ve been ‘having a go’ (I say having a go as I’ve been rubbish at persevering) at getting Jack to self-soothe. It consists of – Jack yawning, I give him a cuddle, put him down in his cot, give him a dummy, say “It’s nap time”, and walk out of the room. The next thing that follows is an almighty wail from little Jack. I ponder, shall I go in and soothe him? No, the books tell you not. After a minute (or two if I’m feeling really brave) I go back in the room, cuddle him and put him back down. Now this goes on for about 30 minutes before I give up, cuddle, rock, feed, cuddle, rock some more, and Jack finally falls asleep.

Now, ok maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit as some days he does drop off quite quickly. And my husband (Pete) always manages to actually get Jack to ‘self-soothe’. How he does it I’ll never know. But for a few weeks I felt extremely frustrated by the whole scenario and mastering the technique would be on my mind every day, so much so that before nap time I’d feel stressed out about whether Jack would fall asleep or not. After weeks of beating myself up about it all, in the shower one day it suddenly dawned on me. If I hadn’t of read any of these books or any blurb about the subject online, then as Jack’s mummy I would think it was completely normal to have to settle your baby to sleep by rocking, feeding, singing or cuddling, because that’s what mums do, right? In that instant I decided, “Screw you self-soothe!” Jack’s not going to want me to rock him to sleep when he’s 16, so enjoy it now while it lasts.

Explaining my new thoughts on the subject to Pete and confirming that I was going to continue soothing Jack to sleep for naps, he replied, “Thank goodness. I’m glad you’ve decided that.”

Wow. Great news. No more stressing about getting Jack to self-soothe. Yes, it didn’t take away the stress of getting him to sleep, but it took away a huge amount of pressure worrying that Jack would never be able to crack the ‘technique’. He’s cracked getting himself back to sleep in the middle of the night, he’s even cracked getting himself back to sleep after I’ve fed him in the morning. If he needs help settling for a few naps in the day, so be it.

Now the funny thing is, since I’ve ditched spending nearly every waking hour reading about self-soothing techniques, ditched feeling like I’ve failed every day when I can’t get Jack to send himself off to sleep, Jack has gone on to surprise me sometimes and actually soothed himself down for a nap. Ok, so it’s quite rare and the word ‘nap’ still rules my day, but it is sometimes and that’s good enough for me. And you know what, if Jack doesn’t get to sleep in the day then fine, I give up and we get on with it. Yes don’t get me wrong I feel extremely frustrated as it’s not part of the routine, but I know when he’s really tired he will go to sleep.

After the time it has taken me to write this post (I’m not going to lie about three weeks. Seriously, time just flies with a baby), Jack seems to have moved on from his ‘tired every two hours of being awake’ routine and has dropped his last nap of the day. Of course, I’m relieved as it looks like I won’t have to battle the nap time schedule for most of my day. I’m all up in the air again about when they might be, but hopefully we’ll work out the routine again soon and feel more settled.

So…basically the morale to my self-soothing story is. Don’t give up. But don’t put any pressure on it either. I do think it’s a buzz word of the moment – ask your mum, I bet you weren’t expected to self-soothe. Let’s say, “Screw you self-soothe” together and continue to rock our babies to sleep! Yeah! *Punches the air*

{Says in quiet voice} But if your baby can self-soothe then don’t screw it as I bet it saves you a hell of a lot of time and actually this is all a front and I’m really very jealous 😉

Love me xxx

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