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How can you encourage your baby to sleep in their own sleep space?

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Lindsey Clark
Infant sleep consultant

I want to start by saying, if you're happily rocking, feeding, or cuddling your baby to sleep and it's working for you then that's great, there's no need to change anything at all. But if you're keen to start laying some gentle sleep foundations so that your little one starts to become an independent sleeper then that's fab too!

I believe that once a baby truly starts to self-settle it eliminates so many other potential sleep problems too. A big one is that it means that once they come into a lighter sleep, they can drift back off confidently and peacefully without any assistance from you!

If you decide that self-settling is for you, know that there's no right or wrong when it comes to teaching self-settling. Self-settling is often the key to a better night’s sleep, but please don’t put pressure on yourself to nail it straight away. Take your time, and here are some things to consider if you’re just starting your self-settling journey.

When to start self-settling

You can start practising self-settling skills from birth if it feels right to you. At first, it's about your little one practising falling asleep and getting super comfortable in their own sleep space. Don't expect it to be a success every time - remember any exposure is good (even just a few minutes!). Self-settling takes time, consistency, and patience!

How to encourage self-settling when you put your little one down for a sleep

  • Make sure your baby has had enough wake time (but not too much as they might become overtired).
  • Ensure they have a full belly - they won’t sleep if they're hungry! Paced feeding is a good way of doing this.
  • Wind them really well (wind can often wake young babies so try to get it all up!)
  • Swaddle them if they are newborn or not rolling as this helps them feel secure and stops the startle (moro) reflex from waking them.
  • Use constant white noise - it's a great sleep association to introduce and will block out any disturbances too!
  • Introduce a sleepy phrase or even a lullaby.

What to do once you’ve put your baby down for a sleep

Step back and wait a few seconds (or minutes if your baby is older). Your baby may just surprise you and have a little wriggle and start to nod off!

If not, apply firm pressure on the chest until your little one’s eyes start to close and then gently ease off. You can also apply slight pressure to the top of the head - this makes them feel secure, like they were in the womb! Some babies prefer to be patted as it reminds them of your heartbeat. This works well if done on the chest or bottom. You can add a 'shh' if your baby likes it too!

What to do if your baby starts to cry or doesn’t settle

At first, this is likely, but try not to see it as a failure. View it as another exposure to their sleep space that has taken you one step closer to independent sleep! If your baby does get upset you can always pick them back up to calm them and try again, or abort the mission and try again next time. Good luck!