When a baby is able to self-soothe (also known as self-settle), they’re able to fall asleep, and resettle back to sleep throughout the night and between sleep cycles, without needing your help. That means, no more rocking for hours or constantly replacing the dummy when it falls out and no more nightly drives and stealth like operations, trying to transfer a sleeping baby from the car to their cot.
If your baby has become heavily reliant on you or another prop for sleep, and it's impacting their sleep and yours, it may be time to phase out the sleep prop and change the way bub falls asleep.
Just as your baby has gotten used to the way you’ve been putting them off to sleep, they can get used to a new way of settling. Like any change, this may take some time and patience, but the transition can be relatively smooth and pain free for both of you if you follow these steps;
1. Start when you are ready. Regardless of their age, changing the way bub settles to sleep can take a couple of days or a couple of weeks. Your baby will need your support as they adjust to the change and it can be quite tiring, so only start the process when you’re truly ready.
2. Start in the evening at bedtime. Pick a night when you are feeling relaxed and calm (so not if bedtime is rushed or you have people staying over, or you are away in a different environment)
3. Start as you mean to continue! So if it is the dummy you are moving away from, get them all out of the house to avoid falling back into using them.
4. Start bedtime a little earlier, knowing it will likely take a bit longer than normal as bub gets used to the changes.
5. Follow your usual evening bath and wind down routine and after your final feed or story, pop baby in their swaddle or sleeping bag, give them a little cuddle and lay them down on their back in their cot, drowsy but still awake.
6. If bub is happy, fantastic! Leave the room and leave them to it!
7. If bub starts to get upset then follow one of the settling techniques we covered in lesson 12. Don’t be surprised if the settling takes a while for the first few nights. Just stick with one settling method and repeat the steps until bub falls asleep.
8. Be consistent! It’s kindest to bub if once you start the process of removing the sleep prop, you see it through. If you try for a while but then fall back to using the dummy/rocking/car movement etc then you make it much harder for bub next time you try as this behaviour is even more strongly reinforced.
9. Expect at least some crying! All babies are different in how quickly they adapt to change but you should expect some protesting as you introduce the new settling techniques. Once bub adjusts to the new way of falling to sleep, this crying and protesting will pass, and they will consolidate their ability to settle and resettle without any sleep props.
10. Enjoy having your evenings and nights back! 😊