Self-soothing is an essential skill for your child to learn to help them get off to sleep and sleep independently. Whatever your child’s age, the best way for your child is to go down awake and settle on their own. In addition, if they wake up at night, they may make a few noises, move and then return to sleep.

the importance of self soothing

My sleep clinic is full of parents of children spanning many age groups who have yet to learn how to self-soothe. In today’s blog ( this is Part 1, I will write another about the next steps soon), I will talk about the importance of your child being able to self-soothe.

Why is self-soothing important?
1. It helps your child to be separate and feel safe. For me, sleep is the first separation following birth, so it can be not very comforting to think that your child is leaving the world awake and has to let go. Our feelings of letting go may challenge us at these times. I found that this is especially true of parents who have experienced a death of a parent when young (It’s miserable that, as a culture, we associate sleep with death; someone who has died is now asleep forever) or more day-to-day activities such as being at work, loneliness, etc.

Human babies need and depend on their parents for a very long time compared to other mammals. We often want to attend to their every need; however, if we attend very quickly to every need or feeling in our child, they will not develop the capacity to manage and develop inner resources. It may then lead him to think that he is not separate. This does not mean you should let your child cry it out. Crying it out does not help your child feel contained either, and in my experience, crying it out does not support many parents either. Be gentle, and do try my top tip.

Top Tip. The idea of a gap between a cry and a whimper may be challenging to manage, allowing a little space between. This will gently help your child to experience some frustration or anger. If it is a challenge for you to let go, then sometimes we need a dad or another to help to support you and manage the gap and separation.

the importance of self soothing in children

2. If your child can self-soothe, they will experience good quality sleep. Now researchers say that poor sleep quality, and disruption of the deep, restful sleep known as slow-wave sleep, both play a crucial role in poor cognition, memory and longer-term Alzheimer’s

3. A 35-minute tops bedtime is good for you as a couple; drawing it out for hours does not help anyone. Children are at the centre of our lives. However, it’s essential for them to feel that their parents have a relationship. This creates an idea of positive relationships in the future.

4. Self-confidence as they can develop some capacity for internal resources. This will, in addition, set the long-term ability for emotional regulation.

5. Prevention of insomnia at a later stage

6. Prevention of poor sleep health difficulties such as obesity, diabetes, anxiety, and depression. The majority of evidence suggests the relationship between sleep problems and anxiety and depression is strong and goes both ways.

In my next blog, Part 2, I will offer some tips on how to help your child self-soothe, gently preventing distress.

You may be rocking, lying, or even driving your child around right now, so contact me for a sleep consultation to help your child learn how to self-soothe and check out further resources on my sleep consultation page.

With love Catherine

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