Self-soothing is an important skill for your child to learn to help them get off to sleep and sleep on their own. Whatever the age of your child, the best way your child is to go down awake and settle on their own. In addition, if they wake up in the night, they may make a few noises, move and then return to sleep
My sleep clinic is full of parents of children spanning many age groups who have yet to learn the capacity to self- soothe.In today’s blog, ( this is Part 1, I will write another on next steps soon) I am going to 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 very frightening to feel that your child is leaving the world of awake and has to let go. Our own 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 really unfortunate 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 are dependent on their parents, this is 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, then they will not develop the capacity to manage and develop inner resources. It may then lead him to think that he is not separate at all. 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 help many parents either. Be gentle and do try my top tip.
Top Tip.The idea of a gap between a cry and whimper may be difficult to manage, allow 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 dad or another to help to support you and manage the gap and separation.
2. If your child can self-soothe, they will experience the all important 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 key role in poor cognition, memory and in the longer term Alzheimer’s https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/jul/10/poor-sleep-increases-risk-of-alzheimers-research-reveals
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 important for them to feel that their parents have a relationship too. This creates an idea of positive relationships in the future.
4. Self- confidence as they can start to develop some capacity for internal resources. This will, in addition, develop the long term capacity 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, even driving your child around right now, so Do contact me for a sleep consultation to help your child learn how to self-soothe and check out further resources at my sleep consultation page.
With love Catherine