Babies aren’t born with the ability to self-soothe. It is something they learn. Parents of young kids often talk about the glorious future when their kiddo will “sleep through the night.” Interestingly, babies don’t actually sleeping though the night. Basically what happens is that they continue to periodically wake up during the night, but eventually don’t need your help to go back to sleep.
Here is the good news. The research shows that most kids will sleep through the night without major intervention. That’s right, no matter what you do or don’t do, most of the time kids "sleep through the night" by about one year of age. That being said, here are several things you can do to help your child learn to self-soothe:
-Little babies often only eat for very short periods of time before falling asleep. It can be helpful to try to keep them awake (by tickling their toes etc.) to feed for increasingly longer periods of time so that once they are a few months old you can start to use a (loose) schedule with them.
-If you adopt a feed, play, and then sleep schedule (rather than a play, feed, and then sleep), then you can rock your baby to sleep rather than feed them to help them fall asleep. Of course in middle of the night, you will most likely just feed them and put them back to sleep. This will allow you avoid a strong association between feeding to fall asleep.
-Eventually, you can start putting your child in their crib a few times per day (e.g., when you need to shower, cook, or do other activities) when they are drowsy rather than sleeping. This might mean that they cry for a while before falling asleep, but the research shows that babies that get love and affection all day but are allowed to cry for short periods of time are not negatively impacted.
-One common method of infant sleep training is the Ferber method where parents allow kids to cry for a designated period of time, but then come in and comfort their child (without taking them out of their bed) for a bit before repeating as many times as necessary. This has shown to be an effective method of sleep training. Even if you don’t use this method, you can start to wait a few minutes to see if your baby will go back to sleep on their own when they wake up in the middle of the night.