Self-Soothing – You don’t always have to follow the baby books

Self-soothing – the term that, when I first became a mother, caused my core body temperature to increase by a minimum of 2 degrees Celsius, evident by the cold sweat seeping through my pores.

You see, what came naturally for me and my baby was to nurse her to sleep. If she woke – I’d nurse her back off to snoozeville. Each and every time. When that stopped working so well my husband and I took it in turns to walk around with her in our arms or in her baby carrier, listening to Sam Smith on repeat.

After a few months of this she reverted right back to nursing to sleep.

Bottom line? There was no self-soothing in our house. My girl was, in fact, soothed to sleep in any way she needed.

The anti-self-soothed baby if you will. And this suited us, suited our family just fine – perfectly even.

Ten minutes of nursing and cuddles was all it took, right up until 2 years and 2 months old, to send my girl off – happily –  to the land of nod. Why would I ever mess with that?

Well I didn’t, but I thought I should – constantly.

Everywhere I looked, every online parenting article emphasised the importance of self-soothing;

  • Self-soothing is crucial to your baby’s development.
  • Do not use props or aides of any form to get your baby to sleep.
  • Your baby needs to learn how to self-soothe. You must let them fall asleep without you.
  • Your baby will never fall asleep on their own unless you teach them how.

To all these matter-of-fact, 100% true articles on self-soothing I have just one thing to say;

“NOPE!”

My daughter stopped nursing when my milk dried up at 8 months pregnant with my second and so our bedtime routine changed. A bedtime story, fifteen minutes of cuddling while music played and projected teddy bears danced across the ceiling, was what replaced nursing.

Yes, much more time consuming but still effective. Most nights. Let’s be honest here, there’s always nights where sleep begins to feel as unobtainable as pooping out gold.

This new method worked perfectly fine but shortly after its introduction another tiny person, who also required sleep, came along. Shortly after this a husband, who needs to earn monies to keep me in ‘designer’ Penney’s slipper socks, had to travel to the States for work. This left me, flying solo, with a toddler who needed to be cuddled to sleep and a baby who needed to be boobed to sleep. Gulp!

In that time, however, something completely unprecedented happened. I nursed my baby to sleep while my toddler waited for me in her room listening to music. I had told her I’d be right in once her little sister was asleep. Guess what I found once I got there? A sleeping girl. She’d fallen off to sleep, all on her own – without me.

After all the stressing, all the worrying I was doing the wrong thing, that I was in some way doing her a disservice by helping her to sleep every night, that I was failing as a mother by not teaching her such an important life technique she crucially needed to know as a baby, feeling like I was a bad, lazy mother, that I was wrong to listen to my own instincts instead of the advice of the ‘experts,’ after all the time I had spent googling the phrase; ‘Should I teach my baby to self-soothe?’ and always receiving a resounding YES, after all that; there she was – sound asleep.

At the ripe old age of 2 and a half my little girl self-soothed – and not just that – she had self-learned how to self-soothe! Stick that in your ‘how-to-parent’ articles!

I had listened to my instincts, stuck to my guns, the world remained spinning on its own axis and my little girl goes to sleep on her own, in her own room. Even if she didn’t, after seeing how fast she’s growing up, I still wouldn’t change a thing.

I plan on doing the exact same with her sister. Not the same process but I mean I’ll follow my instincts, do what’s right for us and this time around I won’t spend hours googling all the possible ways I could be failing as a parent – I’ll keep that for checking what I’m doing wrong during the school years.

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