As a mom, your first instinct when your baby cries is to pick her up and cover her with kisses. However, there comes a time when it’s important for your little one to learn to self-soothe, so you’re not constantly running yourself ragged trying to keep her content. Here are a few tips for showing your baby that mom’s arms aren’t the only means to happiness.
Give her a chance.
If your baby is barely whining, allow her the chance to work it out on her own before you step in to help. She might wiggle around a bit, find something to look at, and be just fine. If you pick her up as soon as she begins making noise, she’ll never have the chance to realize that she can satisfy herself just as easily as you can.
Offer some nonhuman entertainment.
Try giving your little one a toy, turning on some tot-friendly music, or helping her find a comfortable change of position. Babies often fuss simply because they’re bored, so a little stimulation could be just what she needs. The key is to let her see that there are things other than people that can offer entertainment or make her feel better.
Cheer her up, then walk away.
Sit next to your baby and play with her (without picking her up) until she’s happy again. Then cheerfully walk away while she’s occupied. Don’t sneak off though—you want her to trust you. If she starts fussing as you’re leaving, don’t immediately turn back; keep going and see what happens.
Meet her needs.
If your baby feels sure that you’re going to take care of her when she needs you, she’s going to be more comfortable and confident playing on her own. Respond to her when she’s hungry or needs a clean diaper, and even when you’re teaching her to self-soothe, don’t ignore her. Talk to her from across the room or walk into view so she can see you’re still there. Simply ignoring her cries could lead to a hysterical fit, which she won’t likely be able to resolve herself. Which brings us to …
Avoid letting her get overly upset.
If your baby is hysterical or you’ve had a particularly busy day, it might be in everyone’s best interest to simply hold your little one for now and reintroduce self-soothing awhile later. There’s a time and a place for everything, and if your baby is overstimulated or unusually upset, it’s going to be rough for both of you. Make sure that self-soothing is a positive experience for everyone involved.
Offer a pacifier.
These small wonder plugs are a godsend for some babies (and their parents). Children are born with a natural need to suck, and sometimes that need isn’t met by breast or bottle alone. While you will have to break the pacifier habit at some point (since prolonged use can cause dental problems), most pediatricians agree that babies can safely use a pacifier for the first six to 12 months of life.