Should you carry and soothe a crying baby or let it soothe itself?

“I do not understand how you can just stand there and watch your baby cry. It wrenches my heart!”I hear that one more time and I am not going to be a really nice person to know. I swear!I know that is my baby crying out there. I am not some sadist who derives pleasure from seeing/ hearing her or for that matter any baby cry, so quit trying to paint me the villain here please. I am trying to help him achieve something on his own here. Well I tried explaining that to all in my family with my first son. I might as well have banged my head on the wall. So even though I really, really wanted to help my son adapt to self-soothing himself I would carry him and soothe him when he cried. His crying would have the entire house together in minutes with everyone fretting over what was making him uncomfortable and thus cry. It would invariably end up with him waking up from his sleep completely (and thus earning me a sleepless night!) or in me being extremely cranky and rude. With my second son, I don’t dare letting him try to self soothe. My husband, 4 year old son, 6 month old son and I share a room. If you aren’t family you will find it extremely hilarious when one of the babies cries in his sleep. One wakes up the other and then we all are awake for a good part of the night. Evidently something I totally don’t enjoy. So I pray each night that my elder one shouldn’t have nightmares and just carry and soothe my little one when he cries. If I had had the opportunity I would have let both self-soothe themselves, but trust me you do not want to carry and soothe the baby when he cries each time. Here is why –1. If you do not let them start young it takes them much longer to finally learn the art of self-soothing.2. Babies who self soothe usually sleep more soundly and for longer periods through the night. Now doesn’t that sound tempting. 3. Babies who self soothe learn to fall asleep on their own faster. 4. Babies who self soothe are better equipped to cope with changes like starting day care or play school. 5. It disturbs your sleep. Picking up a crying baby, soothing him and then putting him back to bed without him waking up, phew that is quite a task! And it takes up quite some time. 6. Less sleep is directly proportional to a cranky you. Each person needs their basic bare minimum sleep time. Yes even if you are super mom or super dad! (Though if you have a husband who wakes up to soothe the baby, I am super envious of you!)


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Now how can you help your child self-soothe?1.Get HelpExplain to everyone at home the need to let your baby learn to self-soothe. If someone else is just going to go ahead and pick him up to soothe him, then it is not going to work anyways right?2. Have Nerves of SteelSteel up your nerves and those of others at home, initially it is going to be gut-wrenching to see your baby cry and do nothing about it. Be patient, it will be worth it!3. Time it rightBegin between 3 – 6 months age. No point pushing your baby too early or waiting for too long. Children during this stage are usually ready to learn to self-soothe and do so more easily.4. Maintain a RoutineHave a routine and stick to it! A consistent bed time schedule helps your baby to self soothe himself to sleep and thus also when he wakes up in the middle of the night.5. Sleep time RitualsFollow a nice and consistent sleep time ritual. It programs the child’s biological clock and helps them soothe themselves and fall asleep. Take your pick between baths to massages to story time to plain simple cuddle time!6. Know when to put him downAlways put your baby on the bed when he is drowsy and not fully asleep. This allows him to take that last little step all on his own and thus learn the art of self soothing faster.7. Tired enoughDo not wait for the child to be over tired before falling asleep. This will make it tougher for him to fall asleep on his own.8. Be PatientGive your baby time. It is not going to happen over night, so don’t push him. Let him set his own pace and you just fall into the same rhythm.9. Know when to Back offEach child is unique. He will learn and adapt at a pace most convenient. If not ready, take a break for a day or two or maybe a week and try coaxing them to self-soothe again.10. Be positiveIt may seem to be taking forever for your baby to self-soothe. Do not worry. Though there is no scientific basis to this but I find children tend to mirror the parent’s emotions. Your positivity is bound to rub off on the little one and his efforts.  And if all else fails, just pick him and cuddle him and soothe him. Like my aunt always says, ever heard of a college going boy going to sleep on his mum’s lap each night?So make the most of cuddling those little bundles when you can because they sure do grow up fast, don’t they?