Self-settling – The Crying Game

Self-settling: it’s a contentious issue. It is defined as a baby’s ability to fall asleep without assistance.

After starting out in the anti-crying baby camp, I now understand that self-settling isn’t a crying issue, it is a sleep issue. My experience as a battle-hardened mum of two has taught me that one of the first and most important things that you need to teach your baby is how to fall asleep on their own: this will inevitably involve some screaming.

I believe that the new-age, child-centered-parenting pundits have falsely led us to think that we should be at the immediate beck on call of our crying baby and not doing so will cause them irreparable psychological or emotional damage. As a new parent, it is easy to find this viewpoint convincing – trust me, I’ve been there.

In the beginning, I found my first child Alisha’s cries gut-wrenching. I was getting up 4 – 8 times during the night to nurse her back to sleep since no amount of rocking or anything else I tried would calm my crying baby. Even though I knew she wasn’t hungry, I was so exhausted I just kept doing what worked.

I started reading all of the best-selling baby books, trying all the different no cry self-settling methods, but to no avail.  When Alisha reached 4-months of age, my husband Dan said enough’s enough. He put her down her morning nap sleepy but awake and sat beside the cot. Alisha protested (very loudly) for 40 minutes before finally falling asleep. Dan did the same for her afternoon nap and it took only 15 minutes before she settled herself. By nighttime, Alisha was self-settling in less than 5 minutes.

My once hourly crying baby only woke twice that night to feed and settled herself back to sleep afterwards within a few minutes. From this point onwards, she began having two solid 2-hour naps during the day and only wake once a night. After a month she was sleeping through the night.

Once my milk came after the birth of my second child Sara, I began routine feeding and leaving her to fall asleep by herself. Within a couple of days she was feeding and sleeping like clockwork and self-settling in less than 2-3 minutes.  By 10 weeks old, Sara was sleeping through the night. She even falls asleep without any fuss at her routine times when we are out and about.

Moral of the story is crying baby in the short-term makes for a more settled, well-rested child in the long term. I do not advocate controlled crying.  I think you need to stay with your baby so that they know that you are there while they figure out how to fall asleep without your help.

Listening to a crying baby is hard, but teaching your little one to self-settle is something you need to do for your sake and for theirs.