I wanted to share this reader comment on my original post about self-soothing. What she says about the struggles she went through trying to fit conventional expert wisdom with her own experience is a perfect example of why I feel so strongly that the notion of self-soothing (as it is used by most child sleep pundits) needs to be challenged. I could elaborate but I think this mom expresses it very well.
Here’s the comment:
“THANK YOU! I love love love this post. This makes so much sense. I’m a first time mum and a self-confessed geek and have spent insane amounts of time reading about everything baby on websites, books, articles, you name it. The concept of self-soothing is all too often mentioned but never explained, and I simply could not figure out how it all worked.
Example; for the first four weeks of my son’s life he was a very drowsy baby requiring no assistance to sleep at all. Then he went through a mental leap and suddenly he was a lot more awake and interested in the world around him – it was around this stage he started getting harder to put to sleep. He is now 12 weeks and will drift off to sleep with no help for his morning nap, but needs more and more assistance as the day goes on, with lots of cuddles, rocking and patting when going to sleep at night. I was totally confused. How can he be able to self-soothe in one instance and not another? Was he born with the ability to self-soothe and somehow lose it at 4 weeks? What???
The few details about what self-soothing really is are decidedly sparse and conflicting. Some books say babies develop this “ability” around six months, others say three, others 4.5 months, but the general consensus is 3-6 months. But then if you believe in this concept, the ability to self-soothe comes across as a natural developmental milestone, much like rolling over, walking, talking, etc. which everyone seems to agree that babies develop in their own time and the margins for normal are quite vast (eg. my nephew didn’t start talking till about 3-4 years of age). But then why are we putting so much pressure on babies to magically have it as soon as they turn six months?
I’ve also heard that thumb/fist/finger sucking is one of the ways that babies self-soothe. But some babies do this in utero and still can’t put themselves to sleep after they are born (I am thinking of one of my friend’s babies here).
Nothing I read about this before made any sense and couldn’t be applied to my son. This post actually resonates with my experiences and what I know, and it just simply makes sense. I feel like I get it now.”
I wish I could get the “sleep experts” who tell parents that six-month-old babies can “self-soothe” to read this post. Then they might understand that need to be a lot more careful about they say to parents about babies and sleep.