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Self-soothing secrets: How to get baby to sleep + your family to rest

Need more sleep? (Don't we all?) This sleep technique may work for your family.

how to teach baby to self soothe

Self-soothing at a basic level is the art (and science) of teaching your child how to put themselves to sleep. But it's also a final stage in a process of helping the whole family to get their zzz's.

No matter your child's age, current sleeping situation or your parenting philosophies and beliefs, you can and should teach your child this very important skill that will prepare them for a lifetime of good sleep.

Here's how to teach your baby self-soothing:

Step 1: Start from the beginning.

well rested baby self soothing

Instagram/Well Rested Baby

Most people think of sleep training simply as the task of teaching a child self-soothing skills, but that is not the case.

There are five elements of healthy sleep, the fifth being the ability to self-soothe. If the other four are not in place, a child will have a very hard time learning this skill. Therefore, it is crucial to lay the foundation that will make this seemingly daunting task much easier on all.

The first four elements of healthy sleep are:

1. Provide a consistent place to sleep.

2. Create a consistent pre-sleep routine.

3. Ensure that your child's nap schedule is age appropriate and follows their body's circadian rhythms.

4. A bedtime that happens before your child can become overtired.

With these four elements in place, your child will have a much easier (and faster!) time mastering the art of self-soothing.

Step 2: Create a plan to learn self-soothing.

well rested baby self soothing

Instagram/Well Rested Baby

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Successful self-soothing means that baby (or child) can both put himself down to sleep and calm himself if he rouses during the night.

Teaching self-soothing is one of the most fraught topics in new motherhood, but I believe in a straightforward approach that allows families to make the right decision for themselves.

Talk with your partner.

Sit down with your partner and anyone else who is highly involved in your child's sleep to come up with a solid plan that everyone can follow.

Be consistent.

Our children learn what we expect from our consistent example, so the key is choosing a method to teach self-soothing that everyone is comfortable with and can follow at anytime—even in the wee hours of the morning or alone during a stressful long afternoon.

Make sure everyone is on board.

If Grandma watches your little one for all naps and will never ever allow him to cry alone, then take that into account and choose a gentle method that she can consistently implement.

Consider sleep props.

Don't forget to take sleep props like the breast or a special blanket into account. For example, if your baby currently nurses to sleep, you will need to move nursing to the very beginning of your pre-sleep routine so that your child can learn to fall asleep on his own without the breast.

Or if your little one relies heavily on a pacifier, you can give it to him at the beginning of naps and the beginning of bedtime, but after that you cannot replace it or you will be stuck replacing it all night long.

Older kids can have sleep props, too. For example, will your toddler only go back to sleep if you give him a drink of water? Decide how to handle it and include it in the plan, too.

Know where to start.

Are you ready to just get it done and are you okay with some tears? Or do you know that your presence just makes your child angrier? Then check out the "Extinction" or "Ferber" methods, which some call the "cry-it-out method."

Not okay with your child learning this skill on his own? Then for your family, I suggest searching for gentle methods like "The Chair," "Pick-Up/Put Down" or "Camping Out" methods.

Any of these tactics will work; the key is picking the one that you know you can carry out with absolute consistency, as that is what your child needs in order to learn.

Note: Writing it all down tends to help keep everyone on track and accountable.

From the Shop

For when everyone in your home could use a little more sleep.

Step 3: Put your plan in motion.

well rested baby self soothing

Instagram/Well Rested Baby

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Once you have figured out what you will do for the fifth and last element of healthy sleep—self-soothing skills—add in the first four elements to your plan and then go for it.

Start at bedtime.

It is best to start your new plan at bedtime, as that is the easiest time for a child to learn a new routine and then continue the next day with nap time.

Be positive.

Our children feed off our energy, negative or positive. As your child will be able to pick up on your mood and demeanor at sleep times, try to outwardly exude as much confidence as you can. If you are confident and upbeat about this new routine, your child is apt to be confident too!

Be patient.

Remember that consistency is the most important part, as it is what will enable your child to be successful. Be patient and do not give up too easily.

It takes time.

It takes most children two full weeks to learn a new sleep routine, which makes sense. They had months (or even years!) to learn the old way of doing things. With all five of these elements in place, your child will soon establish great sleep hygiene. (Promise!)

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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

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My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

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Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

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