The diagram above, depicts the hierarchy of self soothing. It is a valuable tool to refer to when teaching your child to sleep independently.
What is Independent Sleep?
Not only is it every parent’s dream, but a good night’s sleep is a physiological necessity for themselves as well as their child. Sleep is just as essential for human growth and development as food and love. As your baby gets older, your baby will learn to consolidate sleep and sleep for longer stretches, especially at night. Your baby will eventually learn to sleep independently, which means he or she will be able to settle to sleep without your help, as well as resettle back to sleep after waking during the night. When your baby is developmentally ready, usually after around four months of age, you can begin to ‘back off’ the assistance you give at sleep time and give your baby more and more space to learn to settle him or herself to sleep. It is only natural that as parents, we want to jump in to help our children any way we can, but sometimes ‘less is more’. Once your baby knows how settle to sleep independently, your baby will not only sleep better, but will feel less frustrated and much happier in general.
What are we trying to achieve?
The aim is for our baby to learn how to self settle or self-soothe for sleep, as well as go back to sleep after waking. The diagram above shows the order in which we want to be moving when teaching this skill, from the bottom to the top. Many newborns will be soothed as per the very lowest tier and sometimes, depending on the circumstances, we will be starting somewhere in the middle. The main thing is that we don’t want to go back down the hierarchy. For example, if you have reached a point where voice and proximity is all your baby needs to go to sleep independently, you would not go back to touching your baby the next night if baby was a bit unsettled. You would have faith in your baby that he or she has learned to get to sleep with just your voice and proximity as your baby has shown you already that he or she can.