Settling techniques

Babies and settling techniques

It is a common question, even from complete strangers – “have you got your baby into a routine yet?”

For some reason there is an obsession for having these completely dependent wee beings fit into a routine, and often it is one that the parents or caregivers want rather than what is best for their baby.

Routine really is such a hard word to live up to.  Best advice, go to your Oxford Dictionary, cross out the word ‘routine’, and start to watch and enjoy your baby.  You’ll find that by relaxing and going with the flow, your baby will fall into a beautiful routine all on their own.  It will be one that is individualised for your little baby and perfectly designed to ensure baby thrives.

What is useful though are patterns, rather than routines.  If you have a regular pattern every time baby is put to bed then baby tends to respond accordingly.  It might be a song you always sing to your baby before settling to bed, a head massage, or book you read (babies are never too young to be read to). 

Tired signs are important to take note of too. Your baby will let you know when they are tired by showing a tired sign.  They’re exactly the same tired signs that adults show: a fixed stare, become fidgety, stinging eyes that need rubbing, facial grimace and lastly grizzling.  If you can learn your baby’s tired signs, you’ll have greater success getting baby into bed when they are at their peak of tiredness.  Please note however, that even these don’t work 100% of the time, but if it does for 60%, then you’re doing exceptionally well. 

Babies have twice as much REM sleep than adults.  This means that during a sleep cycle they will wake lightly and possibly grizzle or gurgle a little then put themselves back to sleep.  This is normal, however if the grizzle becomes a cry and baby doesn’t self-sooth within a few minutes then baby needs a cuddle and re-settling. 

From much research, we know that leaving a baby to cry to sleep damages neuronal interconnections.  Excessive cortisol (a hormone released in response to stress) kills neurons, which are essential as the baby is undergoing rapid brain growth in the first 3 years of life. 

Leaving a baby to cry it out is sometimes a method that parents use to force independence on their baby.  Again extensive research shows that giving babies what they need leads to greater independence later.  A caregiver who regularly responds to the needs of a baby before the baby gets distressed are more likely to have children who are independent, have strong social skills and are generally more content.  For a baby, being secure in the knowledge that mum or dad will respond if they need them enhances their security and independence, therefore making them feel relaxed.

However perhaps you’ve missed those tired signs or for some reason baby isn’t managing to settle well, here are a few things you could try:

  • Rock and cuddle your baby
  • Sing, talk, or sssssh in a soothing tone.
  • Check baby’s temperature and adjust appropriately
  • Give baby a deep relaxing bath
  • Take your baby with you into the shower or bath
  • Go for a walk or drive in the car
  • Feed baby
  • White noise – vacuum cleaner, radio slightly off station – there is even an app on your smartphone!
  • Massage
  • Seek professional advice if baby appears unwell or you have any concerns at all
  • If you’re getting upset, either give your baby to someone else to cuddle while you calm down, or if on your own, place baby somewhere safe and take 2 minutes to gather yourself and relax then go back to baby.  Baby will pick up on your stress.

There are rows of ‘baby books’ but you’ll probably find that only a couple of chapters per book will fit with the individual needs of your baby – however the best book you could possibly read is to read your baby.

For more information check out the resources here:

These settling techniques come from our ‘Ask a Childbirth Educator’ series of questions from members, March 2014


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