Self settling is not the same as self soothing

How many times have you read about teaching your child to “self soothe”?

It’s become such common sleep jargon that parents reach out to me genuinely concerned they’ve done 𝘸𝘳𝘰𝘯𝘨 by their baby if they haven’t somehow “taught” them to self soothe. β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €
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Truth is, self soothing is FAKE NEWS.β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €
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Babies and young children are incapable down regulating from a place of stress. The concept of “self soothing” should really just be called “self protecting”, because that’s what is happening. Babies are left alone to cry, their system is completely overwhelmed, and they eventually shut down and fall asleep to protect themselves from further stress. They haven’t been “soothed” in any way. In fact, the opposite is true.β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €
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Now let’s talk about self settling. Self settling is possible when babies can get to sleep, or get back to sleep, when their needs have been met (both physically and emotionally), they are already calm, and they feel safe and secure. There is no downregulation happening with self settling, because they are not experiencing a heightened state of stress. If they were feeling any distress, they would need a caregiver to co-regulate and bring them back to equilibrium. β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €
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Self settling can’t be taught, it has to be experienced when all other necessary conditions have been met. β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €
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And – the only thing that “self soothing” teaches babies is that they can’t rely on others when they are in need. They must protect themselves from further distress by shutting down – and the best way to do this is to go to sleep. β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €β €
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So does teaching “self soothing” and using sleep training work? For some babies the answer is yes. But the more critical question is – at what cost?

Cayla

Cayla

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