Earlier this week I uploaded this ladder onto my instagram and facebook page, relating to the different types of intervention needed until children are able to self settle. I have elaborated on each step of the ladder. Read from the bottom to the top for some more information and tips on how to get closer to having a baby and child who can settle themselves!
Self soothing and ability to re-settle
Self soothing is seen when babies and children are able to put themselves to sleep and are able to link their sleep cycles without needing assistance or reassurance of any sort. After their wind-down routine before bed, your child is now able to be put into their cot or bed and drift off to sleep on their own. Between their sleep cycles, if they are waking for a short amount of time then they are able to get themselves back to sleep.
Your child has nearly climbed to the top of the ladder. They are now only needing a bit of voice reassurance from someone, and this is enough for them to feel safe and secure and be able to drift off to sleep themselves. To try and exclude the need of a voice reassurance, if your child is needing to hear your voice then do so, however stay out of sight, and be very limited with how much you say. I would suggest standing in the hallway, keeping all of the lights off, and only making a soft ‘shhh’ noise, but only for a few seconds, just enough so that your child can hear you and know you are near.
Voice reassurance and presence
You are no longer needing to touch your baby or child, as your presence and voice reassurance is enough for them to feel safe and to drift off to sleep. Begin to get further away from the cot/bed side, so they aren’t needing to rely on you being right there for them.
Occasional contact, voice reassurance and presence
Your child is now no longer needing constant contact, only occasionally. You are using your voice to reassure them that you are present and there for them. You may be saying ‘shhhh’ over and over again or ‘mmmm’. At this state you are really wanting to eliminate the need of touch as reassurance, so use your voice more.
Constant contact (patting, rubbing)
You are now able to settle your child for a sleep while they lay in their cot or bed the entire time. They may need their tummy or back rubbed, or they may enjoy the motion of being patted. You are giving them constant contact, so that they are able to know you are always there. They then drift off to sleep with the feeling of motion movement in their bed. Rather than having constant contact with your child, make this less regular so they are relying more on your voice reassurance.
Holding, feeding, motion movements until drowsy
Your child now has the skill of putting themselves to sleep once they have been put into their cot or bed peacefully and while drowsy. They are still needing some assistance, however they are beginning to develop some settling abilities. Instead of doing those motion movements with them in your arms, lay them in their cot or bed after their wind down routine and give them that constant contact however resist from getting them out and picking them up.
Holding, feeding, motion movements to sleep
At the moment you are fully assisting your child to sleep. This may be by holding them in your arms, feeding them, or rocking them until they are asleep. The next part is the hard part - transitioning them into their cot or bed without waking them! It can take up to 20 minutes for babies to fall into a deep sleep, so this often leaves parents having unsuccessful transitions, resulting in them needing to get them back asleep numerous time. Children have not yet developed the skills to self settle and they are therefore needing help to fall asleep. Instead of feeding/holding/rocking them until they are asleep, do so until they are relaxed and drowsy, and then put them into their cot or bed so that they are having to do that last bit by themselves to fall asleep.