Responsive Settling

Responsive Settling

Written by One Mama Midwife

Comfort Items From Birth and The Dummy Debate

Should I put my baby into a routine? When should I sleep train my baby? How do I get my baby to sleep?

These are all common questions for new parents and there is a lot of talk around having your baby in a routine and sleep training which can all seem daunting and confusing for new parents. Firstly, you do not have to ever sleep train your baby if what you are doing is working for you, then you can continue how things are. If your current sleeping arrangements aren’t working for you, you can try some new techniques and see if this helps. It is also important to start with a disclaimer that it is biologically normal for a baby under 12 months to wake overnight for nutrition, development, comfort, support and for their own protection especially against SIDS.

Responsive settling is one technique that has been shown to help babies learn to fall asleep with the love and support of their caregiver. This means that no baby is left to ‘cry it out’ in their beds. The ‘cry it out’ method refers to putting your baby in the bed, walking out and closing the door allowing them to cry until they fall asleep. It is important not to leave babies to ‘cry it out’ as it can be psychologically damaging to the baby as well as to the infant-caregiver attachment.

Responsive settling refers to responding positively to your baby’s needs as you help them fall asleep. It can involve feeding, rocking, patting or shushing your baby off to sleep. For other babies this may simply be sitting in the room with your baby while they fall asleep. I know what you’re thinking, “but if I sit in the room with my baby then they’re never going to learn how to fall asleep on their own”. But it is actually the opposite!! Responsive settling has been shown to provide your baby with security, love and safety therefore giving them the confidence to develop independence and eventually fall asleep on their own. Sleep is a skill that babies have to learn and by being present with your baby, you are able to help them learn this new skill in a positive way. Eventually, you will notice that your baby needs less and less settling as they get older and learn the art of falling asleep on their own. This will translate to both daytime naps as well as night sleeps.

Ways that you can responsively settle your baby:
- Create a calming bedtime ritual (bath, massage, book, feed, bed)
- Rock your baby in your arms
- Pat your baby through the side of the cot
- Sit next to your baby and verbally reassure your baby
- Shush your baby
- Use your Riff Raff Sleep Toy as white noise to help calm and relax your baby ready for bed. This can also be a good signal to your baby that it is bedtime.

A little trick that I was taught that always works is, once you think you’ve got your baby asleep… keep doing whatever it is you’re doing for another 10-15 minutes before making your escape from the room. That way your baby will be in a deep sleep and will be less likely to wake up.

So, to answer your question, is rocking or feeding your baby to sleep going to create a bad habit? No!! You are not creating a bad habit by responding to your baby’s needs. You are however, creating a securely attached infant with the confidence to explore the world, learn and eventually feel safe enough to fall asleep independently.

Next time someone is telling you that you are creating a bad habit, just gently remind them that you are responding to your baby’s needs and this could never be a bad habit.