Baby Self Soothing Activities Birth to Three Months
“Help! How can I teach my baby to self sooth” cried every mother 3 weeks into parenting while she desperately wants to shower, eat a hot meal and drink her coffee before it goes cold.
Having been there, twice now, with my own babies I am here to tell you that anxious and often desperate feeling for your baby to start learning a few independent skills is completely normal! And the good news is that babies, yes, even newborns are born with the ability to begin self soothing if we set them up for success!
Babies are all born with early and independent ways to help them self sooth. This begins in utero with babies bringing their hands to their face and sucking on their fingers. Pretty cool right?
But out in the world, babies will continue to strengthen these habits as they learn to utilize these skills in a wider array of circumstances.
While babies are born with the skills, they often and easily become overwhelmed in the world and are unable to access these skills when needed.
If we know how and when to step in, we can help our babies self sooth and strengthen their skills. Because just like anything else, self soothing takes practice and building the motor skills necessary to do these activities independently takes time.
Baby self soothing activity number one: Hands to their face
Any time we are mimicking the ‘fetal’ position and tucking up a babies arms & legs towards their chest it will help them regulate and calm. This is why swaddling works so well (more on that later!) Creating a firm boundary with our own hands while we support a baby into calming positions helps them internally regulate and self sooth.
Specifically, getting both hands up to their face – think towards their cheeks – will be incredibly helpful
Later, when your baby gets a bit older, this self soothing skill might start evolve into your baby rubbing their ears, pulling on their hair, rubbing their eyes, rotating their head back and forth or putting their hands up above their head. All can be more advanced self soothing skills your baby will learn as they grow
Baby self soothing activity number two: Tapping into the sucking reflex
Babies all begin learning to suck on their fingers in utero as a way of practicing feeding and self soothing. They cannot control their sucking reflex and often crave this interaction as an activity to help them self sooth and regulate from day one of their journey.
You can encourage this form of self soothing a few different ways:
1. Bring assisting their own hands towards their mouths to suck on their fingers
2. Provide your own finger
3. Providing a pacifier
Mom’s will often encounter this self soothing technique following a feeding when the baby is no longer eating, but still sucking gently on the breast or bottle. Your baby is self soothing and often times using it to help themselves get to sleep or stay asleep
Baby self soothing activity number three: Side lying position
Remember that hands to face we just talked about? Well, let's take is a step further and help your baby lay on their side while soothing.
When babies lay on their side, it will help them naturally bring all of their weight and energy towards the middle of their bodies.
Side lying is a lovely position for self regulation as babies can more easily get their hands to their face, tuck up their legs and have lovely contact with the floor.
On their sides, you baby does not have to fight gravity or work nearly as hard and will more naturally fall into this comforting position.
Side lying should only be done when you are supervising your baby and they are away. Never during sleep!
Babies should practice safe sleep and be placed on their backs!.
Lastly, one very common question I hear from moms is “how can I help my baby self sooth while they are swaddled?”
The answer? Make sure their hands and close to their face when you swaddle. Now, is this going to make your swaddle as effective? No. Your baby will be more likely to escape at some point before the next feed. However, will this technique help your baby keep their hands close to their face for self soothing when they cannot yet manage on their own while sleeping? Absolutely.
Baby self soothing activity number four: Tummy time chest to chest
Now, this is not the moment when I recount all the millions of reasons why babies should be doing tummy time from day 1. Rather, this is just another opportunity for me to brag about the benefits of this glorious position and yes, early baby self soothing is one of them!
When your baby is snuggling in chest to chest, you might notice they seem to rub their face, back and forth into your neck or chest. This pressure and repeated motion is actually a form of self regulation as your baby as many sensory nerves surrounding their cheeks, nose and mouth they are attempting to access and calm.
While we want our babies to practice lifting their heads, we also can use this opportunity for them to practice some self soothing and regulating!
I always say “babies are not born hating their tummies, most of the time” and this self soothing activity is one of those reasons why. They have a very strong drive for pressure to their face, nose & mouth to help them self sooth and tummy time chest to chest provides some lovely opportunities to practice.
If your baby IS hating their tummy or you are feeling lost how to help your baby learn to become a tummy time master – check out my free 10 day program on how to master tummy time with no tears! Click the link below to snag your spot!
There ya go – My top 4 baby self soothing activities to encourage independence with your little one