Can “self Soothing” Harm Your Baby?

Can “self soothing” harm your baby?

“She cries a lot. She’s really fussy.”

A new mom was in the store this week with her 6 week old baby.

The baby was in her stroller and crying bitterly.

I mentioned that we had a nursing room. “Oh she’s already fed” said the mom.

Mom seemed genuinely distressed at her baby’s crying.

I offered that I was a Lactation Consultant and might have some ideas to help with the fussiness.

She jumped at the idea. I directed her and baby to the store nursing room.

As soon as she picked up her baby, she stopped crying.

“She seems to really like it when you hold her”.

“I know” she said, “But my mom told me that I have to train her to “self soothe”.

“Self soothing” has become one of the latest buzzwords in baby care. It’s supposed to make babies independent and not rely on their parents for comforting.

This is supposed to be a good thing.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m distressed, or lonely, I’ll usually choose to talk things through with a friend.

When my kids were young, they would wake me up in the middle of the night worried and upset, and then they’d snuggle up for comfort.

It’s “soothing”.

As an adult, if there isn’t anyone you can reach out to, some will eventually “self soothe”.

Among the most popular “self soothers” for adults are drugs, alcohol, compulsive eating, and mindlessly watching TV.

As a society, many tend to go for these self destructive approaches.

Yet, there are definitely healthier ways to handle stress. As adults, there is something about destructive “self soothing” that rarely feels right to us.

But what about your baby?

Babies are absolutely, totally and completely dependent.

When they are distressed and crying, they need comfort and support.

Forcing them to cry themselves to quiet – because they are exhausted and have given up – does not teach independence.

It teaches detachment, and that the world is an unreliable, uncaring place.

It also overstimulates the stress centres in their brains and makes them more prone to depression and aggression when they are older.

Is that really what you want for your baby?

Most mothers find that when their babies cry, they instinctively want to go to them, pick them up, nurse them, rock them, walk with them, sing to them – anything to make them feel better.

I told the young mom in the store that she should feel free to pick up and hold her baby.

She was so relieved.

She had been under pressure to ignore her baby’s cries and it deeply distressed her. She truly loved her baby and wanted her baby to be happy.

“Self soothing” as a trend, will probably fade away, as so many other trends have.

As I always say to moms, and this is timeless advice you’ll hear me say over and over…

“Listen to your baby, and listen to you heart”.

In time, this will become easier. And in time, you’ll gain confidence as a mom.

Judy Banfield

I’m Judy Banfield and I’m here to help you feel better about yourself as a person and more confident and secure as a parent.

In my 30+ years of working with babies, young children and parents, I have learned that valuing and treasuring and deeply knowing yourself gives you the foundation to more confidently and joyfully, love, treasure, teach and guide your children.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. I work in an elementary school and was in a conference this week a gentleman by the name of Dr. Mato was speaking about the evidence that self soothing does not work and that it fact it has the complete opposit effect and that it actually cause the baby to feel abondon. He used the example of them crying when it is bed time and the mother not picking the baby up due to letting the baby self soothe and that the baby only stops crying as it exhaust it’s self because of delepting it’s self of glucose. Which is what fuels our body. And instead of being soothed the baby actually is losing is primary attachment to its mother because it is feeling abandoned instead of comforted.

    1. Hi Shannon,

      I just realized that I hadn’t responded to you. I was intrigued by what Dr. Mato had to say and spent a long time online trying to find her or him. I was not successful. I would love to know more about that research and if you have any references, please send them my way. I am glad this information is getting out there. Maybe it will help us have a more caring and compassionate population!

      Thanks for commenting, and again, my apologies for not getting back to you sooner.


  2. So well written Judy. I have tears in my eyes reading this, thinking of how a baby must feel when someone doesn’t come to them. 🙁

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