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Let's clear up this self setting VS self soothing debacle

Updated: May 4, 2022

This conversation is highly contentious and can cause a lot of confusion.
Some use self soothing meaning self settling.
Some say true self soothing is possible when it's not.
Some get confused and think neither are possible.
So let's break this down.

Self soothing

The ability to regulate one's emotions from a heightened state of emotion or dysregulation down to a true state of calm.

This is literally not possible for infants.

The part of our brains responsible for this type of process is the last to develop.

Little one's respond naturally from their emotional brain and for them to truly calm down they need external soothing and calm from a caregiver.

By this happening time and time again, and having their needs responsively met, they will develop the skills to effectively self regulate themselves and true independence is fostered.

Self settling

The ability to fall asleep independently.

This isn't a skill to be taught.

This happens when a little one has/is -

  • A mellow temperament (when older, some with less mellow temperaments build up comfort around this too).

  • Had all of their needs met (comfort is a valid need).

  • An environment that feels safe and calm.

  • In a state of true calm.

Some little one's simply need more support and reassurance than others. This has zero to do with you doing something right or wrong. It is solely temperament based.

Does sleep training teach self soothing?


And no again.

A little who is left to cry, who then stops crying, hasn't learnt to self soothe.

Self soothing is never taught by them being left on their own with a big emotion.

Some little one's have soothing behaviours such as thumb sucking, but this wouldn't soothe them from a heightened state of upset alone.

So to conclude

Self soothing - Impossible.

Self settling - Possible, but totally temperament and time based.

So if someone tells you they can teach your child your child to self soothe please be wary.

If you child needs assistance to get to sleep, please know this isn't your making.

You didn't spoil them or make them that way.

It's just who they are and you make them feel safe.

As always, if you are worried about anything and are struggling then hop over to my contact me page and drop me a message and we can discuss working together to make any changes you need. Or have a look at my packages to see what I offer.

For daily hints and tips, follow me on Instagram @secondstartotheright_sleep or Facebook @secondstartotherightsleep.

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