Common Principles

Here are a few of steps you can take to encourage self-settling:

  • Provide opportunities for your child to fall asleep in his or her sleep space.
  • When your child cries, wait and listen before intervening (if you have to intervene).
  • Try to settle your child in his or her sleep space before moving to more involved comforting methods.  

These principles are likely to take a long time to work, and initially you may find that your child is unable to settle alone, will cry on and on until you come, and won’t calm at all when you attempt in-cot settling. This is perfectly normal. It is important to continue to provide the opportunities, wait, and attempt in-cot settling, because as your child matures, his or her responses and ability to self settle will change. Always monitor the type of cry, and respond if your child starts becoming distressed. You may not feel it, but you are becoming the expert on your child’s cries, trust yourself to know when and how you need to respond.

Also try not to stress over these principles, you have enough pressure on you as it is. Provide opportunities when it suits you, and when you think there is a chance your child might settle. Don’t expect your child to self-settle, expect to have to resort to plan B, but give plan A a chance when it suits you. This is a marathon, not a sprint. For further discussion of this, please listen to my first podcast:

Research Basis: In a study of 80 infants, babies were more likely to self soothe at 12 months if their parents waited longer before intervening at 3 months, and spent a decreasing amount of time holding their child at night throughout the first year (Burnham 2002).

Self settling is a skill that takes time to develop. Like many skills it will develop slowly, become easier as your child gets older, and benefit from practice. Whatever technique you choose, please try to be responsive and consistent to your child. See this post for details.

Please add your experiences with these principles in the comments below. Let us know how long you tried it it for. Please provide the age of your child when you tried it. If it worked, please share the effects you saw. If it didn’t work, why do you think it didn’t work in your case?


  1. Nicole Weeks

    “Once she knew how to self settle it reduced the night waking from every hour to 2-3 per night.” (Mother of 14 month old Girl tried this for about 35 weeks and found it did help)

  2. Nicole Weeks

    “Baby needs his own time and space” (Mother of 7 month old Boy tried this for about 8 weeks and found it did help)

  3. Nicole Weeks

    “Before settling in the cot & waiting to give opportunities to settle my son would take hours to settle both for day and night sleeps. We spent time at a parenting hospital learning these skills and they were LIFE CHANGING. My son goes to sleep well on his own now, although doesn’t stay asleep well.” (Mother of 6 month old Boy tried this for about 12 weeks and found it did help)

  4. Nicole Weeks

    “We used to have a lot more night wake ups than we do now.” (Mother of 13 month old Girl tried this for about 26 weeks and found it did help – still gets woken about 3 times a night).

  5. Nicole Weeks

    “It worked when she was younger but it seems be become less effective as she gets older. No dummy, changing sleeping environments, trying to ween her of night feeds and we also stopped swaddling her means previous sleep associations and aids have been removed. Why are night time sleeps so much harder than day time? We use same some and routine.” (Mother of 8 month old Girl tried this for about 12 weeks and found it didn’t help)

  6. Nicole Weeks

    “I’ve always waited & listened before responding. In-cot settling stops her crying, but ensures she wakes fully. She will stay in cot awake for a bit & sometimes amuses herself, but then cries & escalates & has never fallen asleep again. I do put her in cot or chair to self-settle & she’ll amuse herself for a bit, then escalate until I feed / rock her to sleep.” (Mother of 7 month old Girl tried this for about 3 weeks and found it didn’t help)


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