November 17, 2022/Children's Health

6 Ways To Help Your Baby Self-Soothe and Find Calm

Use a naptime schedule and relaxing sounds to encourage self-soothing

Baby sleeping on back sucking on pacifier.

It’s naptime — thank goodness. But your baby isn’t having it. They cry. They fuss. So, you bounce them, rock them or even drive around town until they fall asleep.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

It’s the question on the top of your mind (and you’re not alone): When — and how — will my baby learn to self-soothe and calm down without so much effort?

Pediatrician Matthew Badgett, MD, answers this important question, and shares ways to help your baby learn to self-soothe.

Why is self-soothing important?

When your baby self-soothes, they can calm down on their own and they:

  • Fall asleep without your help.
  • Fall back asleep if they wake up in the middle of a nap or during the night.
  • Sit or play calmly by themselves.

But self-soothing isn’t just for little ones. It’s an important skill throughout your life. Whether you realize it or not, you use your own self-soothing methods to feel better when you’re stressed or anxious.

“Self-soothing is a way of regulating your emotions,” Dr. Badgett explains. “Babies might suck their thumb or hold a stuffed animal. Adults might listen to music, take a walk or do yoga. The type of self-soothing you use changes throughout your life, but it’s a key part of your emotional health.”

When can my baby learn to self-soothe?

Every exhausted parent wants to know: When will my baby lie in their crib and drift off to sleep without my help? Or When can I put them in their bouncy seat for five minutes without screams of protest?

“In general, don’t try to teach your baby to self-soothe before they are 3 months old,” advises Dr. Badgett. “Newborns need you to help soothe them because they don’t have the ability to control their emotions. Learning emotional control is a process that takes years, so don’t expect too much from an infant or toddler.”

And self-soothing is a gradual process — not a switch you can flip. “Self-soothing is really co-soothing because the parent is still involved,” says Dr. Badgett. “Your baby plays a more active role in soothing, but you set them up for success. You figure out how your baby can calm down with less of your help.”

Self-soothing tips and techniques

If your baby is past the newborn stage but still cries relentlessly when you put them down, there is hope. These tips can help your baby gain self-soothing skills:

1. Meet your baby’s needs first

Before you assume that your baby is just cranky, review their list of needs. Your baby won’t be able to self-soothe if:

  • Their diaper is wet or soiled.
  • Their clothing is too hot or too cold for the environment.
  • There are too many distractions in the room, like a noisy TV or other children.
  • They have gas or need to be burped.
  • They’re hungry or thirsty.
  • They’re overtired.


After you’ve ruled out those issues, move on to the next steps.

2. Set a schedule

Babies love routine. Try to put your baby to bed at the same time every day. Don’t skip naps or keep your baby up late. A schedule keeps them from becoming overtired — that’s when any hope of self-soothing goes out the window.

“If your baby goes to bed at the same times each day, their body clock will get used to it,” Dr. Badgett notes. “Then, they will start to feel sleepy right at naptime or bedtime. Babies that are drowsy, but not exhausted, are better able to fall asleep on their own.”

3. Use white noise

The sound of a fan or a white noise machine can be music to your baby’s ears. “Many babies prefer a steady sound over a perfectly quiet room,” Dr. Badgett says. “It helps drown out other sounds that could startle them, and it has a calming effect.”

Turn on the white noise machine when it’s bedtime. This can serve as a cue for your baby to learn when it’s time for dreamland.

4. Stay close without picking them up

After you place your baby in their crib or seat, don’t leave right away.

“If you give your baby some attention without holding them, they learn that being put down isn’t a bad thing,” Dr. Badgett explains. “Talk to them, or gently put your hand on their belly. After a few minutes, calmly leave the room.”

5. Try a pacifier

Pacifiers are a useful tool for babies under the age of 1. But use caution. It can be hard to take the paci away from a baby who can’t calm down without it.

“Pacifiers help young babies learn to self-soothe before they learn other techniques,” Dr. Badgett says. “But limit pacifier use to naptime and bedtime. Use them with other methods, like white noise and a consistent routine. That way, your baby won’t learn to rely on the pacifier alone.”

6. Wean them off feeding to sleep

It’s normal for young babies to fall asleep at the bottle or breast. But as your baby grows, they need to learn other ways to drift off.

“Don’t feed your older baby right at naptime with the sole purpose of getting them to sleep,” Dr. Badgett suggests. “They might end up overeating or relying on the nipple even when they’re already full.”

You can avoid the feed-to-sleep method if you:

  • Stop feeding if you see your baby getting sleepy.
  • Gently burp your baby to wake them up a little if they fell asleep feeding. Then, use the other self-soothing techniques to help them calm back down.

With a little persistence, perseverance and patience on your end, your little one could be self-soothing to sleep in no time.


Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Baby sleeping on their side
May 17, 2024/Children's Health
What To Know About Baby’s Fontanelles (aka Soft Spots)

A sunken soft spot may be a sign of dehydration, while a bulging soft spot may be a sign of head trauma

Newborn's tiny hand gripping caregiver's thumb
April 15, 2024/Children's Health
Why Is My Baby Hairy? Newborn Body Hair Explained

Lanugo — the soft, fine hair that develops in utero — is harmless and will shed within a few weeks

Newborn baby with crossing eyes
April 10, 2024/Children's Health
Why Are My Newborn’s Eyes Crossing?

Crossed eyes in a newborn are fairly common, typically harmless and usually go away

Sad, exhausted parent holding newborn in cage surrounded by drug addiction possibilities
February 15, 2024/Children's Health
Can Babies Be Born Dependent on Drugs?

Neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome, or NOWS, can develop when a birthing parent uses opioids, nonmedical drugs or even some prescription drugs during pregnancy

mother with newborn on chest in hospital bed
January 2, 2024/Children's Health
Will Tongue-Tie Surgery Help Your Baby Breastfeed?

Most parents report an improvement in breastfeeding, but there’s a chance the procedure won’t solve the issue

newborn baby skin peeling
September 18, 2023/Children's Health
If Your Newborn Has Peeling Skin, Here’s What That Means

All babies go through a perfectly normal peeling phase in the first couple weeks

Parent holding newborn while feeding them formula.
September 11, 2023/Children's Health
Babies Shouldn’t Drink Water — Here’s Why

Tiny kidneys and tiny tummies don’t mix well with water

Parents gaze lovingly on their newborn laying on the changing table.
August 17, 2023/Children's Health
Oh, Baby! Understanding Your Newborn’s Appearance and Behavior

From baby acne and body hair to rooting reflexes and sleeping patterns, it’s all normal

Trending Topics

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey