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What is independent sleep? A guide to help your baby self settle.

Self-settling is a controversial topic. Lots of different opinions and lots of different ideas about the best way to encourage your little one to self settle, or whether it is necessary for solid sleep.

What is self settling?

Simply put, self-settling, or independent sleep, is when a baby, toddler or child is able to fall asleep independently - whether at the start of a nap, bedtime or when waking throughout the night - without needing your support.

Some babies can fall asleep by themselves naturally but most need support and if you are helping your little one to fall asleep and it is working for you then there is no need to change anything.

Is self soothing the same thing?

No. Self soothing is very different and is about self regulating emotions. A baby is unable to self soothe, and that is why when a baby gets very upset, they need support to calm down again. Self soothing is something babies, and young children are not developmentally able to do.

How to encourage a baby to sleep independently?

If you are practising the skill with your baby you can be in the room with them and very responsive if/when they cry or you can leave them to have a little space to try to settle.

There are some key foundations to put in place to help support restful sleep habits.


Having a simple pre-sleep routine can encourage your little one to fall asleep independently. Babies thrive on patterns, and knowing what is coming next will make them feel safe and secure. It will also get their mind and body ready for sleep. It can also help them unwind which is really important when helping with your little one wanting to fall asleep independently.

The correct wake window

Knowing when your baby is ready for sleep can really help with self settling. Putting your baby into their sleep space around 10 mins before the end of their wake window gives them the best opportunity to fall asleep by themselves, before becoming overtired and frustrated.


Optimising where your baby falls asleep helps encourage restful sleep - whether it be in their own room, a moses basket in the living room or in a pram - creating a relaxing environment can help your baby want to settle. A cool, dark and calm space is ideal for naps and bedtime.

Don’t rush in

I also believe that not rushing in as soon as you hear your little one make a noise will help encourage them to settle giving them the opportunity to do so without interruption - which can lead to your baby getting more frustrated.

If a baby falls asleep by themselves, I believe it can help with night waking, early mornings and longer daytime naps can develop. However, how you encourage your baby to fall asleep is an individual choice and there are many ways to approach this depending on your little one’s temperament, your parenting skills and what you think will work best for you and your baby.

With consistency, practice and patience it is possible to make positive changes to your baby’s sleep, but when to make this change can only be up to you.

To find out more about the different gentle methods I use to encourage independent sleep, book in your free discovery call. I would love to hear from you!

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