Ask Dr. Vicki: Self Soothing

June 21, 2010 by  
Filed under Ask Dr. Vicki

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QUESTION: I recently read an article you wrote about babies and self-soothing. It was sent to me by the mother of my first grandchild. I am a bit concerned about her interpretation of the self soothing techniques you mentioned. Is it necessary for a 10 week old baby to cry for 15 to 20 minutes, multiple times each day to self-sooth? And during these self-soothing times is it advisible to leave the baby unattended and go outside because the crying is too stressful to listen too? Is it not teaching him that he has to cry longer and harder to get the attention he needs? The article was very good and I agree with the philosophy but it seems that it would apply more to a toddler than an infant.

DR VICKI’S ANSWER: Thank you for your question. I have had several inquiries about this topic.

Basically, I was a clinical source for the author who constructed the article. That being said, I will be glad to clarify my position. I call parenting a juggling act, because there is always a need to find balance between too much and too little—too much/too little intervention, too much/too little discipline, etc. This is true for babies, as well. I certainly do not mean to allow a new-born to be in severe distress. I think it’s extremely important to develop a very strong foundation of security for infants; making sure that they know their needs will be taken care of, and that there is someone there to watch over them. That’s different than delaying the development of their self-soothing mechanism. Constant and immediate intervention, to the point of experiencing virtually no discomfort or frustration, keeps the baby from working on calming themselves by discovering their fingers, looking at objects, etc. Basically, when articles are written and experts are quoted, the intention is to raise the issues and encourage parents to consider the extent to which they apply to their infants, kids, teens, etc. Parents still need to follow their own intuition and develop their own ‘juggling’ skills to meet the developmental needs of their kids.

Hope this provides clarification. Thank you again for reading the site, and also for posing the question.

Enjoy your kids!


5 Responses to “Ask Dr. Vicki: Self Soothing”
  1. Jennifer says:

    Hi Dr. Vicki,

    I’m wondering what you think about the increasing evidence that even 5 mins. left crying in babies under a year, raises cortisol levels significantly and places their mental health in jeopardy?

  2. Dr. Vicki Panaccione says:

    Thank you for this information. I will have to look into these studies. The article on self-soothing was not intended to put infants in distress. It was, however, geared to point out the importance of developing the ability to self-soothe as a process. Thank you again for sharing some new information. I always welcome comments and new content from my readers. Best regards!

  3. Suzy says:

    Dear Dr Vicki,

    My fiance has a 15 year old boy who is generally a good kid, yet incredibly lazy with no direction, passions or anything that is a healthy focus in his life.

    After 2 years of counselling (for me and his father) , asking others for advice and reading any book about teenagers I have learned that we need to stick to rules in our own house to enable him to develop lifeskills, structure and good habits.

    My problem is that my fiance agrees to rules, even ones he dictates himself yet chooses to ignore the rules every time his child disobeys the rules.
    What chance does his child have if our home is his last chance to learn these skills especially since his private school education does not follow through with any consequences to bad behaviours?

  4. Lela Taylor says:

    I have an 11 year old granddaughter who has been diagnosed with ADHD. She uses tape or stickers as a self-soothing mechanism. It seems to calm her down and she says help stop her from biting her nails. The problem is she tries to use this technique in school and the teacher sends her to detention as she says my granddaughter is using the tape to distract her from doing her work.Is there any information this teacher can obtain that helps her understand this ADHD child. She seems to think this child is acting up because she is just being hostile or defiant. Any suggestions would help.

  5. Dr. Vicki Panaccione says:

    Allowing this teen to get around the rules is not doing him any favors in the long run. He is being allowed to be irresponsible and unaccountable for his own actions. Once in college and eventually out in the adult world, he will not be able to get away with this kind of behavior. I am afraid he will be in for a rude awakening, where the stakes may be much higher (eg.–remaining in college, keeping a job, maintaining a relationship and so on.) Parents and educators, I might add, owe it to their children/students to teach them the life skills they will need to be successful out in the world later in life. For his parent and educators to be ignoring the rules is a great disservice to him; they are raising a child who will be ill-prepared to function outside the protective cocoon of his permissive environment.