Every mom wants her baby to sleep through the night, but the idea of restful nights usually end up being a fantasy for most new moms. So, as a result, many find themselves hovering over their laptop in the middle of the night trying to figure out what sleep technique is right for the family. And, in doing so, they may find themselves wondering, "are cry it out and self soothing the same thing?"
The quick answer to that question is no — these terms are not interchangeable. But as CNN noted, crying it out is a form of self soothing, as crying is one way an infant might choose to soothe him or herself until sleep comes. Acclaimed sleep expert and pediatrician, Dr. William Sears told Parenting that at around six to nine months, a baby will learn methods of self soothing, with a the proper parental guidance. These self soothing methods include thumb sucking, sucking on a pacifier, and rubbing their hair or ears, noted the message boards on What To Expect.
In the aforementioned CNN article, it's noted that sleep training —a sleep method when you let your baby cry it out (or cry in intervals) without you entering your infant's room — is predicated on the notion that eventually, your baby will tire from crying and fall asleep. This method also relies on an understanding of neuroscience, and that a baby's brain develops as he or she gets older, as noted by Parents. In other words, as your baby's brain grows, your child is learning new cognitive skills. For example, a newborn doesn't have the brain function to regulate his or her emotions, which is why newborns are so dependent on their parents. But, as Sears mentioned in the Parenting article, by around month six of life, your baby should have the cognitive abilities to learn self soothing. Because, as Sleeping Baby noted, self soothing is a learned skill, not an innate behavior.
When you think about self soothing as being comprised of a set of skills, it makes sense that crying it out is only one method growing babies use in order to regulate their emotions and get a good night's rest. The United States National Library of Medicine published a study that indicated children who haven't learned to self soothe by the age of one might be more likely to have trouble falling asleep by age two. But, if sleep training isn't right for you and your family, don't worry. There are many other ways to teach your baby how to self soothe.