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Family dynamics

11th Apr 2024

‘How should I respond to my mother-in-law who says I should let my baby self soothe himself to sleep?’

Jody Coffey


The self-soothing method is always a divisive topic

One mum has called upon the internet for advice about dealing with her ‘pushy’ and ‘opinionated’ mother-in-law.

When a person has been upgraded to a grandparent for the first time, they may develop a new level of protectiveness over the new baby in the family.

Their devotion, while cute, can feel like an additional pressure for new parents if left unchecked.

This was especially the case with this new mum, who welcomed their baby boy just five weeks ago, as their mother-in-law’s first meeting with her grandson approaches.

She took to Reddit expressing worry about their in-law’s views around their sleep schedules.

In the lead-up to her mother-in-law’s visit, the parent explained that when chatting with her husband on the phone over the last few weeks, she pushed the self-soothe method a little too hard.

“In response to him giving her generic newborn updates like “yeah, we’re sleepy! He doesn’t always want to sleep” etc, my MIL responds with “Well, you need to start allowing him to soothe himself to sleep. He can’t be held or rocked forever.” Huh??” the new mum wrote.

“He’s a newborn! And he’s actually pretty easy to soothe, but he does want to be held or patted by mom or dad (go figure!).”

As she anticipates comments about their baby’s sleeping habits, she went in search of advice for a response that would be both effective and polite.

“Anyhoo, we’re anticipating her making comments about this and wondering what a good response would be (besides STFU, which is what I want to say)…

“She’s very “opinionated” and “pushy” so we want to shut her down as quickly as possible.”

Reddit users and parents who have had similar experiences with a mother-in-law came to the new mum’s aid and offered some suggestions to firmly, but kindly, tell her mother-in-law to back off.

“I warmly tell my MIL that the advice has changed since she had her babies and that <insert zany idea> isn’t recommended these days,” one user wrote.

“Omg I heard this from all the emotionally stunted older people that ever met my baby (no longer a baby). They are wrong. Cuddle that kid. Snuggle them up. Hold them tight. The baby needs to feel secure and safe,” another reassured.

They continued: “What to say? How about social pressure? “That’s not how things are done anymore. Children NEED snuggles to have proper brain development and emotional development. I’m sorry you weren’t held as a baby but today we know better.””

Another Reddit user shared that they feel that ‘the best-intentioned grandparents get the actual timeline of childhood/milestones confused’.

“It has, after all, usually been a couple of decades since they themselves have had a baby to take care of by the time they have grandkids,” they continued.

“I’d just laugh and say “crying it out is not appropriate for a five-week-old.””