How can you help your little one to do this? First, you need to set a regular bedtime and be consistent with it. A bedtime that occurs at the same time every night helps set your baby's internal clock, so that she's naturally sleepy at a predictable time. The bedtime routine should happen in the room that you want your baby to sleep, and make sure to include some soothing activities. Activities such as taking a bath, reading a story while cuddling, which helps let her know that it's time for "night-night". When the routine is finished, it's best to put her to sleep in bed while drowsy, but awake.
Many babies will surprise you and fall asleep no problem... unfortunately, most of the time that's not my daughter. Other babies like my own, especially older ones who have gotten used to being nursed or rocked to sleep, will need a little more practice. My little munchkin is just passing the three month mark, and she's warming up to the idea of a sleeping routine.
If your baby is used to breast or bottle feeding while trying to sleep in your arms, you'll have to break the habit of needing to suck to sleep. You can move your child's feeding to earlier in the bedtime routine, or slowly reduce the amount or number of minutes of the feeding. Or when your baby starts to fall asleep during feeding, end the meal and finish the bedtime routine before laying her down.
Some people believe that you should never wake a sleeping baby, try and keep the main goal in mind. On any regular night, waking your baby after she's drifted to sleep may seem nuts, especially when you're tired and have had a long day. But when you remember your long term goal of helping your child develop the ability to soothe herself to sleep, both at bedtime and when she naturally wakes up during the night, makes it worth while.
What happens if you've given your baby plenty of time to self soothe and she just can't seem to do it? Take a step back and try and figure out why. Maybe she's too young and doesn't have the development ability to self soothe, just like as baby can spend hours on the floor, yet still won't be able to crawl. In this case, wait a few days, weeks, or even months before trying again.
Or maybe your baby is too tired, and can't seem to settler herself down. In this case, try moving the bedtime a little earlier so she isn't a complete wreck once the lights go out. Also, think about whether you're really giving your baby the opportunity to find ways to soothe herself, or if you're rushing on to comfort her right away when you hear the first peep, which deprives her of the chance to figure it out on her own.
Most important, you must keep your goal in mind... developing the ability to soothe herself to sleep will enable your baby to snooze for longer amounts of time, and put her back to sleep when she naturally wakes up during the night. Self soothing is an important life skill that will serve your child well, not just at bedtime but also in many other situations, such as when shes's separated from you at daycare or when you walk out of the room., when she gets frustrated trying to master all those other important skills such as... you guessed it... crawling, or when she's feeling fussy.