I recently spoke at an event, filled with Moms with babies of all ages. When discussing sleep props, all of their heads shook in agreement, and frustration.
A sleep prop is something that your baby needs to fall asleep. This might include rocking, swaying, nursing, bouncing, car motion, white noise or a soother (to name a few!).
Your baby might be rely heavily on one, or a few sleep props to fall asleep. If so, your baby might wake crying, or screaming only 30-40 minutes after being laid down to sleep. Your baby might wake frequently at night or might need his pacifier re-inserted multiple times. Your baby might cry hysterically when laid down awake and might be clingy and fussy throughout the day from all the fragmented sleep. Bedtimes and naptimes are a mess, and parents are usually stuck rocking, bouncing or feeding, until baby is asleep.
When do these sleep props become a problem? If your baby is unable to fall asleep unassisted he/she will expect to be put back to sleep the same way, between each sleep cycle. Let's face it, we all wake up several times per night. Even babies that "sleep through the night" do, they just know how to fall back asleep independently between each sleep cycle.
Not all sleep props are BAD sleep props. The prop simply should not rely heavily on you. Examples of GOOD sleep props include white noise, dark space, sleep sack/swaddle, soother (careful - sometimes the soother can cross to the dark side!). The less effort on your part, and the easier to wean, the better. This will help your child learn to fall asleep independently (a.k.a without your help).
Sleep tips & tricks:
- Try to focus on using sleep props that your baby can use independently.
- Try to avoid nursing/feeding baby right before sleep. This will help break the feed-to-sleep association.
- If rocking and swaying are baby's sleep prop of choice, try to offer more snuggles and hugs throughout the day vs. in the middle of the night.
- If relying on your sleep prop is a must to get baby to sleep/nap, try to switch it up.
- Try working on putting baby down awake but drowsy. This means calm and ready for sleep!
- Eliminating the pacifier: Don't rush into eliminating this wonderful sleep prop! As long as you don't have any complaints from your child's dentist, the paci can easily be eliminated at the age of 3.
- Introducing a lovey: A lovey can be a great tool when dealing with sleep regressions. Remember to speak to your child’s Pediatrician about when it is best to introduce this prop. Making the prop smell like Mom (or Dad) can be helpful with separation anxiety! Tuck it under your PJ’s for a night before giving to babe.
- Help your baby learn to sleep independently by introducing sleep props that help create positive sleep associations. Independent sleep is one of the best gifts you can give your baby (and YOU!)
Laura Colacci is the founder of New Moon Sleep Co. and loves helping families get their sleep back. She is a Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant and has a Masters of Science in Education. She is also a Certified Children's Yoga Instructor.
If your baby is napping is sleeping poorly due to sleep props or is having other sleep troubles, book your FREE 15 min consultation today!