What are sleep associations, sleep crutches, and sleep aid?
If you have read any information before about baby’s sleep, chances are you have heard of the term sleep association. What does this really mean? A sleep association can be either a tangible object such as a dummy or a cuddly toy, or it can be an action such as breastfeeding or rocking to sleep. They can be referred to as either positive or negative associations. These are all tools that your baby may associate with sleep, and without one or several of these, will not be able fall asleep easily. Obviously we want our baby to fall asleep and stay asleep easily, so in order to do so we need to offer helpful associations.
If we look at negative sleep associations- these are things that rely on parental involvement and every time your baby falls asleep, or wakes at the end of a sleep cycle, they need this association again to go back to sleep. So if for example your child is rocked to sleep, when they wake up after 2 hours at night (at the end of a natural sleep cycle), they simply do not know how to fall back to sleep without being rocked. So mum or dad end up getting up every two hours to rock their baby back to sleep. Another example is the dummy, which is often not identified by parents as a reason for poor sleep. Yes dummies are great for newborns if they are unsettled, however a baby cannot learn to find and replace their own dummy until about 7/8 months. So each time a baby wakes and realises its dummy is gone, she will cry out for mum or dad to replace it in order to go back to sleep.
On the flip side, positive sleep associations that help your child fall asleep without needing you. Simple things such as a wind down ritual before bed, where every nap and bedtime the same things occur. For example, taking your child into their room, changing nappy, putting them into a sleep suit and reading a book before placing in the cot. Doing the same routine every time will help your child understand that bed time is coming and help them enter the mindset of sleep. Other positive sleep associations include white noise (for younger babies), comforter or cuddly toy (for older babies), a dark room, or a dummy if your older child still has one. All of these tools can help soothe and comfort babies and even toddlers, and allow them to fall asleep without you needing to be present.
So in a nutshell, try and set your baby up with positive sleep associations to aid their independence when it comes to sleep. Sleep associations are just one piece of the sleep puzzle, and there many other factors that can contribute to better sleep. If you would like some help to get your child’s sleep on track, then let Dream Sleepers sort all the puzzle pieces and give you and your child a better night sleep. From newborns to older toddlers, I have the solutions.