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One of the biggest struggles with being a mother is not getting enough rest. If you are like me, running low on sleep makes it difficult to function properly, making the journey of motherhood exhausting and tiring, to put it lightly. All you want is for your baby to sleep through the night!
I bet you don’t even remember what it is like to get a full 8 hours of sleep at night, right? I hear you because I remember being there.
Have you ever tried for what seems like a lifetime rocking your baby to sleep, to have them instantly wake up as soon as you set them in their crib? Or maybe, that dreaded binky falls out in the middle of the night which leaves your baby crying, causing YOU to go in and put it back in their mouth.
Unfortunately, we sometimes cause these unwanted sleep issues ourselves. These sleep “strategies” can turn into sleep props, which then will become your worst nightmare.
What is a sleep prop?
A sleep prop is something your baby becomes dependent on to fall asleep. It can literally be anything.
Sleep is a journey, and when you give your baby an item or motion to make them fall asleep, that “thing” becomes an essential part of their sleep journey.
The bad news is that usually, those external ways to get your baby to go to sleep require YOU.
If you nurse to sleep, that requires you to be present. And, if your baby loves to be rocked, you have to be there to rock them. If your baby loves the binky, you have to be the one to replace it when it falls out.
All of these things become essential to your baby drifting off into dreamland, and they just simply can’t succeed without it.
Now here is the catch… sure, you might be totally fine doing these things to get your baby to sleep, but the problem becomes once your baby wakes prematurely or in the middle of the night.
Why you need to avoid sleep props
Since your baby sucked the bottle to go to sleep or was being swayed to soft piano music, when your baby enters the light part of their sleep cycle and wakes, they have no idea how to get back to sleep, when those things are no longer happening.
This is the big problem with sleep props.
Sleep props don’t allow your baby to learn independent sleep skills.
Don’t worry, there is some good news. If you are nodding your head in agreement to all of the scenarios I have described, it’s ok!
I can assure you that this is the #1 reason why your baby isn’t sleeping through the night or sleeping well at all for that matter.
As nasty as sleep props are, there is a pretty simple solution. Eliminate them.
4 baby sleep props to avoid
- Rocking, swaying, and bouncing
- Feeding to sleep
- Binkies, bops, and pacifiers
- Car and stoller rides
Once you get rid of sleep props your baby will begin to develop their own strategies for independent sleep.
Getting rid of them is a whole other topic for a different day, but first, let’s learn the 4 top sleep props that your baby may have which is preventing them from sleeping through the night.
1. Rocking, swaying, and bouncing
Let’s be honest, we have all done this. I think these motions seem so natural to do to get a baby to fall asleep, and in reality, most babies really like it. Plus, it usually works 100% of the time.
I remember when my baby reached around 4 months old, he was no longer a little newborn anymore.
Rocking and bouncing him were becoming more and more tiring and exhausting for me.
This is when I began realizing I needed to make a conscious effort to avoid rocking him to sleep. Rocking your brand new baby to sleep becomes very different from rocking and bouncing your 1-year-old toddler.
A little disclaimer here, I am not saying by any means to NEVER rock, bounce or sway with your baby. I am simply saying DO NOT let it become a habit your baby becomes dependent on.
Believe me, I rocked and bounced my baby especially in those first few weeks. Sometimes he would fall asleep, and that’s fine. Just don’t let it become a daily habit.
There is something so special and pure about a tiny newborn, and we don’t want to miss out on those precious moments.
So, don’t cross rocking, swaying and bouncing off of your list. Those things are great soothing techniques you can use but just try to avoid them for sleep. Especially once your baby hits 3, 4 months old and beyond.
2. Feeding to sleep
This is probably the most common sleep prop. It is SO easy to do but so hard to break. That seems to be the case with most bad habits, right?
Whether it is the breast or the bottle, if there is food involved in getting your baby to sleep, you have a sleep prop on your hands.
Feeding needs to come after sleep not before, this ensures that it won’t become a dependent external prop that involves YOU!
If you have a newborn baby, you are going to end feeding them to sleep at some point. That is just inevitable.
Newborns sleep so much that sometimes it is impossible to stop them from falling asleep at the breast or bottle. And to be honest don’t worry about this too much, just do your best at breaking up eating and sleeping.
Establishing a simple routine from the start can be very beneficial but enjoy those newborn moments too.
3. Binkies, bops, and pacifiers
A binky or dummy as it is known as in England can become a pretty popular sleep prop.
We all know babies love to suck, especially newborns. It seems to offer a calming feeling that provides the perfect scenario for drifting off to sleep.
But once your baby gets to sleep it is probably 100% impossible that the binky is going to stay put all night long. Which means your baby will need your help to get it back into their mouth.
This is where it becomes a problem. Once that binky is strictly associated with going to sleep, your baby knows no other way to get to sleep on their own.
Binkies aren’t all bad, don’t worry.
It is ok to offer a binky to your baby, but I would use caution when sleep is added into the mix. Once your baby becomes a little older and is no longer a newborn, I would definitely be pretty strict on avoiding it for a sleep aid. The older they get, the harder it becomes to break that association.
I only offered a binky to my baby for the first few months and then took it away completely. If you do use the binky to help calm or soothe your baby before bed, try to slip it out before they are asleep.
4. Car and stroller rides
Have you ever heard of someone saying, “oh we just jump in the car and go for a long car ride to get our baby to sleep!” or “he only likes to fall asleep in his stroller when we are on a walk.”
Well even though it is fine for your baby to fall asleep in these places, this shouldn’t become the norm.
If you have to go on some special car ride or walk around the block every time your baby has a nap or goes to bed, they are never going to want to go to sleep on their own in their crib.
Let alone, the bewilderment your baby will have when they wake up in a different location to where they fell asleep.
The other reason to avoid this sleep prop is that it becomes very hard to transfer your baby from the car or stroller into their bed once they are asleep.
You may wake them during this process, or if you decide to not move them, leaving them in the car or stroller may not be the safest or best option for you.
Like I said before, I am not saying your baby is never going to take naps or fall asleep in the car or stroller, it is just important this doesn’t become the “magic” trick to getting your baby to sleep each time.
Eliminating sleep props = Successful sleep
Avoiding sleep props is going to be one of those things you’ll be thankful for down the road.
It is much easier to steer clear of them now, instead of dealing with your defiant toddler who is already set in their ways.
If you already fall into that category, don’t worry. You can still teach your child independent sleep skills, just start working on eliminating those props.
Once your baby has the necessary skills to go to sleep by themselves, they will be much better sleepers. Doing your best to dodge these “seemingly perfect solutions” to getting your baby to sleep, will only give you more of a headache as time goes on.
Providing situations as to where your baby can develop their own personal sleep skills will give them a full night’s rest which means you will be getting uninterrupted sleep as well.
Does your baby have any sleep props? What are they are how are you dealing with them?
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