There are many sleep associations that a child may have and a lot of these associations may have begun from an early age in which you didn’t even realise you were creating a sleep association. This isn’t a bad thing. This is simply tending to the needs of the child in front of you and finding what worked at the time to assist in getting longer sleep cycles.
A sleep association may look like one of the below:
- Utilising a dummy
- A comforter or teddy
- Sleeping bag
- Feeding to sleep
- Keeping a night light on
- Playing music or white noise
- Sitting with a child until asleep
The list can really go on and I am sure as you read that list of sleep associations there was at least one or two that you could tick as having done or currently doing. A sleep association is not a negative tool as their is no right or wrong but just what works.
However, eventually a sleep association can be the very thing that stops your child from continuing to sleep.
When a baby falls asleep they fall asleep with the last thing they were doing as the thing that made them feel safe and comforted. That very sleep association if it is no longer with them it can hinder them resettling into another sleep cycle. The common sleep associations this applies to are patting, rocking, feeding to sleep. You may even hear parents refer to how they need to get rid of the dummy because the dummy that once gave them longer sleep cycles is now becoming a sleep association that the parent has to replace every 45 minutes waking both baby and mum from having a fully restful sleep.
Keeping up a sleep association can be exhausting for mum and baby once it stops working but while it works for you and your family don’t feel guilty for utilising the tools that are giving you a good sleep.
You may have heard comments from friends and family who mind you will comment on every aspect of your parenting because I assure you how they parented in 1960’s was different to how it is done in the year 2000’s where we have a lot of advice available because we are exposed to more unique experiences and journeys from other mothers which we can easily access the knowledge of online (hello social media).
Those comments on how ‘you shouldn’t feed your baby to sleep’ or ‘I never gave my baby a dummy’ or perhaps its the ‘you will create a bad habit’ comment that is currently doing the rounds and these comments slowly begin to bring you mum guilt as you believe you ‘shouldn’t’ be using a sleep association based on what someone else did with a different child to yours.
Let me remind you that it isn’t a problem until it becomes a problem and you can say that back to those comments. It isn’t a problem for my family right now as it is working but when it is we will do what we need to adapt and change but for now baby is happy and I am happy and I hope you can be happy for us too.
You will know when the time is right to wean a sleep association because it begins to cause multiple wakes and I want to give you the confident that you can do this and you are not alone. It will take time, calmness and patience. All parents go through some sort of weaning process whether its transitioning from a cot to bed, weaning from breast or like you might be about to do but weaning a sleep association.
Weaning from a sleep association is easily achieved by replacing it with something else that is more sustainable and doesn’t require your constant attention. I highly recommend a comforter.
I absolutely love comforters. They take time to form a true association with but keeping consistent in offering it to your child at bed time and when they wake up at night will help to create that comfort association to their new comforter. For a younger baby I recommend sleeping with it and keeping it in your top or under your pillow for a few days to ensure your ‘scent’ that your baby has begun to know wears off onto the comforter so they feel more appealed by it. A comforter should be made of breathable material and handkerchief size.
Don’t fear sleep associations, use what you can while you can to achieve deep sleep and until then enjoy that phase and when you are ready to make a change use the steps above to assist or consider a personal phone consult where we can discuss your personal situation.