Sleep props (also known as sleep aids, sleep associations, sleep crutches or sleep habits) can be anything your baby or child needs to help them fall asleep. The things they just can’t fall asleep, or go back to sleep, without.
They can be objects, like their Swaddle UP™ or sleep bag, a teether, white noise or, for older babies and toddlers – a security blanket or comforter. Or they can be an activity like feeding, rocking, patting or even being driven around in the car.
If your baby relies on a sleep prop to fall asleep at night, they’ll usually need it when they wake up between sleep cycles or when they wake up in the middle of the night. So, if they’re used to being rocked to sleep at bedtime, they’ll most likely need you to rock them to sleep each time they wake through the night.
These sleep props are only a problem if your baby can’t go back to sleep without them and they rely on you to access them. If you use a teether and your baby spits it out once they fall asleep, and they sleep peacefully through the night, then this isn’t an issue. But if the teether falls out and you are constantly having to put it back in, or rock for hours on end, then this isn’t helpful for your baby or sustainable for you in the long term.
Some families love the rocking and feeding to sleep, and have no problem resettling their babies like this each time they wake up during the night. If this sounds like you, that’s absolutely fine. Keep doing what works for you and your baby.
But if you feel your baby is too reliant on you or another sleep prop, it may be time to consider changing your baby’s sleep habits and phasing the sleep prop out.
Once baby is able to settle to sleep without the sleep prop, they’re more capable of resettling themselves back off to sleep if they wake up, or when they cycle through the lighter phases of their sleep cycles (which can happen hourly overnight!). If this something you’re interested in, check out our tips on how to phase out sleep props and change the way your baby falls asleep.
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