What are they?
A sleep prop is anything that helps you or your child to fall asleep. For adults it is often a favourite pillow, fan, or sleep position. For babies it is often a pacifier, feeding or being rocked/held to sleep.
What’s the big deal?
Having a sleep prop can be a wonderful thing as it helps baby get to sleep quicker. The trouble comes when the sleep prop is from an external source (like a parent) and they need it every single time they wake up and need to fall back asleep.
Why are they waking up so often?
Nobody sleeps straight through the night. We all go through sleep cycles of light to deep and back to light sleep through the night. Every time you circle back to the lightest sleep cycle you wake briefly, maybe roll over or readjust your pillow and then fall back asleep. Babies do this too, but if that sleep prop isn’t there then they have trouble falling back to sleep.
Are there different types of sleep props?
I like to put infant sleep props into two different categories: parent dependant and not parent dependant. A parent dependant prop obviously involves the parent having to be present like feeding, rocking, replacing pacifier etc. A prop that is not parent dependant would not involve the parent such as white noise, a sleep sack or lovey (after 12 months).
So, can they have a sleep prop or not?
If it is not parent dependant then definitely! If it is parent dependant well here’s the thing, it really depends on the parent and the baby. Some babies need a pacifier to fall asleep initially but are able to put themselves back to sleep throughout the night. Other babies will need that pacifier replaced every few hours when they wake up. Some parents are really bothered by the disrupted sleep while others don’t mind getting up to help their baby back to sleep.
My advice is, if it’s clear that your baby doesn’t know how to put themselves back to sleep at night and you’re not coping with the regular waking then it’s time to make a change.
How do I make a change?
You can wean baby off of their current prop, or you can pull the prop cold turkey and help them figure out a new one. The key to success is to also make sure that you’re setting baby up for sleep. You want to create an age appropriate schedule, adjust wake windows and sleep times to insure baby is set up to learn something new.
I am a certified pediatric sleep consultant – I specialize in helping parents create the perfect schedule for their baby and to teach their baby to fall asleep on their own. Head to my contact page to send me an e-mail and lets discuss how I can help you!