Updated: Mar 26
When assessing how an individual baby falls to sleep, we often see a pattern or association that has developed over time. In many cases, the parent does not recognize that there is an
association or they have not made the connection yet.
Part of our role is to recognize the association in an effort to see the bigger picture when making changes to a baby's sleep.
For example: in a lot of cases a baby will fall to sleep sucking. As a result, a baby may begin to associate falling asleep with the need to 'suck'. Consequently, the baby will continually need to suck back to sleep as she wakes throughout the night. So, if an infant has breastfed TOO sleep, they have actually sucked to sleep.
Throughout the night, that same baby may be given a bottle or soother to go back to sleep.
The bottle, breast, and soother are examples of props. Although the prop varies throughout the night, the overall association is still sucking.
There are 2 categories of associations that can be created when it comes to infant sleep
Do you resort to rocking, bouncing, carrying or strolling your baby to sleep?
If you do...... these 'props' fall under the category of 'MOTION' associations.
I have seen parents be very creative in this area over the years. The more common motion props are strollers, carriers, swings, carseats (in the car), or sometimes being swung by hand / forearm (ouch).
How about baby gently placed on top of the washing machine with the spin cycle going, bouncy chairs, or being motored by a parents fair hand?
Not forgetting the actual physical attributions such as being rocked in your arms, or bounced in your arms, or maybe you sit and bounce on a yoga ball (very common).
Then there is walking the stairs or pacing the kitchen with the hood fan going over the oven, or doing squats in the bathroom with the water running.
When bedtime is hard and you've got a baby not sleeping, creativity can flow!!!
It's all fine and dandy when your little one is a light weight, but when they hit super welterweight status, it's a real physical work out! Pass the protein shake PLEASE.
Motion is a weak association to break. So if you are only using one of these items to lull your baby to sleep, making changes won't be as challenging. AND by challenging I mean, less overall fussing, crying and protesting.
The ONLY issue with motion associations is........ because they are weak, they often take a LONG TIME to be effective.
What I mean by this is: if you bounce your baby to sleep, it could take up to as long as 2 hours, versus sucking associations, which work much faster (think 10-20 minutes), but are very strong and do take more endurance to work through.
If you have a different MOTION technique to get your baby to sleep, we want to know about it, so please leave a comment below!
Do you resort to a soother, nursing, using your finger or maybe your baby sucks on their fingers to sleep?
If so ...... these 'props' fall under the category of 'SUCKING' associations.
Phasing out a sleep prop can be challenging but can lead to better-rested babies (and parents).
Nursing as a prop
In our experience, nursing is the strongest sucking prop and can be one of the most difficult associations to break. This is due to the fact that it can often be a very difficult change for a Mom to make on her own. Therefore, from a sleep training perspective, we really encourage Dads to become involved in the sleep training process, and in most cases, play a leading role.
Soother as a prop
If an infant is using a soother to fall to sleep, that it is a much easier association to break. Associations are often a coping mechanism for parents because they work in the moment. As a result, it can be very difficult for parents to let go of what has become 'their' prop or coping mechanism. As a parent, when you let go of the prop, you are all of a sudden in a position where you don't know what to do anymore. This can be a daunting feeling!
Thumb sucking as a prop
You may have heard me say on numerous occasions that thumb sucking ( from a sleep perspective), is a good thing!
Lots of parents don't want their kids to suck their thumb because they know they have to break it down the road.
Many parents view this as more difficult than removing a soother because it is not attached to the child's body. Or, if your husband is anything like mine, he may constantly remind you of the dental bill!
However, most dentists agree that around the age of four is when you really want to start making some changes to thumb sucking.
Do you need better sleep?
Are you feeling tired and frustrated?
Do you need help figuring out what your Child's sleep association is ?
Do you need help figuring out which method is best to support your baby a they learn?