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What is a sleep prop?


I’m sure you’ve been told or read many times before that sleep props are bad and will destroy your chance at having a well sleeping baby!


But, the truth is that sleep props come in all forms and some of them are not bad!

Some are needed at certain ages and then should be discontinued.


Navigating the world of sleep is tough but I am here for you! Let’s break down what sleep props are, when we should use certain ones and what we can do instead!


What is a sleep prop?


A sleep prop is any object or activity that your baby or child needs to go to sleep. In fact, we all have them! Personally, I must have the fan on and white noise to fall asleep.


What separates the good sleep props from the not-so-great ones is that good sleep props are mostly environmental circumstances, and they help children fall asleep on their own. Examples of this would be white noise, black out curtains, a lovey or a cool room. These are all things that serve as helpful when having a child fall asleep but won’t disrupt the sleep itself.


Sleep props that are not ideal are ones that children become dependent on and they can’t control it themselves. Bottles, a sippy cup of milk, Mom brushing their hair, pacifiers, being rocked and Dad singing lullabies are examples of sleep props that a child may feel they need to fall asleep but it’s not something that they can quietly control on their own. If it is something that they control, such as the paci, it could take too much brain coordination and cause them to wake up fully.


When should we use or remove certain sleep props?


Newborns

It is very uncommon for a newborn to be able to fully self-settle. If yours does, you could probably consider them a ‘unicorn baby’.


But majority of newborn babies need our help to get to sleep. They need the paci, the rocking, the butt patting, the swaddle* and the shushing! Don’t be afraid to give this all to them! There are ways that you can begin to lay the foundation for good sleep but I don’t want you to stress out about the use of a sleep prop with a newborn.


*Move your baby out of the swaddle by 10 weeks or at the very first sign of rolling in either direction if that is before 10 weeks


4+ months old

Once they are about 4 months, we want to think about removing the external sleep props. This is anything that they can’t control themselves. The goal is to teach them how to journey from awake to sleeping all on their own. If they rely on you replacing that pacifier 35 times each night, they aren’t learning how to do this on their own. But remember to utilize the good sleep props! Making sure that their sleep environment is perfect will only help towards your goal of teaching sleep!


The use of white noise helps to block out external sounds. This is very beneficial with families that have dogs or other children in the house. Or, if Mom and Dad want to watch a movie after bedtime.


Blackout curtains are my favorite sleep prop! If you aren’t blacking out your child’s room you will most likely experience trouble with early mornings or napping at some point in their lives. Why are blackout shades so helpful? Because of our biology! We are naturally created to be awake in the light and asleep in the dark! If the room is bright while a child is trying to sleep, they’re going to be fighting their body’s natural rhythm of cueing their body to wake up.


I hear all of the time “but I don’t want my child to be dependent on needing it to be dark”. And I get it! But, the amount of times you’ll have a nap on the go versus the amount of times you’ll be home for nap or bedtime is a lot less. So, I feel it’s best to sacrifice the few times you won’t be in their sleep space for nap in order to ensure great naps every day that you are home.


I also love sleep sacks! They may not seem like a sleep prop but technically they are! And they pose no threat to robbing your child of the ability to put themselves to sleep!

Sleep sacks have many benefits:

  • act as a cue to your child that sleep is coming which in turn helps them settle easier and faster

  • offers a comfy and safe way to stay warm

  • helps avoid your child from getting tangled like they would in a blanket

  • prevents them from being able to climb out of the crib

Click the link here to find some of my favorite sound machines, blackout curtains and sleep sacks!


Toddlers

I often see that toddlers become dependent on sleeping with a parent or having the parent present in their own bed to get back to sleep. This is obviously not something that they can control completely on their own so it’s going to give them (and you) trouble with sleep for as long as this is what they’re dependent on.


If your toddler is needing you at night to get to sleep, consider offering stuffed animals or your T-shirt to snuggle instead. This is a sleep prop that allows them to fall asleep on their own.



To wrap things up, sleep props should be used with caution and attention to baby’s age and the level of sleep help they offer. They may seem helpful but certain sleep props can be very disruptive to your child’s ability to connect sleep cycles and get great rest! If you need help removing a prop and teaching your baby to sleep prop free, book your free call with me today!

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