Whether good or bad, habits are created through repetition. It is for that reason that your little one might become attached to a certain way of doing things when it comes to their sleep. After all, it is all they have ever known.
For instance, countless parents tell me, “My baby refuses to sleep in the crib”. In reality, it’s not that they refuse, but rather they are protesting because it isn’t what they are used to. They have developed the habit of sleeping in their parent’s bed (or wherever they have been sleeping up to that point) and protest when expected to sleep in their crib.
Sleep crutches often develop when we use sleep props for our child’s sleep. Sleep can props vary; it may be a swing, a swaddle, what baby wears, or countless other things. Weaning from these products may seem daunting, but if done right, you can kiss sleep props goodbye!
When thinking about which sleep prop or product to ditch first, consider whether any that you are using may be unsafe. Remember, we don’t want infants under 12 months sleeping anywhere other than a bare crib or bassinet. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends practicing the ABC’s of safe sleep (Alone, Back, Crib). If your little one is sleeping in a swing using a sleep positioner (think Dock-a-tot or Snuggle Me), ditch those ASAP!
Because the drive to sleep is much higher at night than during the day (meaning it takes a shorter time to fall asleep at night), it is best to introduce the crib or bassinet at night, then transition to naps the following day.
Wearing baby for sleep
Motion naps, such as those taken in a car or while wearing baby in a wrap or sling, are not as restorative as naps taken in a dark, cool room. Despite longer sleep periods, motion sleep does not allow the brain to get into a deep sleep, so babe will often wake up tired. Because of this, it is important to focus on getting your little one to nap in their crib during the day.
The last nap of the day on a four & three-nap-a-day schedule (four to eight-month-old) is the least restorative, so if you do have to wear baby for a nap, that would be the one! For children under four months, it isn’t as crucial to avoid baby wearing, but working toward laying your little one down in their crib or bassinet while drowsy but awake will help to establish a solid foundation for independent sleep.
Swaddling is one of the primary sleep tools I recommend to all parents of newborns. Babies should be swaddled for all sleep, whether bed or nap time. This technique helps babies feel secure by emulating the feeling of coziness they experienced in the womb. Additionally, it helps with the startle reflex that is inherent to all babies and can cause them to startle themselves awake.
But what happens when you need to wean from the swaddle and when is the best time to do it?
Has your baby turned into a little Houdini? Do you find that no matter how snug the swaddle, your baby keeps busting out? If this sounds familiar, it is time to transition away from the swaddle. Or, perhaps your baby has turned into a rolling stone? If your little one has started to roll over, you should immediately transition them out of the swaddle. A baby who rolls over in the swaddle with their hands and arms inside is a SIDS risk.
Just like with other sleep props, when you decide to ditch the swaddle you should start at night and go cold turkey. Keep in mind that some disturbance in your little one’s sleep as they adjust to sleeping without a swaddle and in something new is to be expected. Once they adjust, things will return to normal!