Helpful Sleep Associations

Sleep associations can be a confusing subject to sort out – why are somethings such as white noise helpful but others aren’t.

To recap – A sleep prop/association is described as anything that your child relies on for sleeping. Let’s take a minute to explore what the differences are between helpful vs unhelpful sleep associations.

An unhelpful sleep association is something that will disturb sleep.

This includes;

-Rocking fully asleep

-Feeding until fully asleep or drowsy

-Bouncing, car ride to induce sleep

-Any action done by a parent that results in baby being fully asleep.

These ‘unhelpful’ sleep associations cause issues with a baby’s sleep because they begin to need these things in order to transition into the next sleep cycle, and since a child can’t necessarily rock/feed themselves a parent sleep association is quickly formed. Unhelpful or negative sleep associations aren’t negative because they won’t work, they are negative because the parents then become associated with a certain action that causes sleep. When baby wakes in the night, they then do not know how to get back to sleep without this action.

Everyone (even adults) have some type of sleep associations, so to think our children won’t have ANY after sleep training isn’t an accurate expectation. However, some sleep associations can be helpful/positive to your child’s sleep.

A helpful/positive sleep association is anything that can improve your child’s sleep and typically something your child can control on their own or use for self-soothing.

A few examples of helpful sleep associations are;

-Pacifier (once able to replace independently)


-Thumb sucking

-Lovey/Blanket (over 12m)

-Sleep Sack

-Favourite soft toy (over 12m)

Along with positive sleep associations, there are external sleep associations that will help set the scene, and better your child’s sleep.

External sleep associations are cues that signal to your baby sleep is going to be expected quickly.

External associations include:

-White noise


-Comfortable temperature

All of these positive sleep associations can help create a foundation of better sleep for your child. However - if your child already has an association with a certain action for sleep, it may be time to introduce sleep coaching in order to introduce independent sleeping skills.


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