As many of you readers have probably noticed, there are multiple misconceptions around in regard to babies and sleep. One of the biggest issues I personally run into when working with families is the need/want to “transition” or “phase out” their child’s sleep props/sleep associations – this is unfortunately a myth in the sleep training world and not something I can personally stand behind as a Sleep Consultant.
Let me start by explaining a bit; A sleep prop dependency or sleep association is anything your child relies on for falling asleep. This can be anything from a movement, nursing, bottle, swaddle, parent. If your child absolutely will not sleep without this thing – it is more than likely a sleep prop dependency.
In order to define your child as a completely independent sleeper they should be able to do all 3 of the following:
- Go into bed completely awake
- Fall asleep from the completely awake state
- Connect their sleep cycles through the night
The Problem with trying to transition/phase out sleep props:
Not only is trying to phase out sleep props hard on parents – it is extremely difficult and confusing for a little one. The issue with doing this is, you will be offering the sleep prop at times, but then at other times they are not allowed to have it. To a baby, this doesn’t make any sense and you are more than likely dragging out the process way longer than it needs to be, which ultimately leads to a lot more than tears than originally wanted. Not only is this experience confusing for you and your child, it also creates more protest from your child.
What do you do?
The best thing you can do once you make the decision to sleep train is completely drop ALL props at the same time. This occurs at bedtime the first night (since night sleep is the easiest) and then leads over into naps the following day. By removing all props at the same time, you are making a clear plan, and setting expectations for your child. Removing all props at the same time does not create confusion or extend training any longer than necessary. Of course, that first night or two may be tough, but it is tougher on parents than children.
Cutting all sleep props off at the same time can sound hard and upsetting for some parents. However, eliminating all props at the same time consistently leads to a much higher success rate of sleep training and less tears from both baby and parents.
1. Make a plan and write it down. Post it where the whole family can see
2. Speak with your child’s doctor before dropping all night feeds
3. Stop all props the first night of training
4. Follow through and remain consistent
5. Seek help & support if needed