Getting rid of sleep props can be tough! If you don’t know what the term “sleep prop” is, let me explain. A sleep prop is anything your child uses in order to go to sleep. For instance, parents are often the biggest sleep prop there is! Many kiddos rely on their parent’s touch in some form or fashion in order to go to sleep. But the #1 sleep prop there is feeding-to-sleep. Almost all babies start out feeding-to-sleep at birth, as it’s quite natural. All is usually fine until the baby hits 4 months old and goes through what many refer to as the dreaded “4 month regression”. For other babies, it becomes an issue sometime in that first year, when parents realize that their baby should be able to sleep through the night yet they aren’t. That’s when they call me!
There are very few parents who don’t have sleep prop issues when we talk. Usually, if there are sleep props involved, there are sleep issues in general. Here are some more common sleep props…
- bouncing (either in arms or on an exercise ball)
- pacifier (when used in order to get to the child to sleep or back to sleep)
- co-sleeping (when you are only doing it out of necessity and not by desire)
- using apparatuses such as a stroller, car seat, baby wrap/carrier, Rock-N-Play, Dock-A-Tot, swing
You’re probably looking at this list thinking about how you are currently using one or more of these things and wondering how the heck you’ll ever get your child to sleep if you stop. First of all, just know that it absolutely can be done! It can take a bit of time, persistence, and consistency, but it is well worth it in the end! Think about how nice it would be to have your evenings back to yourself to spend binge watching your favorite show, scrolling through social media, catching up with an old friend, having quality time with your spouse/partner, taking a bath, or even folding laundry (I know that’s not exciting, but it still needs to be done)! And then think about how you wouldn’t have to go to bed early because you’re afraid your child will be up multiple times that night. Or worse yet, you don’t go to bed early, your child does wake up several times, and now you’re a walking zombie the next day. Ugh!
But you can have those wonderful things I just talked about if you can manage to take away the “bad sleep props” and teach your child some new, independent sleep skills. You can also replace a few bad props for a couple good ones, if you aren’t already using them. Let me share examples of “good sleep props”…
- lovey (any comfort item your child uses, such as a stuffed animal, doll, blanket, etc)
- a worn shirt of the parent (can help older kids who might miss you)
- white noise machine (I like these for all aged children, as it lessens background noise and adds a consistent soothing sound)
- night light (only for older kids who have expressed being afraid of the dark)
While these things still help your child get to sleep, they don’t involve you! Adding these things are the easy part though. You still need to teach your child how to fall asleep without you or an apparatus, such as the Rock-N-Play. They should be falling asleep in their crib or bed for all sleep, as that’s the safest place to be. You also don’t want to have to transition them there later, since that can easily wake them up on the transfer or startle them later when they wake up and realize they’ve been moved. How shocking would it be to you to be moved after you fell asleep?!
How you actually get rid of those props is up to you. You can always choose to go “cold turkey” and just get rid of the prop (ex: pacifier, apparatus, holding, etc). Or you might decide to slowly wean the prop first, like with feeding-to-sleep or bouncing. You can also replace the prop of you with just your shirt or a new lovey. Of course, I realize that it’s all easier said than done. Your child’s not likely going to thank you for changing up their sleep routine and expecting new things from them. Nope, they’re more likely to protest these new changes, even if just a little bit. No one likes change, including children, so try to be understanding and supportive during the process.
And just so we’re clear, when you take away or change a sleep prop, you’re going to be doing sleep training (or sleep teaching). This is exactly what sleep training is… creating a new, sleep-prop-free world for your child! With that will come some resistance, so be ready for it! You need a good plan (and Plan B), a few nights to make these changes, patience, and consistency. If there’s one thing I know about kids, is that they’re often a step a head of us with this sort of stuff, which means you need to be 2 steps quicker!
*If you need help in developing that plan of action, you should check out my online courses for Newborns, Babies, and Toddlers/Preschoolers. These 2 week video courses can help you understand sleep, how to choose the sleep training method that’s best for your family, and then tell you exactly how to implement it! Or, if you’re too tired, overwhelmed, or lacking time to do a 2 week course, then check out my one-on-one sleep services for children. I will do all of the planning for you by developing a customized sleep plan, and then I will support you throughout the 2-3 week process while you get it done. If you have any questions about working together, feel free to set up a free 15min phone assessment.