When my grandkids were “in the oven”, I would warn their parents – sleep now, because you’ll never sleep again! That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but at least during baby’s first few months, it can seem to be spot on.
Everyone who has had the experience of being a parent knows all too well the difficulties of getting your baby to sleep soundly throughout the night. The dark circles under the eyes of new parents are usually familiar to all those that have been around them.
In terms of baby sleep tips, one of the most important things you must try and establish as a parent is getting your baby to learn to fall asleep on his own. The process by which your child begins to fall asleep on his own is one that involves a natural transition from falling asleep with the mother to falling asleep in an independent fashion.
One of the best ways in which you can speed up this transition is to encourage your child to develop sleep associations that he or she can recreate independently.
What Are Sleep Associations?
Naturally, everyone – and babies in particular – will develop sleep associations. Maybe you brush your teeth right before bed, turn on your alarm, and read for a few minutes before turning out the light. These are the things that you associate with bedtime, and allow you to create an environment in which it is easy to fall asleep.
Mommy Is The First Sleep Association
When your baby is at an extremely young age, he will naturally develop sleep associations involving the mother, as he will often fall asleep in her arms. As you attempt to get your baby to sleep on his own, however, it is crucial that you work to change these associations.
If you always put your child to sleep by holding him, or allowing him to use a pacifier, you create a sleep association with these things.
Then, when your child wakes up in the middle of then night, he can’t go back to sleep on his own because he is unable to recreate his sleeping environment without you: he needs you to feed him or rock him in order to sleep.
Start Introducing Sleep Items
As you begin to try and get your child to sleep on his own, you should introduce items into his sleeping routine that he can sleep with, such as a particular blanket or a stuffed animal. What this will do is create associations for your child that these items are for sleep.
Then, when he awakes in the middle of the night, he will be able to recreate a sleeping environment without your assistance by grabbing his stuffed animal, etc. It can also be beneficial to introduce “transitional items” into your baby’s bedtime routine: Allow him to have his stuffed animal or blanket with him during a final feeding and before-bedtime activities, and allow him to take these things with him to bed.
My daughter-in-law had a novel idea. She would wear a stretchy little tube top (like the one shown in the picture below) during the day under her regular top. Then at bedtime or naptime, she would take it off and offer it to baby to cuddle up with, like a small blanket. It was much better than a “plain” blanket, because it now contained her scent, which brought “mommy” a bit closer.
No matter what you do, your child is going to be creating his or her own sleep associations. Your job is to try and create associations with items that are under his or her control.
By giving your child as much control over his sleeping environment as possible, you allow him to begin to achieve sleep independently. The most difficult transition in early parenting is the one towards independent sleep for your child, and if you introduce new items into your child’s sleeping place, you will hasten this transition, which will soon allow both you and your child to get a good night’s rest.