Sleep props (also known as sleep aids, sleep associations, sleep crutches or sleep habits) can be anything your baby or child needs to help them fall asleep. The things they just can’t fall asleep, or back to sleep, without.
They can be objects, like their Swaddle UP™ or sleep bag, a dummy, white noise or, for older babies and toddlers – a security blanket or comforter. Or they can be an activity like feeding, rocking, patting or even being driven around in the car.
If your baby relies on a sleep prop to fall asleep at night, they’ll usually need it when they rouse between sleep cycles or when they wake during the night. So, if they’ve become accustomed to being rocked to sleep at bedtime, they’ll most likely need you to rock them to sleep each time they wake through the night.
These sleep props are only a problem if your baby can not get back off to sleep without them and they rely on you to access them. If you use a dummy and your bub spits it out once they fall asleep, and they sleep peacefully through the night, then this isn’t an issue. But if the dummy falls out and you are constantly having to put it back in, or rock for hours on end, then this isn’t helpful for bub or sustainable for you in the long term.
Some families love the rocking and feeding to sleep, and have no problem resettling their babies like this each time they wake during the night. If this sounds like you, that’s absolutely fine, keep doing what works for you and your baby.
But if you feel your baby is too reliant on you or another sleep prop, it may be time to consider changing bubs sleep habits and phasing the sleep prop out.
Once bub is able to settle to sleep without the sleep prop, they’re more capable of resettling themselves back off to sleep if they wake, or when they cycle through the lighter phases of their sleep cycles (which can happen hourly overnight!).
If this something you’re interested in, check out our tips on how to phase out sleep props and change the way your baby falls asleep.