Everything You Need to Know About Sleep Associations

Sleep associations (sleep aids, sleep crutch) are anything a person uses to fall asleep. That’s right, we all use them no matter our age. As an adult my sleep associations include brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, saying goodnight to my partner, fluffing my pillow and crawling under my blanket. A toddler’s sleep associations might be a bedtime story, saying goodnight to Mom and Dad, and cuddling a favourite teddy. So what’s the big deal with a baby having sleep associations? Some professionals believe a baby should have none, while others believe a baby should have plenty. What is best for you depends on what your personal preference is. To help you decide, let’s break them down further.

Sleep associations have three main categories: environmental, parent-led, and baby-led. Environmental sleep associations include a bedtime routine, white noise machine, and a lovey. Parent-led ones are rocking, singing and nursing, while baby-led associations involve sucking thumb, rolling over and making settling noises. As all of those help a baby fall asleep, then why are sleep associations controversial?

Well mainly it’s the parent-led associations that are seen as problematic as it means baby is reliant on their parent or caregiver to help them fall asleep. That being viewed as a problem entirely depends on what your personal preference is. Do you mind supporting your baby in falling asleep every night and during every night waking? Or do you prefer baby learns to fall asleep using environmental and baby-led associations? You’ll get lot’s of advice and opinions on that one. But the truth is, it’s your choice, and your choice alone as to which you prefer.

So with all the conflicting advice out there, what is a parent to do? Experiment with all three categories of sleep associations to see what you like and don’t like. What does baby prefer? Does baby have a temperament that allows for more environmental and baby-led associations or does their temperament require the comfort of parent-led associations? Only you know what’s best for you, your baby and your family. Be confident in your choice and baby will be too. Remember, sleep associations are within your control. Use them to your advantage.