Quite often our little ones need some sort of crutch” to sleep; something that they require to fall asleep. I have seen everything from bouncing on an exercise ball for hours, to car rides at 3 am, 15 soothers in the crib, laying on the floor holding and rubbing babies hand for hours, or baby feeding/soothing all night long or babies who will not sleep without a bottle or a breast.
This is all very common and let’s face it, we want our children to sleep and we will do anything for them (and to catch a few winks for ourselves). The issue with sleep props is that the baby isn’t able to learn their own skills to self soothe as they have always given a prop. When a child falls asleep say with music playing and a warm bottle and lulls off into a deep sleep, gets transferred to the crib and then wakes, he thinks “wait a minute?!?!? I didn’t fall asleep like this…? HELP! Mom! Get me back to sleep! I am still tired but don’t know how to fall asleep on my own!”. This is where parents typically have to go in and repeat the whole process of getting their child back to sleep. Sometimes it can take a few minutes, sometimes hours! The challenge is, baby is not getting uninterrupted and consolidated sleep which is the BEST kind of sleep they can get.
My advice for parents struggling with sleep issues due to dependencies is to help them self soothe by offering something that will comfort them i.e. a light little blanket or soft and cuddly stuffed animal. Putting them down awake into their cribs for naps and bedtime is also key. Give them their snuggles and say your goodnights, and into the crib they should go awake- not drowsy. This will help teach them to fall asleep on their own. Do away with the bouncing, rocking, ssshhhhhhh-ing, falling asleep while eating and doing the “tip-toe transfer”….
When a baby can sleep on their own and self soothe, that is when the nice full nights sleeps (10-12 hours straight!) will come and when they are at an appropriate age and weight as well. Naps will be stronger, longer and sounder!