Everything you need to know about sleep association and your baby

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"The most important part of choosing something small is the fact that it is a lot safer.  Big blankets pose a suffocation risk."
"The most important part of choosing something small is the fact that it is a lot safer. Big blankets pose a suffocation risk."

Often new moms are told to introduce an item that can serve as a positive sleep association or security item for their babies.

Even sleep consultants advise this – have you ever considered why?

Here Jolandi Becker, a certified sleep consultant at Good Night, offers some insight to help you understand and also help you choose the right one.


What is a sleep association?

Sleep associations are anything (even an action) we use to help us get to sleep: a pillow, a blanket, even your partner is a sleep association. Those things we choose to help us sleep better. We are not always even aware we have sleep associations.

Babies can use similar tools to help them sleep and link their sleep cycles.

The reality is that some sleep associations for adults can be sustainable: Like a pillow (Note: not suitable for babies), but some can be non-sustainable (a snoring partner – PS also not good for babies).

This just means that some things we use to sleep with can help us sleep and other things can have the opposite effect even though we have good intentions with them.

This is exactly the same principle for babies and children, some sleep associations can be sustainable (taglet/blanky/soft toy/lovey) and others can be non-sustainable (rocking/feeding to sleep).

Rocking is not a viable (sustainable) solution long term, as your baby grows, they become heavier and heavier. You won't be able to sustain that sleep association with your toddler.

Sustainable sleep associations are items babies can use independently without having someone else provide them to them (e.g. a taglet/lovey). Non-sustainable sleep associations require the assistance of a caregiver /parent (rocking/feeding to sleep).

Read: Teddies, dummies and bottles: When should you worry about your child’s attachment to comfort items?

What about a dummy/pacifier?

The reality is that a dummy falls somewhere in between, a somewhat grey area.

It can be both sustainable – for a newborn or if the baby can use it independently, but it can also be non-sustainable: if you have to go in more than once a night just to put the dummy back, the so-called "dummy drill".

Benefits of a sustainable sleep association?

Science reveals that sustainable sleep associations/security items are beneficial for children, helping to give them security and healthily self-regulate their emotions.

Once again, I will compare this to adults, we all have things we do or use to cope with emotions, we exercise to manage stress, hang out with friends to unwind or call a friend to vent. Some coping mechanisms, of course, can be better than others.

But just like us, and even more understandably so, children also need coping mechanisms as all their emotions are very new! They are still learning to process and self – regulate.

The lovey/security blanket/taglet serves as a built-in sense of security making children feel safe enough to take small risks, explore and grow.

It is like training wheels for your emotions, it provides a safety net that increases confidence and then is shed when no longer needed.

By taking small risks, children will feel free and unafraid to the transition taking larger risks as they grow and change.

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