Sleep Training your baby: What are sleep associations? Why do they matter? [Video + Blog]
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A sleep association, as you might have guessed, is anything that you ASSOCIATE with SLEEP.
For your child that might be a dark room, a sound machine, a pacifier, a bottle of milk, or anything else that typically associated with them falling asleep.
We all have sleep associations: they aren’t inherently a bad thing. The trouble we can run into when trying to sleep train babies and help them sleep independently, is when the sleep associations they have are something that they can’t do independently.
My favorite illustration of this is thinking of how we sleep as adults. For example, most of us associate laying in our bed, with our blankets and our pillows, with sleep right? So imagine tonight you lay down for bed and you have all of these things, and you fall right asleep. Then at some point in the night you wake up, maybe to go to the bathroom or something. When you get back to your bed, your pillow and your sheets are gone, and you have no idea where they went or how to get them back. You would be pretty upset and have a hard time falling back asleep, right?
This is what’s happening with a child that used to being rocked to sleep or that’s nursing or drinking from a bottle until they fall asleep. When they wake up at night, like we all naturally do, they don’t have the ability to get those things back so that they can go back to sleep the way that they’re used to. So, naturally, they’re upset and frustrated and tired and they cry until someone comes in and brings their version of a pillow back in to them.
Changing sleep associations is one of the simplest ways to improve your child’s sleep.