Getting Rid of Baby Sleep Crutches

Sleep expert tips to help you break bad habits at baby’s bedtime.

Getting Rid of Baby Sleep Crutches

You just gave birth to your perfect little baby and you’re finally coming home--together! You're a family now, and totally in love. But then all of a sudden, the poo-poo platter hits the fan, and the advice starts rolling in about baby’s sleeping habits:

“Don't rock your baby!”

“Don't give her a paci, she will become dependent on it!”

“Let her be. You want her to be independent and not attached to your hip.”

I'm sure you have already heard at least one of the three statements above. Well, I'm here to tell you: it’s all bull-crap.

During the first 4 months of your perfect baby’s life, you are hereby ordered to snuggle, smooch, hug and bond. Get to know each other. Enjoy breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, and midnight dates together. Absorb the moments when those five tiny little fingers wrap around your one index finger. Take in every millisecond of love, laughter and happiness.

Because eventually it actually does become time to start thinking about baby’s sleeping habits. And all those sleep-assisting baby shower gifts you went gaga over for the first 4 months will start to haunt you. Like that crib mobile or a battery-operated vibrating chair. You begin to rely on them in order to get the baby to sleep. You start stocking up on batteries and buying 80 pacifiers. You know, because you inevitably lose one--or 79--of them. And you realize that you--not baby--have created a sleep crutch.

Below are the four most popular sleep crutches in the making for babies between 4-8 months and some tips on how to easily phase them out before they become a reliance.

1. PACIFIER

Why start?

A pacifier is highly recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for the first several months of your baby’s life to minimize the risk of SIDS.

Now what do I do?

If you’re noticing that your baby is becoming dependent on the pacifier, then it's time to get rid of it. Meaning, if during sleep the paci falls out and she awakens in hysterics searching for it, end this habit now. It might seem like nothing at the moment, but down the baby road, you will become the re-plugger.

2. SWADDLE

Why start?

A swaddle mimics the coziness and secure space that the baby was accustomed to in the womb. That's right mama, baby needs his or her original home re-created while getting adjusted to there new one outside.

Now what do I do?

Know your baby! Meaning, some children hate being swaddled and some love it so much they can't fall asleep without it. If your baby is resistant to the swaddle, don’t keep attempting. Try a sleep sack, such as GroBag, since the swaddle can only be used for the first few months anyway. The Merlin Suit is fabulous because it’s an in-betweenie--its light-weighted so it gives the coziness of a swaddle but offers the roominess of a sleep sack.

3. BATTERY OPERATED PRODUCTS (Swing, Mobile, Vibrations, Sleep Sheep, etc.) This excludes a white noise machine – that is a must-have in the city!

Why start?

Sometimes you need to give your hulk-looking arms and glutes a rest.

Now what do I do?

Once your baby is 4 months+, these battery-operated contractions are not needed. Constant motion depletes your consolidated sleep by keeping your brain and body in a semi-awakened state. In order to achieve sleep to its fullest restorative properties, the optimal sleeping place should be without any kind of stimulation or movement (like a crib.).

So what if you got lots of these battery-operated products as gifts? Recycle! Meaning: find new ways to use them to benefit your baby instead. Mobiles are a great example: I don't recommend them in the crib since they are a distraction for sleep and are too stimulating. The crib should be serene with just a firm mattress and a fitted sheet. Instead, move that mobile to the changing table. You and your baby can have oodles of giggle time while changing their diaper or even during massages. And those vibrating or bouncy chairs? These are great for propping up baby when eating (excluding the vibrational option).

4. HUMAN SOOTHING PROP (i.e. Rocking, The Boob, Sleeping on top of you…)

Why start?

Just kinda happens...

Now what do I do?

There are various ways to transition from you being the prop to something that will give you back some "me-time" and still be a healthy transition. However, these vary based on your particular soothing situation. Since I don't want to bore you with the many variations that might not pertain to you, let's use an example of the most frequent sleep crutch: the feed-to-sleep association.

Fully weaning off night feedings depends on two things:

1. The OK from your pediatrician

2. Is your baby ready?

You will know if your baby's ready to drop a night feeding when you offer him the bottle or boob and he takes one sip and falls asleep instantly. If he’s gulping, he needs to increase his caloric intake during the day.

No matter what, try to remember to enjoy your baby, love yourself and your partner.

And PS: Got a toddler that’s keeping you up all night? Check out our Sleep Crutches: Toddler Edition!

Photography by Kristy May Photography.

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