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What Are Sleep Associations?

A sleep association is something that your child needs in order to fall asleep. Some sleep associations make it harder for your little one to fall asleep independently or with another caregiver. These are typically fine and healthy in the first few months of life but if they aren't addressed in the first 3-6 months, you may run into a road block when it comes to healthy and independent sleep skills. Here are some examples.

Sleep Associations Making it Harder:

  • Feeding to sleep (breast, bottle)

  • Rocking to sleep

  • Bouncing to sleep

  • Driving in car to help baby fall sleep

  • Being held to sleep

  • Falling asleep in the stroller (consistently, not just occasionally)

  • Needing physical contact (hand holding) to fall asleep

  • Needing a caregiver in bed with them to fall asleep

On the contrary, there are a bunch of sleep associations, or sleep cues, that help your little one prepare for sleep and naturally activate their melatonin before bed. Some examples of these are listed below.

Sleep Associations (Cues) Making It Easier:

  • Sound machine

  • Nightlight

  • Bedtime routine (bath, pajamas)

  • Putting on a swaddle or sleep sack

  • Singing a few songs every single time they get ready to sleep

  • Bedtime books

  • Lotion before pajamas

  • Hugging and kissing rituals

These cues will continue to promote healthy sleep hygiene for your little one from babyhood all the way through childhood. They signal to the brain that it's time for sleep. It's never too early to start these routines when you have a baby!

If the sleep associations making it harder for sleep are impeding your ability to put your little one down seamlessly or to have another caregiver do bedtime in your absence, it's probably time to work on eliminating the association. I am here to help you! Let's talk - hop on a free goal-setting call with me to talk about it today!



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