Getting Your Baby to Sleep

When Cavanaugh was a newborn, I read sleep books and recommendations about establishing multiple sleep associations. Let’s just say I wasn’t convinced. Cavanaugh slept 18 – 20 hours a day without much effort on my part. He fell asleep nursing, he slept in my lap, and I couldn’t imagine a time when I’d want something different. There’s a reason it’s called a babymoon.

What I wish someone had explained more clearly is that I was teaching my son to go to sleep and since he fell asleep while nursing most of the time, I was ultimately teaching him that the only way you fall asleep is by breastfeeding. Actually, he fell asleep in the swing and bouncy seat sometimes, but he outgrew those quickly and then we couldn’t rely on that option. He still falls asleep in his car seat when we’re driving sometimes, but when gas is $4 a gallon, that’s not a sleep association I want to have to use too often.

As adults, we associate going to sleep with reading, putting our pajamas on, brushing our teeth. When we wake in the middle of the night, we might flip the pillow to the cool side or go to the bathroom. Our children are best served when we give them as many tools to fall asleep as we can offer. Then they can rely on themselves and on us. They can put themselves back to sleep or enjoy company on the nights we can offer it. So, here’s my list of top 10 sleep associations.

  1. Sucking (breastfeeding, bottle, pacifier, parent’s finger)
  2. Rocking (in rocking chair, arms, swing)
  3. Being patted on the back/massaged
  4. Walking (in carrier or arms)
  5. Parent noise (lullabies/songs, humming, whistling, prayer, soothing words — shhh, hush, sleeping time)
  6. Books (being read to/later reading to oneself)
  7. Driving
  8. Location (bed (if on parents’ bed make sure you have safe set up), crib, bassinet, Moses basket, co-sleeper, carseat, floor on blanket, swing, bouncy seat). Teaching your baby s/he can fall asleep in a variety of locations will give you all more flexibility.
  9. Lovey (teddy bear, stuffed animal, blanket)
  10. Sound (music, white noise, ceiling fan

Check out Dr. Sears “31 Ways to Get Your Baby to Go To Sleep” for more ideas about sleep in general.

Can you recommend any other sleep associations to teach to baby?

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