Baby sleeping tips: developing sleep associations
Everyone who has had the pleasure of being a parent can relate all too well the difficulties faced getting your baby to sleep peacefully throughout the night. The dark circles and puffy eyes of new parents are familiar to all those that have met up with them.
One of the most essential things you should try and establish as a parent is helping your baby to learn to fall asleep all on their own. The sequence by which your child begins to fall asleep on their own is one that requires a natural transition from falling asleep with their parent or caregiver nearby to falling asleep independently. One of the best ways to speed up this transition is to motivate your child to develop their own,unique sleep associations that he or she can recreate.
All humans - and babies in particular - will develop sleep associations. These are the things that you identify with bedtime and allow you to create an ideal environment in which you can easily fall asleep. When your baby is at a very young age, he/she will naturally develop particular sleep associations such as the mother, as they will often fall asleep within her arms. As you attempt to get your bundle of joy to sleep on their own, you must work to adapt these associations.
If you constantly put your child to sleep by cradling them or getting out a pacifier, you'll have them develop a sleep association with these things. Then, when your child gets up in the middle of the night, they're unable to go back to sleep on their own because of the inability to recreate the sleeping environment without you: They would need to be fed or rocked off to sleep.
As you begin to make your child sleep on their own, you should introduce items into their sleeping routine such as a favourite blanket or a stuffed animal. These are items that your child will associate sleep with. Then, once they wake up in the middle of the night, there won't be any trouble recreating a sleeping environment without your help. All they have to do is grab their blankie or stuffed animal, etc. It can also be useful to introduce "transitional items" into the baby's bedtime routine: Allow them to have their stuffed animal or blanket during a final feeding and before-bedtime activities, and allow them to take these things with them to bed.
Irrespective of what you do, your child will create sleep associations. You have to try and develop associations with items that are under their control. By giving your child as much control over their sleeping environment as possible, you allow them to achieve sleep independently. The toughest transition in early parenting is the one towards independent sleep for your child. You will hasten this transition if you introduce new items into your child's sleeping place, which will soon allow you and your child to finally get a good night's rest.