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Sleep associations in infancy

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Sleep associations in infancy


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Infancy (<1)

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Sleep associations in infancy

Sleep associations in infancy

Babies and toddlers can be surprised and upset if they fall asleep in one situation and wake up in a new one. To get back to sleep, they may need that familiar situation again. For example, when a baby falls asleep in his mother's arms, he may want that situation back when he wakes up. Babies feel safer when they are in familiar situations.

These "sleep associations" can be a problem for both babies and parents. Babies' sleep can be disrupted, because they cannot soothe themselves back to sleep after waking up. Parents' sleep is also disrupted, as they must wake up to soothe the baby! Here are some tips to help your baby get out of these habits.

  • Put your baby in his or her crib for both nighttime and naps while he or she is at least a little bit awake. He may fuss, but should learn to soothe himself back to sleep without the breast, bottle, pacifier or other outside help.
  • If your baby falls asleep at the breast or with a bottle, wake him up enough to return to sleep on his own.
  • Substituting a habit that your baby can control may also work. For example, some parents put a bunch of pacifiers in their baby's crib. Then, when she wakes up, she can always find and reach one easily to help herself get back to sleep. Others put a "lovey" or other comfort object in the crib that makes the child think of sleep. Others help baby find her thumb as a way of helping her to go back to sleep by herself.

Adapted from Healthy Steps. Edited and Compiled by the Center for Promotion of Child Development Through Primary Care 2011

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