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Sleep Props: The Good and the Bad!

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

Sleep deprivation will make you do things you wouldn’t normally do. There is a reason that it is used as a form a torture! Lack of sleep is awful. It is no surprise that in the wee hours of the night, with a screaming baby in your arms, many parents will do ANYTHING to get their baby to go to sleep! I don’t blame these parents; I have BEEN one of them! I have used every trick (and even some products) to get my babies to stop crying and go to sleep. There have been many nights where I would reach for a sleep prop, sometimes I would be successful with it, but it was always just a Band-Aid for the real problem. By using a sleep prop, I was hindering my baby from learning how to sleep independently, and instilling a habit that I didn't want.

Let’s start off by explaining what a “sleep prop” is. A sleep prop is considered anything that is outside of your baby’s control and is helping them sleep. The most well-known sleep props are, pacifiers, rocking/bouncing, baby swings, and of course nursing/bottle. The list doesn’t end there though! There are hundreds of products that claim to help your baby sleep better. I’m sure you’ve heard of the Snoo, Mamaroo, Dockatot, baby swings and rockers, the list goes on.

Let’s break these down and clear up some myths!

“Good” Sleep Props

The list of “good” sleep props is minimal. My list includes a prop that most Sleep Consultants wouldn’t agree with, the PACIFIER. I have come to learn that many Consultants will not work with parents who give their baby a pacifier. While I understand their reasonings, since pacifiers often cause many sleep issues, they also have so many great benefits!

It is proven that Pacifier use can help reduce the risk of SIDS, which is a damn good reason to try and keep it, in my opinion! Newborn babies also have a strong sucking reflex, so the pacifier will help satisfy that natural tendency. It can be a great tool to calm a distressed baby.

So why do Sleep Consultants dislike it so much?! The pacifier can become a major hindrance to your babies sleep (and your own) if they wake up every time it falls out. I’ve seen this occur far too often! The soother falls out, baby cries and parents jump out of bed to pop it back into their mouth. What does your baby learn from this? It teaches them that they need the pacifier in order to fall back asleep, and that YOU will come running to reinsert it for them!

If it gets to this point, you have two options:

1. Get rid of the pacifier (tips for getting rid of the soother!)

2. STOP reinserting it for them

One other consideration for the pacifier is "nipple confusion" This is typically discussed around the topic of bottle feeding, but the pacifier can also confuse a breastfeeding baby.

I recommend teaching them to reinsert it themselves. Practice with them during the day by putting it into their hand and moving their hand to their mouth. Depending on their age, they may catch on quickly or you may need to wait for them to grow a bit more before they can master this skill. Then, when it comes time to put them down for bed, place several pacifiers into their crib so that they have a good chance of finding one on their own. If they wake at night, do NOT reinsert the pacifier for them! Again, if you want to help, put it in their hand and move their hand to their mouth.

If you believe your baby has an unhealthy reliance on the pacifier and you want to get rid of it, I recommend cold turkey! There are so many approaches you can use to say goodbye to the binky, I will be posting a blog about it next week, so stay tuned to see your options!

There a few other sleep props that I would include on the nice list!

🐑 White Noise- white noise mimics the sound of the womb so it is very helpful for calming babies and putting them to sleep

🐑 A Dark Room- It is very important that the room is as dark as possible, so I recommend getting blackout blinds. Any light in the room can interfere with natural melatonin production (the sleep hormone!)

My favourite reasonably priced blinds are the EZ Blinds. If budget is less of a concern, and you travel often, the Slumberpod is a great investment Use discount code COUNTINGSHEEP10 for $20 off!

TIP: If you are travelling or don't care what the neighbours think, you can use black garbage bags or cardboard!

🐑 Swaddle or Sleep Sack- I highly recommend them as they ensure that your baby is warm and comfortable for sleep. You want to swaddle newborns babies and then transition to a sleep sack once they start rolling.

“Bad” Sleep Props

There are many products out there that are marketed to make you believe that they will solve all of your babies sleep issues. Maybe some of them will help, but they will likely be a short lived fix that may even instill some not-so-awesome habits.

When a baby falls asleep, they expect to wake up to the same environment. So, if you are using a sleep prop and it is no longer there,

it can cause them to wake up fully and require that prop to help them fall back to sleep.

Let me give you a simple example. If YOU were rocked to sleep in your bedroom by someone you love, the last thing you would remember before falling asleep would be being held and rocked by them. Well imagine your surprise if you woke up in the living room and that person was gone! You would be very confused and you’d probably wake up to figure out where you were and what had happened. Then you would call for them to come back and rock you again. The same thing happens with your baby!

Rocking to sleep is just one example. It could be a baby swing that they learn to rely on in order to fall asleep. Or the boob. Or being walked in a stroller. The list goes on.

Here are some signs to look for if you’re unsure whether your baby has a sleep prop reliance:

🐑 Your baby always has really short naps around 30-45 minutes long. This means they are waking up after just one sleep cycle and are unable to put themselves back to sleep.

🐑 Your baby fights going down at bedtime and often wakes up shortly after going down.

🐑 Your baby wakes up frequently throughout the night.

My goal as a sleep consultant is to teach parents the importance of independent sleep. I am here to help you find where the issues are coming from and how to resolve them. The answer almost always involves removing one or more sleep props and teaching babies to sleep independently. Once they learn this skill, they will be able to put themselves to sleep at bedtime, naps, and any time they wake in the night. This will effectively give you 10-12 hours of baby free time!! Doesn’t that sound glorious? Although we all love our children dearly, having some time to ourselves is so important to maintain our identity and our sanity!

If reading this blog has made you realize that your baby may have a reliance on a sleep prop and you are ready to take the steps to help them learn independent sleep, I am here to help! Send me a message or book a FREE 15 minute consultation!

Be sure to share this blog with other Mama’s who may be struggling! If it can help one Mama get an extra hour of sleep, it's worth taking the time

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