negative sleep associations

What Are Negative Sleep Associations & How To Avoid Them?

As a new parent, it can be hard to keep track of all the different words and phrases you may hear health professionals, online resources or other experienced parents in your life using. I’ve found that one baby sleep related term that causes new parents to say ‘huh?’ is ‘negative sleep associations’. Today we’re going to find out exactly what this term means and how you can avoid them in your little one.

What are negative sleep associations?

A sleep association is basically any action that helps your baby fall asleep. Even adults have sleep associations. Do you fall asleep listening to music or calming nature sounds? Do you flip your pillow over every night to sleep on the ‘cool’ side? Yep. These are sleep associations.

A negative sleep association is something that requires a parent or caregiver to do something for the baby or child. This could be any action that deprives the little one of the chance to learn valuable self-sleeping skills. If your baby knows how to put themself to sleep, well, that means you don’t have to get up every time they stir in the middle of the night.

Examples of negative sleep associations

Examples of negative sleep associations include the following…

  • Holding baby’s hand until they fall asleep
  • Bouncing baby to sleep
  • Driving around in the car with baby to help them get to sleep
  • Nursing or bottle-feeding baby to sleep

Of course, if doing any of these things occasionally helps comfort your little one, please don’t deprive them of that. These habits may hinder bub’s ability to develop self-sleep skills, but in the long run a little hand holding or nursing baby to sleep here and there isn’t going to cause long-term ill-effects.

How to avoid them

In order to avoid negative sleep associations, it’s helpful to instil a sense of positive sleep associations in your little one from an early age. Not by force, but with love and gentle encouragement. Positive sleep associations that show your bub is starting to learn to self-settle may include…

  • Humming or singing
  • Sucking on thumbs or fingers
  • Banging feet against the crib or mattress
  • Rocking back and forth
  • Lifting legs up into the foetal position

Encouraging these self-sleeping skills will help encourage good sleep from the get-go.

As always, sleep sweetly and deeply, my dears x

Learn about the effects of sleep deprivation on newborns!

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