What is a Sleep Association?

What are sleep associations?

Sleep associations are the routines, habits and patterns or objects that we connect with feeling sleepy, and to help us transition off to sleep feeling safe and secure.

We might watch TV, listen to soothing music, read a book, have a calming tea, and the object we use most obviously a pillow!  These are the types of things you associate with going to sleep each night. Can you go to sleep without your pillow, or what happens when you wake up and your pillow is missing or on the floor? You would have an issue going back to sleep.

Sleep associations can be extremely powerful. Meet the Beanie Boos- small fluffy, big eyed stuffed critters that rule our bedtime like a fluro stuffed show! Each have a name, a date of birth, and must all be present and accounted for each. every.night.


Sleep associations help us drift off to sleep. They also help us go back to sleep when we wake during the night.

You can create and use cues to help your baby understand that it is time to go to sleep and to help your baby feel comfortable doing so. Sleep associations for babies, might be white noise, a darkened room, putting them in a swaddle, a comforter, a dummy, cuddling, rocking and feeding be it breast or bottle to sleep.

Positive or negative sleep associations-I like to talk about sustainable sleep associations.

I have had clients use hairdryers, tumble dryers, over head stove, exhaust fans, vacuum cleaners, bouncing on balls for hours at a time, 24/7 rocking in a pram then transferring into bed, and the old car ride. In fact you probably have listeners now out driving their kids to sleep.

Often these associations don’t become a problem, unless it becomes a problem and sleep deprivation, time and emotions are affecting your functioning of health, relationships, work and daily life- or your hair dryer blows up. Sleep fragmentation that makes you exhausted and makes your baby cranky.

The problem with sleep associations lies in the fact that your baby needs you to recreate the environment in which they fell asleep. You become their “hair dryer” and when they wake up between sleep cycles sleep its gone and they don’t know how to go back to sleep. So, they will call out for us to help them go back to sleep.

Which is fine whilst it is sustainable for you.







The main key is to set up  sleep associations that will  allow your child to go to sleep the same way each nap time, night time, and wake ups through the night, and when you wish to change a associations you need to consider the depth of attachment your child has to each one.

The ideal time to remove a sleep association say like a dummy is before 4-5 months. This is before the developmental stage “object permanence” kicks in.

For a child older than 6 months,   I suggest to not abruptly remove something that brings your child comfort and expect her to be okay with it.  Often though with a dummy cold turkey is the only way if you are having a repeat plugging issue for hours through the night.

I work with clients to find a way to gently support your child through that transition. This does require patience, and thus you need to be able to see it through and not buckle after 10 minutes. You need to be able to “top up” on all the other associations your child finds soothing.

For further information or help please email

Lifesaving Christmas Newborn Gifts.

Newborn Safe Sleep Gifts

There is nothing more adorable than a newborn’s first Christmas. With the gift giving season upon us, parents are often given gifts that well-meaning relatives assume are safe and sound.

santa suits

Christmas is an ideal time to check potentially lifesaving suggestions for what not to buy for the newborn baby in your life: potentially hazardous bedding items such as blankets, pillows, pillow-like toys, quilts, comforters, sheepskins or crib bumpers


There are so many gorgeous blankets, cot bumpers, and comforters available, especially with Christmas symbols and shapes.

It is a joyful time to celebrate a child’s first Christmas, even comforters are decorated in dasher at this time of year.

Christmas day outfits are divine, but they often come attached with little Santa hats and bibs, that should be removed when it comes time for a nap

Parent’s need to be aware of age appropriate gifts, such as pillow pets.

Sids and Kids recommends the following practices for safe infant sleeping:

1.Sleep baby on the back from birth, not on the tummy or side.

2.Sleep baby with head and face uncovered.

3.Keep baby smoke free before birth and after.

4.Provide a safe sleeping environment night and day, no couch or bean bag naps.

5.Sleep baby in their own safe sleeping place in the same room as an adult caregiver for the first six to twelve months.

6. Breastfeed baby if possible.

Parent’s should also be aware when travelling to visit relatives with a newborn, and be watchful of their baby’s temporary sleep surface. It is often tempting to let the baby sleep overnight in a pram, as they might settle easiest in it, but they are not recommended for over night sleep. If you are borrowing a port-a-cot, then check the mattress and mesh surroundings.

To keep the manger safe I also recommend:

  • Use a firm sleep surface covered by a tight, fitted sheet.
  • Don’t use pillows, blankets, sheepskins or cot bumpers.
  • Keep all soft objects, like toys or stuffed animals, out of the sleep area. If your baby is using a comforter check it is a breathable material and the size of a face washer.
  • Make sure nothing covers the baby’s head. Remove hooded tops and hats.
  • Dress the baby in clothing, such as a one-piece sleep suit, and appropriately togged sleeping bag or swaddle.
  • The baby’s sleep area should be next to the parents’ bed.
  • If a family is bed sharing to contact a health professional or certified sleep expert to ensure correct methods are safe.
  • Invest in a Infant CPR program whilst at home during the Christmas Season.

boys christmas bedding Looking gorgeous but not SIDS recommended. christmas bedding
reindeer snugglyAccording to Sids and Kids:

  • Most SIDS deaths happen when babies are between 28 days and 1 year of age.
  • According to the ABS 50 babies died of SIDS in Australia in 2012.

Tips to Green Your Babies Sleep.

Elements of a Green Baby Nursery.

1: Choose a cot made out of real wood with natural finishes, untreated pure cotton and wool preferably organically grown.

2. Consider making your baby’s room dark and peaceful with wooden blinds (non-toxic finish)or aluminium mini-blinds.

3. Consider using cloth or wooden toys, as most plastic toys are a contributor to indoor air pollution.

4. Provide good ventilation. Newborns require fresh air, but not draughts.

5. Once you have a non-toxic nursery- consider using non-toxic cleaning products.

6. Rule of thumb- if a smell bothers you- it will bother your baby.

7. Consider bamboo products- nappies, wipes etc.

8. Sheets, bedding etc should be made out of soft natural fibres that breath, absorb and comfort.

9. Choose natural fabrics without permanent press- products that claim to reduce the need for ironing or flammability often contain formaldehyde or plastic resins that take time to wash out.

10. Enclose the mattress in a cover that contains polyurethane or vinyl to prevent dust mite. Air this out for at least a week before first use.

11. Avoid goose down- can trigger asthma. Use only organically grown cotton fabrics that are unbleached, or naturally coloured. Opt for wool fabrics that are chemical free and fire resistant.

12. For when your baby is close to 2 opt for an organic cotton pillow covered in a natural fibre pillow case.