Quick fix sleep aids are things parents’ use or courses of actions they take that quickly help their baby go to sleep. Quick fix sleep aids include: pacifiers, comforter toys, rocking a baby to sleep, car rides to help a baby sleep, pushing a baby in a pram to encourage sleep, feeding a baby to sleep, motorised cradles or bassinets, ambient noise machines or recordings, music and lullabies. These are all useful in the short term but they will not help your baby long term or learn how to self-settle to sleep.
Quick Fix Sleep Aids that Should be Avoided
Some studies have shown that babies who use pacifiers while sleeping have a reduced risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). I am not in a position to disagree with these studies and this is a very good reason to want to give your baby a pacifier while sleeping. There are other ways of reducing the SIDS risk that you can adopt if you haven’t already. Please go to our post on reducing the risk of SIDS for more information.
Using a pacifier will most likely settle your baby to sleep but when it falls out of your baby’s mouth in the middle of the night guess who is getting up to put it back in? Your child can’t go on using a pacifier forever so at some stage you are going to have to wean him off it and show him how to settle himself to sleep without one.
There are sleep comforters toys that you can buy and give your baby to take to bed. It is best not to use one, as your baby will then rely on having this to go to sleep. Bedtime can then become very difficult if it gets lost and you don’t have a replacement to hand.
Babies enjoy being gently rocked as they are used to this sensation from being in the womb. This repetitive motion calms them and will often send them to sleep. It is very tempting to use this technique as it does work. The problem is that you are encouraging your baby to rely on rocking to send himself to sleep. This will end up becoming an issue, as when your baby wakes in the night he will need you to rock him back to sleep rather than drift off to sleep himself.
The type of car rides I am talking about are the ones where you purposely put your baby in his car seat and drive him round and round the block in some desperate attempt to get him to drift off to sleep. This technique seems to be mostly used by parents of a baby under three months old who is colicky. When your baby has been screaming for hours and hours and is in pain you are willing to do anything to help him. If the car rides get you and your baby through the colicky stage then do them. Just do them sparingly and only for this reason. Using car rides as a sleep aid just end up causing a lot of hassle. Once your baby falls asleep what do you do? Keep driving for the rest of the night? Pull up in front of your house and sleep in the car from the fear of moving him? Try to move him while asleep and then what happens if he wakes up?
Pushing a Baby to Sleep in a Pram
It is important that your baby does not become dependent on sleeping in a pram and falling asleep to the motion. Once your baby has learnt to self-settle in his crib or cot then it’s fine for him to take some naps in his pram.
Feeding to Sleep
Babies should be put to bed sleepy but still awake so that they learn to self-settle and put themselves to sleep. Feeding your baby to sleep is similar to rocking your baby to sleep. Both soothe and comfort your baby and can send him to sleep. The issue here is that when your baby wakes in the night he is going to want to be fed back to sleep. You are going to find it hard to know whether your baby has woken because he is hungry or because he wants to be comforted back to sleep.
Motorised Cradle or Bassinet
Your baby will out grow a cradle or bassinet in no time so a motorised version is the ultimate quick fix. I am sure it will work wonders for a few short weeks but then your baby will suddenly be too big for it. You will then be left desperately looking for another quick solution.
Ambient Noise Machines or Recordings
We tried playing a white noise recording over night as we thought the noisy birds outside the window were waking our son at 5am. We tried it for a couple of weeks and it made no difference. We also came to realise a few things. We had fallen for a quick fix sleep aid as neither of us wanted to get up then. He wasn’t waking because he was hungry but he wasn’t waking because of the birds. He just wanted to get up then. We decided that long term starting our day at 5am was not going to work for us as family. Also waking at 5am meant that our son had not had the 11 – 12 hours sleep he needed. So we encouraged him to sleep longer in the morning. This took several mornings and involved one of us getting up at 5am and committing to and preserving with our self-settling method. After several mornings of consistency our son started to sleep through to 7am.
Most babies love listening, relaxing and moving to music and they should be given plenty of chances to enjoy it. It can be used as part of your baby’s daytime activities. Using music to help your baby sleep will just form a dependency and this is not a good thing to start at an early age. You have a window of opportunity while your child is young to encourage him to go to sleep on his own. So keep the music for your baby to enjoy during playtime or for chilling out to.
If you have been gifted with a singing voice then let your baby hear it. If like me you haven’t then I am sure your baby will be amused with your efforts. Just keep it for during the day when you want to engage your baby or have fun singing together. Bedtime lullabies form a sleep dependency like music but they are also hard to keep consistent. Your baby may form a dependency on a certain person’s voice and particular songs. This means that one parent will always have to put your baby to bed. It also makes things tricky if you want to leave your baby with his grandparents for example.
Michelle’s book ‘Two Weeks to Sleep – A Sensible Guide for First Time Parents’ will be launched on Amazon very soon. The book explains how you can replace quick fix sleep aids with a self-settling method and help your baby learn how to settle herself to sleep. By doing this you are providing your child with a life long skill.
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