What are Sleep Props & How They Hurt your Child’s Sleep—Part 2

17+ months

Feb 23, 2021

Is your baby or toddler dependent on sleep props like a pacifier and rocking to get them to sleep? In Part 2 of this blog, I’m sharing all about parent-controlled and child-controlled sleep props and WHY sleep props are ruining your toddler’s sleep. As a pediatric sleep consultant, I will also share SAFE sleep props for your baby and toddler.

<<Interested in reading Part 1? You can find it here.>>

Before I get started, I want to review what parent-controlled and child-controlled sleep props are:

A sleep prop is simply something that assists you—a baby, an adult, or anyone—to sleep. There are two categories of sleep props: sleep props that a child can control and sleep props that a child depends on the caregiver to provide to them.

Can you guess which sleep prop can create problems and disrupt your child’s sleep? Parent-controlled sleep props, such as rocking to sleep, patting, and shushing, require YOU to be present to help your child fall asleep at bedtime. It also becomes problematic if they wake in the middle of the night without you and require your help to return to sleep. Let’s discuss some of these sleep props with older babies and toddlers.

Sleep Props for Older Babies & Toddlers

Starting at 12-13 months old, a child can sleep with a stuffed animal or a little blanket in their bed. That’s when it’s safe to provide those other sleep props. But your 4 to 12-month-old is fully capable of sleeping in a crib independently without any of these things.

Parent-Controlled Sleep Props for Toddlers

Let’s start with the parent-controlled sleep props for your toddler and preschooler. In our sleep coaching program for toddlers and preschoolers, some of our families have sleep issues because their child needs a certain item or requires their parent to lay down with them while they fall asleep. And that sounds really harsh of me, right? To say, “That’s a bad thing that they need me?” No, it’s a great thing! I want you to have a wonderful attachment with our child! But there’s a difference between needing to be physically attached to a caretaker all night long and simply enjoying quality time with a parent throughout the daytime.

If your child is depending on someone to help them fall asleep, then they are not in control of their sleep!

What are some solutions? Here are my go-to favorite sleep props for toddler and older children:

  • Stuffed animals
  • Blankets
  • T-Shirt from mom or dad (details below!)
  • Family picture to keep under pillow
  • Nightlight (like Hatch!)

If your child is depending on you to lay with them, there are some really good things we can do. Both of my girls sleep with a t-shirt of mine or my husband’s. My youngest has to have daddy’s shirt, my oldest has to have my shirt. We just gave them an old shirt, wrapped it around their pillow or a stuffed animal, and boom, that’s something they can control! They can hug the shirts for physical comfort and have control over the item.

A blankie and up to two or three stuffed animals are also great child-controlled sleep props after 12 months. You can even use family pictures hanging on the wall to help your child through middle-of-the-night transitions. Now, sometimes at this age, we’re going from total darkness to a nightlight. A nightlight as the child’s sleep prop can be okay. Things change as your child gets older.

The biggest concern I hear in my sleep consulting business is when toddlers and preschoolers are depending on a parent to help them fall asleep when they are capable of putting themselves to sleep independently. They really are capable of sleeping independently, we just need to give them the tools.

If you’ve been having trouble with that transition and are trying to teach your toddler or preschooler independent sleeping skills, check out our toddler or preschool programs, because I lay everything out step-by-step.

We need to teach them these independent sleep skills because it’s not just a skill for today, it’s a skill for forever, right? Your four-month-old all the way up to five-plus years old can be in charge of their own sleep. They can! We just have to give them those tools!

Being able to just grab that pillow and stuffed animal, roll over, and go back to sleep are sleep props that last a lifetime. I’m so passionate about helping you as a parent and giving your child those tools.

Ready to get started? Grab our free guide on Four Steps to Solve Night Wakings with your child! Rather than just a PDF guide, you will receive four days of e-coaching through your email every day with voice memos from me directing you on each step!

four steps to solve night-waking download

Sweet dreams, see you next time.

Becca Campbell
Your Pediatric Sleep Consultant


How sleep props can affect your child's sleep | Little Z Sleep Consulting

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