What is a Sleep Prop?

A sleep prop is anything that your baby uses/needs to help him/her fall asleep and stay asleep. It can be anything from a soother, to breastfeeding, bouncing, rocking, swinging or even a car ride.


Why is a sleep prop a concern?


It’s only a concern if it’s a concern for you. What I mean by that is if your baby falls asleep and sleeps well through the night, connecting his/her sleep cycles, then it’s not a problem. When it becomes a problem is when your little one wakes up in the middle of the night looking for that soother, breast, whatever their sleep prop is in order to fall back to sleep. Your baby is relying on the sleep prop to put themselves to sleep and to stay asleep.


Mamas, I know it’s hard. When they are a newborn and you’re absolutely exhausted, you will do anything to help them sleep. The problem occurs when they start waking up at the end of their sleep cycle and can’t connect to the next one without that soother or the breast or being rocked back to sleep. What once was a saving grace for you, is now the bane of your existence, and this is when it becomes a problem. Your baby is now relying on the sleep prop that once served them well, to fall and stay asleep. This means more wake ups for you Mama and more disturbances in the middle of the night. Simply put your baby is looking for their sleep prop to put them back to sleep.

How do I know my baby is using breastfeeding as a sleep prop?


One of the most common used sleep props by baby is your breast. They cry, you put them to the breast and then they fall fast asleep, only to wake up in 1 hr later looking for the breast to help them fall back to sleep. They aren’t necessarily hungry, rather looking for the sleep prop, your breast, to help them fall back to sleep.


What is key during breastfeeding is to look to see if your baby is having an effective feed. If they fall asleep on your breast immediately after you start breastfeeding, it means that they are using it as a sleep prop. By no means am I suggesting don’t feed your baby in the middle of the night. What I am suggesting is for you to ensure that they are having an effective feed.


What does an effective feed look like?


Signs of an effective feed are:

  • Eyes are open, not fluttering
  • You can hear big swallows
  • Your baby is continuously sucking
  • No flutter sucking
  • They are not restless
  • Their little bodies are relaxed


If your baby is flutter sucking, then give your breast a big squeeze. If your baby doesn’t wake up, try to burp them, give them the other side and if they show no interest, then put him/her down into their bassinet/crib.


How to prevent my baby from using my breast as a sleep prop?


The best way to keep your baby from using your breast as a sleep prop is to ensure they are feeding effectively. This means that they are awake and you can hear big swallows. Be vigilant of signs that they are falling asleep and stop the feed if they are exhibiting signs of flutter sucking or closing their little eyes. The more vigilant and consistent you are, the less they will use your breast as a sleep prop.


If you notice that they fall asleep immediately after you initiate breastfeeding, he/she is using your breast as a sleep prop.


If you feel like your baby is needing a sleep prop to fall asleep and stay asleep and it is affecting their sleep as well as yours, feel free to reach out. Set up a free phone call with me and we can discuss how I can help your baby fall asleep and stay asleep without the need of a sleep prop and help all of you get a much needed good night’s sleep.


Remember Mama, You got this!

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