Episode Summary:

As I’m recording this episode, I’m going through a beautiful transition: it’s Lilah’s last day of school (and I was so worried about her starting school on her first day!) and the summer excitement is almost in full swing. This got me thinking about how there are also transition periods when it comes to baby and toddler sleep, whether it’s starting daycare, introducing a new caregiver, or simply old ways of supporting your child to sleep not working anymore. Sleep associations are what your little one’s brain associates with going to sleep (ex: bouncing), but as your child grows, you may want to introduce new sleep associations and phase out the old ones. In this episode, I’m sharing practical tips on how to gently switch your baby or toddler’s sleep associations to find more rest in motherhood while showing your LO that sleep is a safe space.


  • What sleep associations are and why it’s biologically normal for your child to need support to fall asleep (AKA, why putting them drowsy but awake in their crib doesn’t work)
  • Understanding that different caregivers can build different types of sleep associations and that you don’t have to put your child to sleep in one certain way
  • The right reasons to switch your little one’s sleep associations (and the spicy wrong ones 🌶️)
  • Steps to gently switch sleep associations: identify what’s not working, add in new associations, phase out old ones
  • How to embrace discomfort when creating new sleep habits and patterns


Read a raw, unedited transcript of this episode.

Brittni (00:01.498)

Hello friend and welcome back to the Resting in Motherhood podcast. I’m so excited to sit down and chat with you. I am coming to you from a very beautiful, beautiful spring. I guess we could call it late spring, early summer day. It’s actually Lila’s last day of school today, which I cannot believe. I feel like…

I was so scared for her to start school. I was so nervous for that first day and I feel like I blinked and the whole year is gone and now we are done. We’re on summer break and we will return in the fall. I actually, as I was taking her last picture with her, like last day of school picture to compare to her first day of school picture, I was thinking I definitely need to record an episode all about kind of our journey to

deciding on forest school, how that intertwines with our decision to homeschool, and then what a forest school is and kind of what it looks like. So I will be doing that probably closer to like when the school year starts, kind of like, kind of to have a theme, right? Like as the school year starting, we can talk about school, but school is out for the summer. And it’s so funny because I have not been in school since I graduated college.

Let me do some mental math here. 10 years ago. my gosh. Has it been 10 years since I graduated from college? That feels crazy. But yeah, that’s about right. But I still always get kind of the summer excitement, right? Even though I work for myself, right? So there’s not really like, and I’m not in school, but still I think there’s just something fun about heading into summer.

warmer weather, going to the pool, for us going up to the lake and being at our cabin, all of that fun stuff. So I hope that wherever you are, you are having a beautiful day. If you’re listening in the evening, I hope you’ve had a beautiful day. If last night was rough, I’m sending you lots of love. And I will also just say that if I sound a little bit stuffy, for the first time ever in my life, I have allergies and they are like pretty bad. I have…

Brittni (02:22.65)

an itchy nose. I’m not even going to, if you’re watching this on YouTube, I’m really going to try not to like have to itch my nose or cough or sneeze, but we know that allergies have their own, a mind of their own. It’s going to happen if it’s going to happen if it’s meant to happen. So yeah, so that is why my voice is a little bit scratchy today, but I digress. We will jump right in.

How am I currently finding rest in motherhood? Currently, I am finding rest in motherhood by prioritizing my own health. I recently took Lila to a functional doctor. If you’ve been listening to the podcast, you know that we were dealing with cavities. The functional doctor and the cavities are not related. But what I’m trying to say is lately, I feel like we’ve been very focused on Lila’s health.

I would say for the last four and a half years, I have obviously been focused on keeping a child alive, keeping a child healthy. So her health has obviously been front of mind. And it’s really interesting because I often recommend to my clients, and then in our personal life, we go to functional doctors. So I always recommend to my clients, like a functional doctor, a naturopath, pediatricians are great. So this is nothing against pediatricians, but…

pediatricians and Western doctors generally tend to treat symptoms instead of looking for a root cause, whereas a functional doctor and a naturopath are going to both want to get to the root cause, which is really important, especially actually, well, I’ll jump right into this in a second, but especially like when we’re looking at sleep or something, we want to get to the root cause of something. So long story short, I’ve been focusing on Lila’s health.

and some little health issues have popped up for me, specifically some skin issues that were kind of a sign that I might be dealing with an autoimmune disease, which my mom and my sister both have autoimmune diseases and I am like fingers crossed it’s not. But how I’m finding rest right now is I’m prioritizing my health. I took myself to a functional doctor yesterday. It was a great appointment. I love like,

Brittni (04:45.658)

how they approach it, right? Like you’re not like heard it in talking to the doctor for two minutes and then they’re out. I sat with the functional doctor for 90 minutes. We went through like a full intake of like all of my health history, my family’s health history, where I’ve lived, all of that, how I eat, how I move my body, all of that. And now I’m gonna have to do some functional lab work, which will be.

Quite a process, but we’ll be testing for all autoimmune diseases. We will be looking at my hormones. So if you pray, I would obviously appreciate prayers. If you are into good vibes, I would love good vibes sent my way, whatever you do. But that is how I am currently finding rest in motherhood right now is prioritizing my health. So what can you do to find rest in motherhood this week?

for yourself. I’m never going to tell you exactly how it should be because it should be something that you love, that brings you energy, that helps you find rest. Maybe it’s taking 30 minutes when your partner’s home, if you have a partner, to go read a book quietly in the sunshine. Maybe it’s calling a girlfriend or sending a voice note to a girlfriend. That is like my primary way of communicating.

with my mom friends, I find it so much easier than like typing out a text message because I can like literally do it while I’m folding laundry. I just like put it on the dryer and fold the laundry and talk. I just find that’s easier. So maybe it’s sending a voice memo to a friend. Maybe it’s bigger and better. Like maybe not better. I think all self care, it just depends on how it’s making us feel, but maybe you’re going to get a pedicure or maybe you’re going to get acupuncture, chiropractor, whatever it is.

and want you to find rest for yourself this week. So what I want to chat about today is something really helpful and really practical for you, which is I’m going to walk you through the process of switching sleep associations. So I’ll first start by saying a sleep association is anything that our brain associates with sleep. And so it’s going to be unique to each child.

Brittni (07:04.986)

And also as adults, we have our own sleep associations. Like my pillow is my sleep association. If I ever forget my pillow, like when we go up to the cabin, I have such a hard time sleeping. When I travel, it’s really hard for me to not have my pillow. Another sleep association for me is I turn on like a fan for Lila and I, not an overhead fan, but like a fan that’s plugged into the wall and I have it on the ground and kind of.

literally pointed towards the wall so that we don’t get a draft, but it’s that noise that I love. My blanket, those are all sleep associations. So you could take a moment just to like think about what your sleep associations are. And then for little ones, sleep associations are things like, well, like white noise, their crib sheet, because it’s going to smell familiar, nursing to sleep, rocking to sleep.

bouncing to sleep, a certain song, if there’s a certain song that a parent hums or sings or plays through like a speaker, a sleep sack is a sleep association. I’m trying to like think of a lot of different ones. A bottom pat, hand holding, like a shushing sound, really anything that a baby or toddler associates with falling asleep. Now what we need to understand is,

The sleep training industry has made us feel like our children need to be able to be laid in a crib or a bassinet or a floor bed. I don’t think the sleep training industry really talks about floor beds, so I doubt the floor bed one. But laid down in their sleep space, drowsy but awake, so they need to be able to fall asleep independently is what the sleep training industry will tell you. That is not true. It is.

biologically normal for a baby to need support in falling asleep. And for simplicity purposes, when I say baby here, I am talking about a child zero to four years of age, okay? Infancy lasts three years, but when I’m just so I’m not saying baby and toddler this whole episode, I will just say, blanket statement, it’s biologically normal for a baby to need support falling asleep, and it’s biologically normal for a toddler to need some sort of support falling asleep as well.

Brittni (09:25.914)

And it does not mean that if they are supported to sleep, they’ll never sleep through the night because they’ll wake up and need that support to get back to sleep. Talk to many parents who support their babies to sleep and you will hear that their baby sleeps through the night even if they’re supported to sleep. Now, at what age they start sleeping through the night is going to be unique to the child. But I thought that that was important to start with just to say that it is a biological norm.

to support your child to sleep. Another myth that I feel like I need to kind of bust before I really go into this is that you cannot nurse, you shouldn’t nurse to sleep because then nobody else will be able to support your baby to sleep. Babies establish different sleep routines with different caregivers. So you can absolutely nurse to sleep while your partner, if you have one, could bounce to sleep.

I’ve also worked with lots of babies who are nursed to sleep and then mom comes to me like right before they’re going to daycare totally freaked out because the daycare will not support them to sleep or will do only like a week of supporting them to sleep and then they’ll be expected to be late in their crib and so they’re like I have to stop nursing to sleep at home and I will stop them there and I will say you do not need to stop nursing to sleep at home if it’s working for you and you’re enjoying it.

If you’re feeling like you need to stop doing this because you’re worried that they’re not going to be able to fall asleep at daycare, babies establish different sleep routines with different caregivers. They will create a new routine and a new way of falling asleep with caregiver at the daycare. One thing I’ll say is I have a lot of clients who come to me for that and then we’ll do like a check -in like two weeks later and they’ll be like,

They just literally laid them in the crib at daycare, no tears, and they fell asleep. That’s not always the case, but oftentimes it is so much easier than we’ve kind of anticipated. Now on the opposite side of that, there are little ones, usually there are more highly sensitive little ones who are just more prone to being overstimulated, who really like their routines. Those are going to be the little ones who are going to have harder time with nap when they go to daycare or with a different caregiver.

Brittni (11:47.322)

But the key there is just consistency and really leaning into what they need. So for a more highly sensitive little one who’s having a harder time at daycare if you’re listening to this and you’re like, it has not been easy, I would say give it about three to four months for them to really kind of settle into the new routine. And speaking of routines and predictability, that’s where it’s really important to know that,

Yes, you have your own routine and way of supporting your little one to sleep, but if this is someone new, so like maybe your partner has never supported them to sleep, but it’s something that you want to work on. Or maybe your mom or your mother -in -law or your sister or whoever is going to start watching your little one and they’ve never supported them to sleep. It doesn’t mean that like the first time that they do it, it’s going to be like easy, breezy, beautiful, like snow.

What am I trying to say? No.

Conflict is not the right word I’m looking for. No difficulty, we’ll say. It’s very common for the first few times to be a little bit trickier because baby is used to doing something a certain way with you. But now all they need to do is establish a new routine with this new caregiver. And when I say new, I don’t mean like if this is the other parent, they’re new to their lives. I just mean new to supporting them to sleep.

So keep that in mind if like if somebody new is coming in to support them to sleep who’s never done it, it’s probable that your little one will be upset with this. But the key is for that caregiver to feel really calm and secure and supporting your little one, supporting their emotions and then creating a routine that feels natural and good for them and supporting your little one to sleep. Now, if you can have sleep associations that are…

Brittni (13:45.658)

kind of universal, like a bottom pad or a back rub or the same song gets turned on. Or again, the sleep sack, those are all great because those will be universal. So as soon as those happen, the brain knows across the board, okay, sleep is coming. So that I kind of just took us a little bit off the path, but it’s all interconnected because what I really want to talk about today is switching sleep associations. But before I dove into it, I wanted to…

really drive home that supporting your sleep, that supporting your little one to sleep is a biological norm. It’s not a bad habit. One little extra piece I’ll throw in there is that sleep represents a huge period of separation between you and your little one. And the infant brain, the human brain cannot go to sleep if we feel in danger because our brain will keep us awake to survive, to be able to protect ourselves.

And so in order to fall asleep, our nervous system has to be regulated. We have to feel very calm. And so one way that our children can do this is by being in our arms, feeling really secure that we’re there with them, that they’re safe. Many children, when they are placed awake in that crib or bassinet, the alarm bells are going off in their head like, my gosh, I’m not going to be safe. I need my parent.

This is not manipulation. It is your baby’s brain doing what it is supposed to do. It is driven to help a baby survive. So that’s another piece is supporting your little one to sleep is giving them that loving connection before they go to sleep, showing them that sleep really is a safe and inviting space. So I wanted to say that. And then I also just wanted to remind you that you can continue.

supporting your little one to sleep in your own way while somebody else supports them to sleep in another way. Babies will establish different sleep routines with different caregivers. So I wanted to talk about those before we really jump into how to switch sleep associations. So first, why would you switch sleep associations? Probably because how you’re supporting them to sleep is no longer working. So maybe that’s,

Brittni (16:05.306)

Maybe you’re sick of bouncing them on the yoga ball and every time you see that yoga ball, you literally want to like stab a knife in it and just like have it go away. If that, so like if you’re just no longer enjoying how you support them to sleep or maybe it’s getting harder to support them to sleep, like maybe.

I’m trying to think of maybe they’re getting heavier and it’s really hard to kind of hold them. Maybe you’re holding them in arms. Maybe you’re rocking them in a chair, but they’re getting too big and you can tell that like they need that closeness with you, but they can’t get comfortable kind of squished in your arms in the rocking chair. Those would be reasons that you would want to switch sleep associations. Reasons you would not want to sleep.

switch sleep associations is because somebody is pressuring you to do it, even though the way you’re supporting your little one to sleep is working for you. Feeling like you need to do it because that’s the only way that they’ll sleep through the night, which is not true. So, and I’ll talk again about this at the end of the episode, but I highly recommend downloading my free switching sleep associations guide. It will have a lot of the same information that I’m going through in this.

podcast episode, but it will also have it written down with it like a printable, it’s all printable, but like a printable page that kind of walks you through the steps. So if you wanted to like print that out and put it somewhere, there’s also some space for reflection within the freebie so that you can kind of like ask yourself, ask yourself these questions that I kind of did like, is something no longer working for us or am I feeling pressured because of XYZ?

There’s a reflection space in there with more probing questions for you to think about. So that will be linked below this episode, but I highly recommend downloading it. Like I said, it’s free and it will give you lots of information and you’ll have it written down so you don’t feel like you need to take notes during this podcast episode because I already took the notes for you and it’s in a beautiful workbook as well. So when you’re wanting to switch sleep associations,

Brittni (18:15.546)

First, you have to ask yourself what feels unsustainable, if that’s your reason. So for example, if it’s the bouncing, and I’m just going to use the bouncing as the example within this episode. So let’s say you’re bouncing and you’re no longer enjoying it. My recommendation would be spend one to two weeks adding in a few other sleep associations if you don’t already have a few in place. So that could be a bottom rub or a back rub.

or hand holding or humming a song. So while you’re bouncing your little one to sleep, you’re adding in these others or you’re using these other sleep associations. So for our example, we will be bouncing baby to sleep or toddler on a yoga ball and patting their bottom and humming a song. So if we were only bouncing before, now we’re spending one to two weeks using the humming and the patting the bottom and the bouncing all at the same time.

while supporting them to sleep. Once you’ve supported them, once you’ve added…

Once you’ve spent one to two weeks adding in those new sleep associations, then what you will do is start phasing out the sleep association that you no longer want. So for example, if it takes you 20 minutes to bounce your little one to sleep, you’re going to start bouncing and using the humming and the bottom pat. Again, these are just the examples I’m using. So you’ll insert whatever sleep associations you want to use and obviously whatever sleep association you want to get rid of.

So we’re bouncing, humming, bottom padding, and we would do that. We would bounce for 18 minutes if it’s taking us 20 minutes for them to fall asleep. And then after the 18 minute mark, we would sit still on the ball and then we would only pat their bottom and hum. If they’re kind of rousing, this is where it’s important to feel really comfortable. Just supporting them to sleep, even if they’re a little bit upset, maybe you do a little bit of jiggle in your arms, but I would say,

Brittni (20:19.354)

I would tell you it’s okay for them to be upset about this change. The most important thing is that you’re there validating their experience and supporting their emotions. So I know you love bouncing. I know it’s hard when we don’t get what we want, but it really hurts mommy’s back to bounce. So I’m just going to pat your bottom and hum to you and continue on. It might take a little bit longer for them to fall asleep. That’s okay. The key to infant and toddler sleep is patterns and predictability.

So not giving up after one to two nights, but really sticking with the change. So then a few nights after the 18 minutes, you drop down to 16 minutes of bouncing and then only humming and bottom padding, then 14 minutes, then 12 and 10 and so on until you’re at a place where again, with the ball bouncing, you’re just sitting on the ball and not bouncing. You’re only using the bottom pat and the humming.

Now, if this were nursing, what you would do is you would just decrease the amount of time that they’re latched. So you’d unlatch at like the 18 minute mark and then go down. Just a caveat there, if you have a little one who is under 12 months of age and you’re wanting to wean nursing to feed, nursing to feed, nursing to sleep, keep in mind that…

Your little one needs those calories. So you’re going to want to either add that feed in right before or pretty soon before bedtime because we don’t want them going to bed with an empty belly and then causing them to wake up more frequently. So that you would follow that process for rocking, whatever you’re doing standing. Now, if you were like sitting on the yoga ball and now you’re at a place where you can just pat the bottom and hum,

then you could consider like, okay, and this is going to depend on sleep setup, right? Because like if you’re bed sharing, then you could then start laying in bed and patting their bottom and humming. If they have a floor bed, then you could start laying in bed and patting their bottom and humming. If they’re sleeping in a crib, then I would suggest, unless the ball’s comfortable for you, then maybe you move to like sitting in a rocking chair or like a soft chair that you can sit in. So then you’ll wanna think again, like with those motion ones.

Brittni (22:40.858)

What can I transition to that feels most sustainable? If you follow me on Instagram, you know I’m a huge, huge fan of the floor bed. Love a floor bed. If I could meet every family before they have a child, I would tell them about the floor bed and tell them to consider it. Obviously, floor beds, we want to make sure that the room is baby -proof. We want to make sure that there’s a baby gate at the door.

Or if we’re okay with them wandering the house because the whole house is baby proofed, that’s okay. I just know that that’s not always a possibility. Also, one thing to keep in mind with a floor bed is if you have cats or dogs, you would want to keep them out of baby sleep space just because of risk of suffocation. But enough about safety. The floor bed is great because like if you’re trying to move away from, let’s say, rocking to sleep,

then you’re able to just like lay in the floor bed with them and support them to sleep. It’s kind of like if we’re moving away from rocking, but then we have to transfer them into a crib, then kind of my thought would be, okay, so what’s sustainable for you? Would it be holding them upright while you’re standing that might start hurting your back depending on how heavy they are? So you kind of want to think through this, like what transition am I making? And then what’s the logical next step?

behind it. So then once you’ve weaned that other sleep association, then you’re left with a way of supporting them to sleep that feels enjoyable and feels sustainable. And that is the key there is if.

it’s not feeling enjoyable and sustainable, then you don’t want to do it, right? So you want it to be something that you’re enjoying. Another thing that I want to chat about quickly is a lot of times families will think that they need their child to fall asleep independently because it’s taking them so long. And I have talked about this in another episode. But if you want your child to fall asleep independently,

Brittni (24:51.386)

One of my questions for you is going to be how long is it taking them to fall asleep? Oftentimes when families come to me and they want their little one falling asleep independently, it’s because it’s taking them 30 plus minutes to fall asleep at night. And so in their mind, they’re like, well, I don’t want to sit here for 30 minutes. So I’m going to do the bedtime routine, kiss them and walk out. But when I talk to them and I say, if we could get it down to them falling asleep in 10 to 15 minutes,

Would you be okay with that? And the answer is almost always yes. It’s just that I can’t have my whole night spent waiting for them to fall asleep. So kind of similar to that, are you wanting to switch sleep associations because it’s taking them a really long time to fall asleep? If the answer to that is yes, then really what we want to do is get to the root cause of why it’s taking them so long to fall asleep. Are they uncomfortable? Are they overtired? Are they undertired? Are they overstimulated?

And these are all things that we could dive into together in a one -on -one consult. You would do an intake form and a sleep log, so I would have a really good picture, and then we could really dissect it and go from there. So if it’s taking a long time, let’s first get to the root cause of why it’s taking so long, and let’s get them down to falling asleep and under, and 20 minutes or under. And then you can decide, do you actually want to switch sleep associations?

If you have a little one and it is taking them a very long time to fall asleep, check out my one -on -one offerings. They will be linked below in the show notes. But also check out, if you have a toddler, check out my toddler sleep course, the Rested Toddler. There is a whole section, a whole video module on delayed bedtimes. And also, within the course workbook, there’s additional tips and tools in the workbook for dealing with delayed bedtimes.

And if you are wanting your little one to fall asleep independently, meaning with no support from you, I also recommend checking out the toddler course because there is a module on that within the course as well. So I hope this was helpful. Again, I totally recommend downloading the Switching Sleep Associations freebie so that you have everything that I just chatted about, but it’s in a nice, beautiful guide. Also, there’s kind of that like checklist of how to move through the process.

Brittni (27:12.858)

and some space for reflection for you to reflect on it. I am wishing you a beautiful day. Thank you for coming and spending some time with me, and I will see you next week.

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