One of the most important elements we can teach our children is to fall asleep on their own and help them develop self-relaxing strategies to stay asleep. We all have something we use to help us fall asleep - otherwise known as a "sleep cue". Some of us need to sleep on our sides, use special pillows, put socks on, leave the window open, read a book, or meditate before we are able to fall asleep. These are our sleep cues.
Whatever it is, we all have things we do or use to allow us to wind down and fall asleep. Some examples of healthy sleep cues for children are the following:
Creating a consistent sleep environment - dark and cool temperature
Consistent bedtime and naptime routine - the routine sets the expectations and the child will know what comes next.
Giving your child a lovey, security blanket, or an old shirt of mom or dad to use only in bed (only after 12 months of age) - the object is associated with sleep
Using a white noise machine - associating the sound to sleep while simultaneously blocking out unwanted noise.
Naps and nighttime sleep occur in the same space - associating the bed to sleep.
Regarding infants and sleep cues, the best cues to use are those that are similar to being in the womb. These can be swaddling (first 3-4 months only), shushing (white noise machine) and sucking. A pacifier can be used at least in the first 6 months of life up to a year for the sucking reflex and it is also known to help prevent SIDS.