I know this topic is bound to raise a few eyebrows, because obviously nursing your little one to sleep is a beautiful and natural part of motherhood. And I’m not suggesting that you should never do it! But I’ve worked with a lot of parents who have told me, “My baby can’t get to sleep without nursing, AND she wakes up every two hours during the night!”
So I’m not saying that nursing your baby is a bad habit, or that you should never soothe a newborn to sleep by breastfeeding. But if you fall into the very large group of people whose little ones aren’t sleeping well through the night because they need to be nursed back to sleep several times a night, this video should help you right the ship.Rather read than watch? Click here.
Hi, I’m Dana. What’s the problem with nursing your baby to sleep? Well, let’s dive a little bit deeper into that today.
Now, sometimes I get accused of not being breastfeeding-friendly and I’m here to say that I am 100% breastfeeding-friendly. I think if you are successful at nursing your child, then awesome, good for you, good for your baby, I am all for it. So I’m not telling anyone to stop that, but here’s the problem when you’re nursing your baby to sleep.
So there’s two different things going on here. Nursing your baby is for food and for bonding and for comfort. We can all agree on that. So, food, bonding, comfort. Nursing your baby to sleep adds a fourth layer. Now we got the food, we got the comfort, the bonding, and the sleep, and nursing and sleep don’t really go together very well. So what happens when we’re falling asleep is that we form associations to the things that help us make sleep easier.
So when a baby gets on the breast, especially if they’re fatigued, it’s a lovely place to be, absolutely, I can imagine, it’s a very lovely place to be. It’s warm, it’s cozy, it’s comfortable, you’re with your favorite person, and it would be very easy to start drifting off into sleep while you’re nursing, but now that becomes your strategy for sleep.
If we think about falling asleep, there’s a process, there’s a journey I like to call it. So A is you’re awake, B is you’re asleep. How do you bridge the distance between those two things? And if a baby starts using nursing to bridge that distance every time they need to sleep, now there’s an association. Breastfeeding and sleep are now going hand in hand with your little one, which is not that big of a deal. In the first few months of life, it’s gonna happen.
But what happens when your child is six months, 10 months, 12 months down the road, if they still have that association between breastfeeding and sleep, then those are the parents who are finding themselves up repeatedly in the night to breastfeed the baby back to sleep. So then it’s not really about calorie needs anymore past the six, seven month mark. It’s really not about calorie need, it’s about the strategy for getting back to sleep because we all have naturally occurring wake-ups in the night, anywhere from two to five, sometimes even more. Naturally occurring wake-ups.
It’s common, it’s normal, there’s nothing wrong with it, but if your baby is breastfeeding-dependent, then when they have a naturally occurring wake-up in the night, they’re gonna need you to come in and nurse them. So this is more of a strategy problem, not a food issue, and that is why we see breastfeeding to sleep as the number one most common sleep prop that we’re dealing with with babies, and by breaking that connection between nursing and sleep, a baby can learn the skills she needs for falling asleep independently, which is the key and then she can handle all these wake-ups that occur naturally throughout the night.
She won’t need you or your breasts to come in and help her get back to sleep because she will know how to do it on her own and that is magic, that is lovely. You can still include breastfeeding in your bedtime routine. You can breastfeed feed your baby all the way through the day. You can even breastfeed a baby in the night if they still require nighttime feeding, but we’re just breaking that connection between the nursing and sleep. That’s the only thing we’re changing.
I’m not asking you to stop nursing, I’m not asking you to cut feeds. I’m only asking you to break the connection between the nursing and the sleep, and the good news is that all of you are going to be getting much better rest.
Thanks so much for watching today. Sleep well.
If your baby, infant or toddler is having trouble sleeping through the night, help is just a click away! The Sleep Sense Program has helped over 107,000 parents to get their kids sleeping 11-12 hours through the night AND taking long, restful naps during the day. If you’re ready to get started – I’m looking forward to helping you!
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