Stop Nursing Your Baby to Sleep
Babies are stubborn. They only know what they need in any given moment of time. Their worlds exist only in the single moment that is happening for them and they are not yet self-aware.
Since their most basic need is eating, they start to develop routines around feeding times and even nursing patterns.
If you begin to develop strong patterns of nursing your baby to sleep, even when they’re tired, they will only fall asleep after nursing. This is problematic, especially since moms need sleep too.
In fact, some research has even claimed that a baby who will only sleep after being nursed actually has a sleeping disorder1. While it is quite common (occurring in up to 40% of children), it is something that any mother wants to put an end to. This is because when they are the only ones who are able to get their baby to sleep, sleep deprivation often occurs.
We aren’t saying never nurse your baby to sleep, but be careful to avoid developing a pattern of this every single night. Instead, after the first month or two, make it an every now and then occurrence.
No other members of your family, especially your partner, will be able to help with middle of the night feedings if they develop this pattern of sleep nursing. That’s why we’ve put together a list of ways to help your baby fall asleep without needing to nurse first.
1. Separate Naps from Nursing
One of the best things to do to avoid your baby developing a dependency on needing to nurse before sleeping is to create a nap routine. This routine should not be built around nursing. This stops the association with nursing and sleeping from forming, thus breaking the connection that is otherwise created.
Some ways to do this include1:
- Nurse outdoors during the day. This allows your baby to experience sunlight and changes of weather, which means it will be much harder to develop into a signal for naptime.
- Nurse during playtime. When the baby is more alert, it will be less likely for them to fall asleep during, or immediately after you finish nursing.
- Nurse at different intervals throughout the day. Again, this creates a routine of feeding rather than a signal for bedtime. It might be hard at first, but eventually you and your baby will both benefit.
In addition, create other cues for when it’s time for naptime that don’t involve feeding! You will thank us later.
Since newborns need a bit more attention and care, wait to start this until about 12 weeks old1.
2. Perfect The Environment
Creating an effective sleeping environment will help get your baby to sleep faster and without the need to nurse. It helps build his or her circadian rhythm and will be very beneficial as they grow1. To do this, simply dim the lights and create a quiet environment whenever it is time for sleeping.
Try adding in lullabies, gentle rocking, reading or white noise.
If you feel that a nighttime feeding is absolutely necessary, never avoid it. Nighttime feedings produce a hormone called prolactin, which aids in the production of milk1.
3. Let Dad do Late Night Feedings
If you still need to give a few nighttime feedings, at least leave the late nighters to dad. A great way to do this is by pumping and having some breast milk handy so that in the middle of the nights, your baby will still get the benefits of breast milk without the nursing-sleep association.
Also, babies past a certain age (8 months who have started with solid foods) usually make it through the night without needing to be fed2. This means that if you have dad get up to soothe them, they might not even need to be fed.
Finding other soothing activities to put your baby to sleep will also do wonders. Try cuddles, rocking chairs, white noise, singing or even pacifiers. Start with anything that doesn’t involve feeding. If however, nothing is working then have dad break out the bottle before rushing to wake up mom.
4. Keep a Clear Line Between Playtime and Naptime
Stimulation is important in a developing baby. They need tons of it in order to grow, learn and reach milestones. Unfortunately, stimulation near naptime means an overly active baby who will not (believe us) be able to get to sleep.
This is especially true for those easily excitable babies. When they learn new skills or discover new wonders of the world, it is hard to get them to do anything else. Just try and stick to your schedule, no matter how much you’d rather watch them walk around and babble to you with their newly forming language skills.
If playtime occurs later in the day, it will be hard to make that transition. Aim for earlier playtimes with a prolonged period of relaxation before it’s ready for bed1.
5. Wean Off the Nipple
This method involves slowly weaning your baby off of the nipple in order to stop association rather than letting them cry it out. It involves releasing your nipple when your baby is just about to fall asleep while nursing, and then closing your baby’s mouth1.
Your baby will start to wake up again each time and search for your nipple. However, when the process is continually repeated it will help break the association subconsciously.
Some women will prefer to always nurse their baby to sleep, and that’s okay. It’s always your decision and there are actually a lot of benefits of nursing your baby to sleep. Just remember, do whatever you feel comfortable with. If you ever need a little break, just try one of our tips!
If you have any other great tips that revolve around nursing your baby to sleep, comment on our Facebook page! We always love hearing what our readers have to add. Don’t forget, that all expecting and new mothers are eligible to receive an electric breast pump covered by their insurance provider! Just head over to our page and browse our selection to find one that will fit your needs.