BREASTFEEDING YOUR BABY TO SLEEP
This fortnights guest post is from Romina at Mini Mummi Blogger
I know there’s quite a bit of discussion out there about why mothers shouldn’t breastfeed their babies to sleep. There’s probably some about why they should, but I haven’t really come across any. Being one of those mums who breastfeed their baby to sleep, I wanted to share some of the reasons behind my choice to do so.
When my son was born, he’d sleep a lot during the day and hardly at all during the night. It took a few weeks to get his days and nights the right way around – he was just following the routine he’d had in the womb, as a wiggle worm at night and a daytime sleepyhead. As a newborn, he’d just sleep whenever he was tired, including naps of up to four hours at a time. Once he started becoming more aware as an infant and, now that I think about it, once he’d worked out that day was day and night was night, he stopped napping consistently. Mostly, he just wouldn’t nap at all. It really started to wear me out, as he still wouldn’t sleep through the night either.
I noticed that he’d consistently fall asleep after some of his feeds, usually the late morning, lunchtime, and late afternoon ones. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t stay asleep if I put him in his cot, so I’d sit there for up to an hour each time, to ensure he got some rest. It meant that I didn’t get a lot of anything else done until he’d gone down for the night, but at least my baby was getting some sleep. And I got to actually watch some TV to wind down, sitting there with him in my arms. I didn’t think it was a bad arrangement. However, when I went to see the lactation specialist about extreme, lasting pain while latching, she said it wasn’t a good habit to encourage, as he wouldn’t learn to self-settle; and, if anyone else had to look after him, it wouldn’t be fair to them that he’d only fall asleep on the boob.
At first, I took this to heart, and tried to make him fall asleep with other methods. The only thing that worked was taking him for a walk or a drive. His daddy would come after work and take him for a long drive so I could eat, have a shower, or nap – whatever I hadn’t managed to do that day (usually all of these). He’d even stay asleep in his capsule after the drive, and I’d feed him “one last time” before bed once he’d woken up. This worked really well, and at around 4 months of age, he even started sleeping through the night. He got too heavy for me to carry in the capsule at about 5.5 months, so we got the car seat installed, and the staying asleep after drives went away; but at least I wasn’t the I only one who had a way to get him to sleep.
With overnight sleeping, the daytime naps just stopped happening. He slept for more than half an hour on the boob once, maybe twice, a day. I was thankful for getting a decent night’s sleep EVERY NIGHT, but it was still hard to get anything done. If he fell asleep breastfeeding, I just let him. Because I thought my baby getting some sleep was more important than hypothetical babysitters not being able to get him down for a nap. Soon, he actually started staying asleep when I put him down in his cot! That meant I’d get at least half an hour each time to get something done around the house, or simply to sit there and chill out.
Now that he’s 9 months old, he seems to have decided that daytime naps aren’t cool, and full on resists falling asleep in the afternoon. If I take him for a drive, he’ll sleep almost right away; but four out of five times, he’ll wake up when I take him out of the car, rather than make it to his cot for a prolonged nap. He had also stopped sleeping through the night at around 7.5 months. Although he’s starting to get back into a better night-time sleep routine, he’s also teething, so one counteracts the other. This means his boob naps have become important once again. He doesn’t really need to breastfeed to go to bed at night – sometimes he’ll just stop eating and look around and fall asleep naturally – but he generally does for daytime rests.
In the end, it’s about what your baby needs. If breastfeeding them to sleep means they get the rest they need, then I say go right ahead. The same lactation specialist who told me he needs to self-settle also told me he needs X amount of naps a day, and that napping during the day doesn’t work like it does for adults (as in, if we nap, we generally don’t sleep well overnight, but babies sleep better with naps). (Sidebar: it’s sounding a bit like I don’t agree with anything my lactating specialist says, but she’s been super helpful with the actual breastfeeding and starting solids journeys, just not the sleep one!) Also, as the experiences I’ve recounted so far illustrate, at least in our case, breastfeeding to sleep hasn’t created unbreakable habits. His grandparents can “hold him to sleep” (I don’t know, they have some weird magic way of holding him that makes him sleep that doesn’t work with me), and he doesn’t need boob to settle. He also has decided to wean himself from his dummy, so he obviously doesn’t depend on suckling to go to sleep, he just prefers it. It soothes him.
Another nice thing about breastfeeding to sleep – not sure if it’s really a benefit or not – is the comfort it provides your little one. It must be nice to have that close, skin-to-skin contact with your mummy as you drift off into dreamland. With only two months to go until I return to work four days a week, I’m also facing impending weaning. As difficult it has been to ease into a positive breastfeeding experience, and although I am looking forward to getting my body back to myself, I am not looking forward to losing the closeness that breastfeeding my baby creates. These first months go so quickly, so if losing some sleep myself or not getting housework done is the price I have to pay to have as much closeness with my little man as possible, that’s what I’ll do. Breastfeeding creates a special bond that I imagine is very different to exclusive bottle feeding (I have given him expressed milk in bottles, and he happily lies there, feeding himself, and it’s just not the same). So why isn’t that a good enough reason to let your baby fall asleep this way? I guess it’s personal preference, but in my opinion, that’s a fantastic reason!
Romina is a first time mummy to a beautiful baby boy. Her blog is a place to share her thoughts and experiences, so other mummies can find useful and friendly information, and to encourage them to believe in themselves and have confidence in their mummy-wisdom. You can find her over at Mini Mummi Blogger (http://minimummiblogger.com)