Mom guilt can be such a burden, am I right?? Pretty much any decision you need to make as a mom (or dad!) is a decision someone can shame or judge you for. As a mom, a sleep professional and Certified Lactation Counselor, I am a big advocate for doing what is right for your own family and situation. A hot topic in the world of parenting (and especially in sleep training) is breastfeeding. Should you do it? Can you do it? How can you do it successfully? And on and on…
To be completely up front…YES YOU CAN!
I’ve seen many people tout that breastfed babies are doomed to have terrible sleep due to the on-demand schedule many nursing mamas/babies follow. As you may have gathered about me, the biggest thing I focus on when it comes to getting your baby to sleep is their habits. Recognizing what baby relies on to help them fall asleep gives us a clue as to how their little bodies and brains perceive the process of falling asleep and staying asleep. My biggest advice I give when it comes to breastfeeding is this: Breastfeeding, even if you're an exclusive pumper, is a way to feed your baby. It shouldn't be the way that you use to get your baby or toddler to fall asleep. This, I might add, is the same advice I give to bottle/formula-fed babies.
Hear me out here. While nursing can comfort a baby to the point of sleeping, it quickly becomes a crutch for the baby to rely on whenever he/she wakes in the middle of the night. A baby who constantly nurses to sleep will expect to be able to nurse at any hour, forcing you to get up and have a feeding session when you’d rather be asleep. Our goal with sleep training is to teach baby how to fall asleep without props and fall back asleep when the inevitable nighttime waking occurs.
So what to do? It’s obviously important to make sure baby goes to bed with a full tummy. No one likes to wake from a peaceful sleep with a growling tummy! When you nurse baby in the evening, keep the lights on, and continue to gently shake or tickle baby’s feet or arms to keep them awake. Ideally, baby will feel full and drowsy after nursing, but still awake. This would be the ideal time to give them a kiss, place them in the crib, and shut the light off to signal bedtime. Simulating this routine allows baby to fall asleep on their own in the same way you do when you turn in for the night.
As always, it’s important to do what you think is best for your family. Don’t let the shame or opinions you receive from others guilt you into unhealthy habits!
I want you to have the breastfeeding journey that you want and to meet your goals. Sleep shouldn’t have to take a backseat either.