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What’s the fastest way of putting a baby to sleep? If you said nursing to sleep, you win!!! It’s so easy to nurse them to sleep that you don’t even have to try. They just slip off to dreamland!
But should you do it?
You may have heard that nursing a baby to sleep is really bad. That it will hurt their sleep in the long term. That they won’t sleep through the night if you do.
Or you may have heard that it’s a common, natural way to put a baby to sleep and there’s nothing in the world wrong with it.
So what’s the truth? Well, let’s explore the pros and cons so you can decide for yourself if it’s something you want to do.
Why nurse to sleep?
There are actually a few very good reasons you may nurse your baby to sleep:
- Nursing is the most comforting thing you can do for your baby. She is safe and secure in your arms, and when you snuggle her close she’s right where she wants to be. Double that if you’re providing skin-to-skin contact. Warm, safe, and comfortable, it’s easy for a baby to slip into dreamland.
- Nursing to sleep helps babies create a positive sleep association where they don’t mind nap time. If you’re worried about a baby who fights sleep, start nursing them to sleep and that trouble is SO OVER!
- Whenever you nurse your baby to sleep, you strengthen the bond you share with your baby. It’s very cozy and intimate, and it reinforces your baby’s trust in you.
- Did I mention that it’s easy to put a baby to sleep when you nursing them? That’s because it is. You almost don’t have to do anything. Soooo simple.
Why not nurse to sleep?
It may seem like I stacked the deck in favor of nursing to sleep, but wait! Hold on a minute. There are a few reasons you may not want to:
- A positive sleep association is still a sleep association. Your baby may not be able to fall asleep without nursing…
- …so if she wakes up in the middle of the night you may have to get up with her, even if she’s not actually hungry…
- … and that habit may take months to break.
- The sugars in breastmilk can cause tooth decay if milk droplets stay in the baby’s mouth and along her gums while she sleeps.
- It can be hard to stop nursing to sleep once you start.
Yeah, but which way is better?
I always get frustrated when I hear “it’s really up to you” kind of advice. But in this case, there’s no way around giving it. I’m sorry.
You need to determine what’s best for your family and for your needs. Viewing the pros and cons above, what makes the most sense for you and your baby?
Perhaps you’re the kind of person who doesn’t wake up at night. You could sleep through a tornado ripping half the house off. You might not want to nurse to sleep because you won’t be available in the night.
If you’re okay with waking up for a few minutes here and there at night to nurse someone back to sleep, but you can’t handle the fits your baby throws at bedtime, then nursing to sleep is probably for you.
Nothing you decide is set in stone, so go with your gut here. You can always change later if you need to. Oh, and there’s always the chance that a growth spurt will change your routine for you.
The right choice is the one that makes your life easier.
How do I stop nursing to sleep?
Now for the million dollar question. At some point in the future, you’re going to decide it’s time for your baby to go to sleep. On her own. Without your boobs. What then?
Well, a couple of things. First, you could just wait her out. Realistically, she’s not going to breastfeed forever. When she weans, she’ll find a new way to go to sleep.
Your second option is to stop the cycle. You can do this in a few ways:
- Nurse the baby at different times to change up the schedule.
- Offer a realistic pacifier at bedtime – one that’s more like mom’s breast and different than the pacifier she uses the rest of the time. The “bedtime binky.”
- Feed in different locations such as a new room, a new chair, or maybe outdoors.
- Use a new nursing position that’s not your baby’s customary sleep position
- Create a nursing environment that isn’t conducive to sleep. Make it loud, bright, and entertaining. Going outside works well for this during the day.
- Consider nursing your baby when she wakes up from her nap instead of before.
- Let someone else feed her at bedtime with a bottle of expressed milk.
Your baby is probably not gonna be happy when you first start changing things. After all, how would you like your bedtime routine messed with? Stick with the new pattern to get her used to it and after a few days, she won’t mind so much.
I’m not going to tell you this will be easy. After all, nursing her to sleep is just as convenient for you as it is for her, so you might have trouble being consistent with any change you try to implement. Cut yourself a little slack and give it some time.
So now you know several reasons why you might want to nurse a baby to sleep and several reasons why you might not want to. This decision is entirely yours and should be based solely on what’s most important to your family.
What did I do? I snuggled my babies close and breathed in their precious baby scent while they dozed off in my arms. I also paid the price for that with broken sleep for longer than I care to talk about. For me, that sleepy time with them was more valuable. It may be different for you.
Whatever choice you make, know that if you’re loving and caring for your baby, then you’re a good mom. No nursing choice you make is going to change that.
Do you nurse your baby to sleep or put them to sleep in another way? What do you like about your decision? Is there anything you regret? Please comment below, I’d love to know!