How to Help Your Breastfed Baby Sleep Longer
A common question that I get is about breastfeeding and sleep training. Often mom’s want to know how to get a breastfed baby to sleep longer stretches, as they tend to be the ones who wake more often at night. Does it mean that you need to choose between breastfeeding your little one and getting a good nights sleep?
As a mom of two who breastfed for a year with each of my sons and a sleep consultant, I can promise that breastfeeding and sleep can both happen! While yes, breast milk does digest slower than formula does, it is not so much of a difference that children that are breastfed can never “sleep through the night”. (That is in parentheses because no one really sleeps through the night!).
So if you are breastfeeding but not getting a lot of sleep, what can you do to make that change?
The first thing I recommend would be to take a look at how your little one is falling asleep. Typically a lot of breastfed babies do what I call “snack and snooze” so each feeding they feed for a bit, fall asleep, then wake a short time later to eat again. You really want to ensure that your little one is taking in a nice full feeding, and that it is not right before a nap. You want your child to be going into their crib or bassinet totally awake and alert to then fall asleep independently.
When children fall asleep feeding and are placed into their sleep space, they may be able to sleep one sleep cycle, but not link the sleep cycles together. What they use to fall asleep initially is what they will need each time they come into a light stage of sleep. So if your child falls asleep nursing, then they will need to nurse again to help them fall back to sleep when they wake.
A great way to not fall into the ‘feeding to sleep’ cycle is to follow an eat, play, sleep schedule. At each waking (first thing in the morning, and after each nap) is ideally when your child will eat, then have some time to play before going down for a nap. After following a short nap time routine, your child should be placed into their sleep space wide awake to then drift off to sleep on their own. The same would go for bedtime, except that there is a feed associated with the routine. You want that feed to not be the last thing that happens before your child goes into their bed. Adding or switching to having a book, song, or quick snuggle before putting your child down after the feed will help your routine go smoother, and get you longer stretches of sleep overnight.
So if you are breastfeeding and longing for sleep, ensure you are placing your baby down wide awake, and providing them nice full feeds during the day. After making these slight changes, you should see a huge improvement in your little ones nights, and yours as well!
Safe sleep and sweet dreams
Meet the Author:
Jensine Casey, MEd is a Developmental Specialist, certified sleep consultant and owner of Baby O and I Consulting. She takes families from tired, exhausted and drained to rested and restored. When not helping families sleep, she enjoys spending time with her husband and 2 young boys.