Updated: Jun 11, 2020
What is the single most important thing you can do as a breastfeeding mom to help with your baby’s sleep?
Keep your baby awake while feeding! You’ve probably heard the concept of: EAT PLAY SLEEP.
This is essentially the repeating order of operations throughout your baby’s first year. Feed baby when she wakes, keep her awake for her age appropriate amount of time, and then put her down to sleep.
Notice I did not say, “feed her to sleep!”
Breastfeeding to sleep is the number one challenge I see with breastfeeding moms who come to me for sleep help. In this scenario, baby will only fall asleep if breastfed to sleep, and will wake multiple times in the night clamoring for the breast, but often just uses it as a pacifier.
If you’re currently in this scenario, what can you do?
It’s truly so simple: feed your baby when she wakes versus feed her to sleep. That sounds great in theory you say, but aren’t there times when my baby is displaying hunger cues or is due for a nap, and is also due for a feed? Then can I still feed her?
A baby should never go hungry, but try to finish the feed 15 to 20 minutes before you lay her down for sleep
Familiarize yourself with your baby’s sleepy cues and the timing she needs between naps (if you’re not sure, check out my free wake window guide). If she’s due for a feed around nap time, or during the time she should be napping, feed your baby to top her off before the nap so that her little belly is full and she doesn’t wake early out of hunger. Make sure you have a time buffer after the feed and before the nap so she isn't fed and then immediately placed into the crib.
By feeding your baby while she is still awake enough to take a feed there is less risk she will become drowsy at the breast and create a “sleep to feed association,” which will likely result in short naps and multiple night wakings. After twelve weeks of age, the goal is to have baby fully awake for all feeds, especially before bedtime
Will your baby who is so accustomed to being breastfed to sleep protest going into the crib awake?
But you can give her lots of comfort, as long as she remains in the crib. Just know she will catch on quickly and this one easy step will make sleep infinitely better – for both you and baby! I help exhausted moms and dads get their babies and toddlers sleeping through the night. Schedule a free 15-minute consultation to see if we might be a fit to work together.