Nursing to sleep: is it bad?
To say that something in parenting is bad or good? It's a bit judgmental.
But I'll tell you why we picked this topic: Because that's what you guys are looking on the internet! That's what you're searching, What that tells me is, there's a lot of misconception and knowledge that we need to share about sleep and feeding.
Nursing to sleep: is it bad?
My philosophy is: if it works for you, it works for me! But I just want you to know what's available to you, because I didn't know when I was going through this.
So here's the thing about nursing to sleep, or feeding to sleep: is that it all comes back to the first pillar of the Helping Babies Sleep method, which is this: understanding that while the drive to sleep is biological, the way we sleep is a learned habit.
The challenge with nursing to sleep is, there's some people out there that can nurse to sleep no problem ever, maybe wake up once in the night. They nurse their babies back to sleep, it's not a big deal. And then there are other people out there like me, who woke up every couple of hours and had to nurse back to sleep and found it extremely draining and exhausting. For those people, would we say that nursing sleep is bad?
I don't know, maybe. But here's the thing: sleep is a learned habit, so if you nurse to sleep or nurse to drowsy -- not even necessarily asleep -- when they wake in the night, which all humans do -- They will look for that same feeling that helped them fall asleep
It's all about what you associate with sleep. Another way to think about this:
Let's say your partner snores and you start wearing earplugs every night to block that out. And then you go to a hotel and your spouse isn't there, but you forgot your earplugs. Oh my gosh! You might have trouble sleeping that night because you have an association now with wearing the plugs, right? It's all about learned behaviors.
Nursing to sleep is not bad. Nursing to sleep is a magical tool that mother nature gave us. Same with feeding to sleep, or rocking to sleep. But it's just up to you to decide: is this sustainable for you and your family? And you and your little one? That's the real question.
Nursing to sleep: is it good?
For some people, they can nurse to sleep and have these beautiful, long stretches of nighttime sleep. Why is that? I believe there are three reasons why.
One, is your food source. Because in the middle of the night, it's so much easier just to whip out a boob versus going to prep a bottle, and that is a very quick, gratifying response. I've had people who say to me "oh, you know, I was going to feed the baby and then I went to get the bottle and when I came back he'd actually
already fallen asleep." The other thing is, over time, with breastfeeding -- because we don't know how much they're getting -- mothers gradually and unknowingly shift their calories into the night and this is often displayed with or reported back as having a kid who's a distracted eater during the daytime because they eat so much in the night, they're not really hungry during the day. Then it's really hard to actually get them to eat more in the day so they don't eat as much as night. But that's what we teach you in the Helping Babies Sleep School.
The second reason why some people can nurse to sleep fine and have long stretches of nighttime sleep is actually parental behavior. Some parents have a delayed Wait and See approach.
When I was going through this, I was just really anxious and nervous so every time he cried I immediately jumped up and fed him. And then I created that habit, that the boob is a soother, even if you're not really hungry. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's just kind of hard to maintain. For me it was really hard to maintain. So parent behavior: can you wait and see a little bit?
Especially in those newborn weeks when you're first starting out, not every wake up is necessarily due to hunger.
And then the third thing really is temperament. Some kids are more flexible than others having to wait a few minutes to see a parent or get that bottle, and they might as well just go back to sleep. Or others are like: "why are they not coming to me?" and they get more and more angry.
In summary, nursing to sleep is not bad. It's a tool in your parenting toolbox. It's just up for you to decide if it's something that you want to use long term, that is sustainable for you.
If you're looking for more help on getting rid of the nursing to sleep, that's exactly what we teach in our Helping Babies Sleep School.
If you want to get some quick tips on baby sleep, we have a great simple six question sleep quiz that will get you some personalized responses, and one simple thing that you can do tonight without tears.