Helping Your Breastfed Newborn Sleep

December 14, 2007

Breastfeeding your baby is the easiest way to put him to sleep. Besides being in the comfort of your arms and his tummy filling up, his body releases hormones that help him sleep. Your milk also contains hormones and proteins that help your baby sleep. At night he is easy to resettle, especially if he is sleeping with you or near you, and you respond to him before he becomes fully awake. Breastfeeding helps us to sleep as well. The same hormone that makes the milk flow also makes us feel relaxed and sleepy. So how is it that so many breastfeeding mothers are so tired?

Young babies wake up frequently throughout the night. Unless they are hungry or otherwise distressed, they should be able to go right back to sleep. Often though a baby who has fallen asleep nursing wakes up alone in bed, or even with you, and doesn't know how to get back to sleep without nursing. You may find yourself nursing every hour throughout the night. At some point you might find this exhausting.

The Breastfeeding Suck- Sleep Association

Elizabeth Pantley, in her excellent book, The No Cry Sleep Solution, gives suggestions for curbing the sleep-suck association. She says that it is essential to let your baby fall asleep off of the breast at least some of the time. Let your newborn baby nurse until he is sleepy but not fully asleep and take him off your breast. If he starts to root and fuss to latch on again, let him and repeat the process. According to Pantley, with enough repetition, he will learn how to fall asleep without nursing.

The next step is to put him down before he is fast asleep. In the previous step, he probably fell asleep in your arms. There is nothing more wonderful than holding your sleeping baby. Unfortunately our lifestyles often require the use of our arms, which means at some point most of us would like our babies to sleep in their beds. After removing your sleepy baby from the breast, try putting him down to sleep. If he fusses you can rock him or pat him. If he becomes upset, pick him up and repeat the process even nursing him some more. With enough repetition it should work.

Watch and Wait For Sleep Patterns

As I mentioned earlier, babies have frequent brief awakenings. As responsive mothers we will often respond to our babies the moment they begin to stir. Especially if baby is in bed with us, we may offer the breast every time he makes a peep. Babies make all kinds of noise in their sleep, even little cries, which are not cries for attention. If your baby seems to be waking, wait a bit to see if he is really waking up or just making noise, if this is one of those brief awakenings or if he needs you. With time, you will be able to recognize your baby's signs and know when he needs quick response and when you should just keep sleeping.

Also check out some of our great ideas for nursery decor that just might help your baby get a better night's sleep.

 

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