Breastfeeding mothers can, without a doubt, help their babies learn to become better sleepers.
There’s this notion out there that there’s a war between breastfeeding and sleep training: an idea that you can have one or the other, but certainly not both. This is simply not true.
Once babies are past the newborn period (which I define as 3 or 4 months), and once breastfeeding is well established, all babies are capable of sleeping longer stretches if given the chance. Helping a baby learn to sleep does not mean night weaning. It’s entirely possible to hold onto one or two feedings and still sleep train. Feeding a thriving, healthy 4 month old every hour or two, however, is not necessary or sustainable. By the time a baby is four months old, if they are waking more than once or twice at night or are having trouble settling down after a feeding, it is likely not because they’re hungry. It’s far more likely that they are overtired and don’t know how to get back to sleep.
The facts about breastfeeding:
With their walnut size stomach at birth and the biological need for stimulating mom’s milk supply 8-12 times per 24 hour period, there’s little hope for long stretches of sleep for the first few weeks. Most newborns wake on their own at least every few hours and should be fed each time they wake. After a few months of on-cue feeding, most newborns are eating fewer than 8 times each day. This can easily mean 6 daytime and one or two overnight feeds.
The facts about sleep:
We ALL wake frequently in the night. “sleeping through the night” is a myth. The babies who “STTN” are not, in fact, sleeping for 12 straight hours. They wake frequently, but THEY KNOW HOW TO RESETTLE THEMSELVES WITHOUT ASSISTANCE. Sleep patterns mature at around 4 months. Babies, at this age, need longer stretches of deeper sleep.
Breastfeeding and Sleep Training are NOT Mutually Exclusive
Nursing a baby to sleep is not a bad habit! It’s magical, brilliant biological design. It’s like a superpower. If nursing your baby to sleep 100% of the time is working for you and you feel rested and your baby is rested there’s no need to do anything differently. I’m a big believer in “If it ain’t broke…”
Sadly, though, many breastfeeding mothers are suffering with profound sleep deprivation because they’ve been taught that “nursing on demand” means that they no longer require sleep and should sacrifice their physical and mental health so that the baby can suckle all night long. Sleep deprivation has dire mental and physical health ramifications.
If you are a breastfeeding mom and are suffering with sleep deprivation and your baby is not ever able to fall asleep independently, it is entirely possible to help him or her learn. It can be done.