Sleep Training and Nursing

Thea - posted on 05/29/2009 ( 13 moms have responded )

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Hello, My daughter is almost 10 months old and her doctor recomended that I start sleep training with her because it will only get harder as she gets older. I am still breast feeding though and I am worried that if I stop nursing her at night I will dry up and Im not ready to stop nursing yet. Does anyone know what I can do? Also does anyone have any suggestions for how to get her to sleep through the night? Thanks!

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Jacklynn - posted on 05/29/2009

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Do not stop breastfeeding at night IF you don't want to. You really need to decide what works best for you and your baby and then go with it. My son is 9 months old. We co-sleep and he still breastfeeds at night. This works for us, but I know it doesn't work for everyone. I've said this on these forums before, but I do not understand the obsession with sleep-training. Your child WILL sleep on their own one day and they WILL stop nursing at night. Do what you think is best and what works for you and your son.

Allison - posted on 05/29/2009

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Here's my experience with night weaning: I decided I needed more sleep when my daughter was 18 months old and nursing all night. We nightweaned by telling her after her bedtime nursing she couldn't have milk until the sun came up. We had several nights of crying and getting little sleep because she was upset. She finally got it and would wait until the sun came up to nurse...BUT, she still woke up every few hours and needed help getting back to sleep. I'd rock her or sing her a song, but nursing was much easier and we all got more sleep that way. Once her two year molars came in, she started sleeping all night without issue.

With my son, I decided not to nightwean and he stopped nursing at night at 20 months on his own...AFTER his 2 year molars came in.

I honestly think that teething is so uncomfortable that it interferes a lot with sleep, and nursing helps to relieve the pain. I also think kids will sleep well at night when they are ready and that "training" them is more teaching them they can't rely on your help when they need it.

Do what feels right to you and for your baby.

Amanda - posted on 05/29/2009

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Why does your doctor believe it will get harder? Your milk will not dry up, my almost 11 month old has now stopped her night feedings on her own, and I am still producing plenty of milk during the day. All three of my children stopped their night feedings on their own long before they were weaned from the breast.



I personally do not believe in sleep training, and find that parents who are sleep training actually get a lot less sleep then parents who never even attempt to do so.

Barbara - posted on 05/29/2009

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I would read a few different opinions on "sleep training." I know that some doctors still recommend it like it's gospel, but it is not the only way to go. We have never attempted any kind of sleep training and at 15 months my son has eliminated all feedings in the middle of the night by himself, though he was one of those babies who wanted to nurse all night. (We cosleep, so that makes it much easier to do that if that's what he needs.) My parents never did any kind of sleep training and we all learned to sleep through the night in our own beds. Your baby will eventually give those feedings up on their own when they are ready. You don't need to put yourself or your baby through the stress of sleep training if you don't want to.

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honestly you wont dry up
In Australia we use to have nurseries and at the hospital all babies would go to the nursery. I am 27 and when i was a baby my mum was advised not to feed at night and let me cry until i went to sleep .... So its been normal in the past for breastfeeding mothers not to feed their baby at all at night.

I think Damon was about 7 months old when he started to sleep through and my milk has been fine. (he is ober 11 months now). Some morning i am really full but those are the times he went to sleep and didnt have as much and he makes up for it in the morning. So honestly i dont believe you will dry up.

However it could be a good time to get some storage of milk up. So i would pump before u go to bed and then after her morning feed i would pump again. This way if you ever have to be away or are sick she still has breastmilk.

As for sleeping through the night - i found the key is a sleep routine. We have a night light on, soft music playing and fan in winter. We give everyone a kiss and go for his last feed. Then he falls asleep while feeding and i transfer him to his cot.

with your little one she is comfort feeding in the middle of the night. For nutritional reasons she does not need the extra milk (as long as she is gaining weight etc etc etc) so its a matter of braking the association and the comfort factor.

When damon has feed good during the day and i know he has had enough and if he wakes up and there is nothing wrong (sick etc) i will leave him for 5-10 mins. If he does not self settle i will then go in roll him over on his side and pat his bum and help him settle down and go back to sleep. IF that fails i will pick him up (not eye contact or talk) stand next to his cot with him and rock him to sleep. Only after an hour of trying all of these things will i give him the boob. If my partner is home i will send him in so he does not smell the milk.

So that method would work really well with you as well with your little one. but its about training her to self settle so when she wakes up she does not need the boob to go back to sleep. but still maintaining her circle of security so she knows you are there and she is safe. So dont leave her to CIO but support her into the new sleep routine
If he wakes up

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Thea - posted on 05/29/2009

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Thank you so much everyone! All of this has made me feel much better about not wanting to try to wean or sleep train my little one!

Chelsea - posted on 05/29/2009

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Quoting Lisa:

Doctors are experts in infant medical issues. Not breastfeeding or parenting. They just aren't. That is your doctor's OPINION, that sleep issues will become exacerbated as time goes by, but it is not truth. Breastfeeding is a perfect system, and it is no coincidence that it helps get a baby to sleep so easy!

Breastfed infants are expected to get at least 25% of their nutritional needs during the night for at least the first year. Continue to nurse your baby during the night if she wants it.

I know that I myself need water during the night and often times I get hungry at 4am and need to eat something. So why should we expect our infants to go an entire night without fluid and nutrition? And why is comfort nursing such a bad thing? Is not comfort a very real need?


Lisa I think this is great advice!!!  Doctors are not in any way experts in parenting and especially not in breastfeeding.  They do not learn about parenting in med school and only briefly touch on breastfeeding.  

Charlotte - posted on 05/29/2009

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I could have written most of Barbara's post myself. My mom never tried to sleep train any of her 8 children and as adults we all sleep just fine throught he night in our own beds. These Drs who think they know everything about babies and parenting should have to come into our homes and listen to the baby scream for hours on end. Not that I ever let my baby cry like that, but that seems to be what the Drs are suggesting, and I would say it's a hell of a lot easier for them to sit in thier comfy office and spout outdated recomendations than it is for a well-meaning parent to actually try to follow that advice in thier own home with thier own uniqe child.



I never tried to sleep train either of my boys. They are now 2 and 4 years old and both of them sleep just fine. I have absolutely no complaints and I very much enjoy my own sleep. :)



Babies/todlers do eventually stop nursing at night naturally on thier own and your milk supply shouldn't suffer when that happens. In fact, once your child is only nursing once in 24 hours there should still be milk available for that feeding; so long as the demand is there, the supply should naturally remain to meet it.

Minnie - posted on 05/29/2009

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Doctors are experts in infant medical issues. Not breastfeeding or parenting. They just aren't. That is your doctor's OPINION, that sleep issues will become exacerbated as time goes by, but it is not truth. Breastfeeding is a perfect system, and it is no coincidence that it helps get a baby to sleep so easy!

Breastfed infants are expected to get at least 25% of their nutritional needs during the night for at least the first year. Continue to nurse your baby during the night if she wants it.



I know that I myself need water during the night and often times I get hungry at 4am and need to eat something. So why should we expect our infants to go an entire night without fluid and nutrition? And why is comfort nursing such a bad thing? Is not comfort a very real need?

Emily - posted on 05/29/2009

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I pump in the midddle of the night (for me that is 11:40). I use that milk during the day to make cereal and feed my twins using a straw cup during the day since I am trying to eliminate a few daytime feedings (they are a year old). I like to keep a supply at night "just in case".



I would read Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child...this gives you some different options for sleep training. We opted to have the girls cry it out since the sleeping twin would wake when we went in the room and they would sleep through the crying. As it turned out nobody cried for a significant amount of time in the middle of the night (though they new how to put themselves back to sleep when we started the sleep training - it was more me that needed to let go of them nursing during the night they were ready but I was waking them to eat b/c they are little. My doc told me when they were 10 mo to stop feeding them. I did it that night...I had a week of not sleeping well because I was worried about the what if. A once in a while someone woke fussed for less than 5 min and we didn't hear anything again.



As I said I used to wake my girls and feed them. I think that helped. I'd wake them a little bit before I thought they were going to wake so any other time they woke I knew they weren't hungry. This taught them that they didn't necessarily eat when they woke up. So when it was time to stop feeding them they already new that just because they were awake didn't mean snacktime.

Marie - posted on 05/29/2009

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I can't speak for sleeping through the night because my son started that when he was 2 months old. As for milk supply, I still nurse him (he is 1 year old 2 weeks ago) about 5 times a day (give or take) - usually twice in the morning (when he first wakes up and before he goes for his nap 2 hours later, when he wakes the second time), he has solid food for brunch (baby cereal and/or fruit), once in the afternoon before and after his 90 minute nap (that short a space I usually will put him back on the same side), twice in the evening (once before his bed and once before mine). He has solid food between his nap and bedtime.



Also if you want your LO to sleep through the night make the daytime naps shorter so she's sleepier at bed time. She'll require more sleep at night and will go deeper.



We've shortened Alexander's naps to a total 3 to 4 hours during the day. We try for a "natural" 90 minute sleep cycle.

Lisa - posted on 05/29/2009

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I don't know what the answer is, but think you should do what feels right for you and your daughter. I originally thought I would stop breastfeeding my son after 6 months but found I wasn't ready to. If you are feeding your daughter during the day your milk supply should not dry up, although you could probably express in the evening to help keep supply up if you are worried about it disappearing. I also found that using the self-soothing method of sleeping worked with my son for a while but it doesn't work forever. Listening to him cry isn't something my husband or I enjoy so we no longer do that. He sleeps very near to our bed and spends some of the night with us, which is something we enjoy. He will only be this small for a short while and I personally don't think it hurts him or us to share our bed. I hope that this helps in some way :)

Elizabeth - posted on 05/29/2009

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I have been nursing my daughter since she was born and I have had no issue with "drying up" since she has been sleeping through the night. My routine is I nurse her right before bed at about 9pm and she wakes up hungry at approx 6am hungry and we nurse again and usually go back to bed until about 9am. I used to wake up every night at 3am to nurse and when making the transition to longer train your body by nursing more during the day and you will produce more during the day. Also the first few nights you may leak so be sure to wear breast pads. Your body should adjust to a slight feeding change in about 1 week. If you have a breast pump pumping extra during daytime hours helps your body adjust to supply and demand times too. Once you have that down you can slowly lengthen the sleeping time during the night until you are comfortable with it. Hope that helps.



For sleeping through the night, I started very very slow. I couldn't let her "scream it out" but you start training that she will not eat in the middle of the night. When mine woke up to eat at 3am and I was starting the "sleep through the night" I first only let her nurse a tiny tiny bit so she adjusted to not having a meal time there and then would go in and only pick her up, then down to only rubbing her back and laying her back down and then she just stopped waking up during the night. Also no distractions during the night feeding time. No playing,no toys, just simple snack and back to sleep. Hope it goes smoothly for you.

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