Breastfeeding baby to sleep, bad habit or ok?

by Jessica Martin-WeberNaturepedic
this post made possible by Naturepedic Organic Mattresses for the whole family
Use the code “TLB15” for 15% off your cart at naturepedic.com. 

Fan Question: My baby keeps falling asleep while breastfeeding, am I making a bad habit?

You bring your tiny new human being to your chest and after a little awkward fumbling they are successfully latched as you marvel at their tiny perfection and they suck, drinking deeply of your milk. They settle into a steady rhythm and you feel them relax more fully into you, a relaxation that in 5-10 minutes is fully heavy sleepiness. By the time they’ve drained your breast your baby’s eyelids are closed, their arms and hands floppy, their lips and jaw slack, and a dribble of milk rolls down their cheek as they breathe deeply in sleep. 

Warm, soft, snuggled sleep.

Eight months later, the scene isn’t much different, they’re just longer and rounder. Ten months after that the routine continues. Maybe not every feed but often and maybe it is the only way they go down for a nap or bedtime.

For many little ones boob = sleep.

This may worry some as they hear from others that breastfeeding their baby to sleep is creating a bad habit, alarm that their child will never be able to sleep on their own if they do this, and dire warnings that the milk will damage the child’s teeth. On The Leaky Boob we frequently hear from those wondering if breastfeeding their baby to sleep is a bad thing, fears that this experience that happens so frequently for so many will doom them and their child.

I have good news!

According to pediatrician Dr. Arthur Lavin and coauthor of Baby and Toddler Sleep Solutions For Dummies, breastfeeding your little one asleep is totally fine. 

In a live interview I had with Dr. Lavin on The Leaky Boob Facebook Page (view here), he explained that there’s no concern with breastfeeding your nursling to sleep and it is actually quite normal that breastfeeding would lead to sleep. In fact, it’s a part of how the brain works! The portion of the brain that regulates feeding is closely related to regulating sleep and wakefulness and releases a hormone called orexin which is why we feel sleep when we have full tummies even as adults. This starts from birth. Breastfeeding also releases oxytocin and dopamine in the brain which makes everyone involved feel sleepy. These hormones are a part of helping milk flow and contribute to bonding by making us relaxed, happy, and safe. It all combines to be a drowsy inducing cocktail of snuggles and feeding. What better way for baby to fall asleep?

For a newborn it just makes sense. Breastfeeding to sleep feels safe and the scent of the breasts and breastmilk is familiar, comforting, and warm. Being skin to skin is soothing and babies are programmed to want to be there, close and protected. Their food, safety, and everything they know is there. Cradled to your chest they can fill their tummy, get that relaxing hormone release, smell home, and be lulled to sleep to the sound of your heartbeat just like before they were born.

Breastfeeding your baby back to sleep at night helps protect your breastmilk supply while meeting their demanding nutritional needs. A baby’s growth rate for the first 4 months of their life is faster than it will ever be again (even teen boys don’t grow as fast!) and feeding frequently through the night not only ensures an adequate milk supply as it coincides with the time of day that the milk-making hormone prolactin is highest in the lactating parent’s brain, these feedings also provide a steady supply of calories for this rapid growth phase. Night-time feeds can be protective of breastmilk supply with higher prolactin levels at night and may make up to 20% of a baby’s total milk intake. Feeding to sleep is part of their growth strategy! (See this study for more info.)

Breastfeeding to sleep may continue long after birth as well, particularly around certain times of day as melatonin levels in breastmilk are higher in the evening and through the night. It’s no surprise that a year or even two years later your little one falls asleep best while at the breast. This may even contribute to a regular sleep rhythm for your child. (Read about melatonin in breastmilk here.)

But is it a bad habit?

According to Dr. Lavin, no. In our interview Dr. Lavin explained that just as adults can establish new sleep habits, so can babies and young children. If, at some point, breastfeeding to sleep isn’t working for you and your child, you can change it. Particularly with an older baby or toddler. If you want to night wean gently, check out our night weaning readiness checklist here.

So it’s totally natural to breastfeed your baby to sleep and it isn’t a bad habit but… what about their teeth? We’ve all heard of bottle-rot, won’t falling asleep with breastmilk be bad for their teeth?

Human milk isn’t going to cause human teeth to decay. Dr. Lavin shared with us that genetics and socio-economics have more of an impact on the development of cavities than breastfeeding to sleep. That doesn’t mean there’s no risk, it just means that the risk is pretty low and wiping or brushing the teeth after your child eats solid food or drinks anything other than breastmilk or water is adequate protection for your child’s teeth. It isn’t necessary to clean teeth after breastfeeding at night (don’t wake the baby!) if there has only been breastmilk or water since the teeth were last cleaned.

As always, it is important to practice safe sleep whether or not you are breastfeeding your baby to sleep. The AAP recommends that babies under 12 months should sleep alone on their back in a dedicated sleep space in the parent’s room, free of blankets, pillows, toys, and crib bumpers. While the AAP recommends against bedsharing it is better to prepare to practice safe bedsharing if there is a chance you will fall asleep with your baby rather than to accidentally sleep with your baby in an unsafe manner (i.e. falling asleep with baby in a chair, on the couch, in a recliner, etc.).

Breastfeeding your baby to sleep is a completely normal reality, particularly in the first few months. If at some point you desire to change that and establish different sleep habits, you can. No need to worry that it is a bad habit you’ll be stuck with or is causing problems later on down the road. If it is working for you and your baby, it’s not a problem at all. Happy breastfeeding and sweet dreams!

Are There Sweet Dreams With A Breastfed Baby? Sleep and the Breastfed Baby

by Jessica Martin-Weber

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This post made possible by the generous support of Naturepedic

 

Ah sleep. Everyone wants it, parents struggle to get it. 

We hear all kinds of things about sleep when kids are in the picture. From the start, tiny humans come out with a different set of sleep needs than the people taking care of them and it doesn’t take long to figure out that they seem to require much less sleep for 1,000 times more energy. It’s a mismatch from the get go. So the quest begins for the elusive right amount of sleep for everyone in the family with a balanced routine so the parents and their infants and children can get what they need. Everyone has an opinion and strategy on sleep and even strangers in the grocery store may share with parents their magic tricks for getting babies to sleep through the night (which is only considered 6 hours without waking).

When it comes to sleep and breastfed babies, the advice and myths abound but sleep, like many other aspects of a child, is very much an individual thing. Personality, developmental stages, individual body quirks, etc. can have a major impact on sleep. The fears we typically hear about sleep and the breastfed baby is that for some reason the breastfed baby will wake more often than their formula-fed peers, become dependent on the breast to fall asleep, and have sleep struggles longer. While often formula fed babies may wake less frequently to feed in the early months because formula takes longer and more work to digest, evidence shows that there’s no guarantee that will be the case. Further evidence suggests that formula fed babies and breastfed babies (and their parents!) still get the same total amount of sleep. Plus, by 9 months, all sleep differences between breastfeed babies and formula fed babies have leveled out anyway. With the lowered risk of health issues including diarrhea and ear infections (talk about sleep disrupters!) and the reduced risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), breastfeeding is still the normal biological way to feed a baby and recommended by experts.

So does breastfeeding mean poor sleep?

8 points you need to know about sleep and the breastfed baby.

Have realistic expectations. Young babies wake frequently, often those wakings are to feed. Frequent wakes are completely normal so adjust your expectations accordingly. Babies have small stomachs, breastmilk is digested quickly because it is exactly what their bodies need, and the part of their brain that regulates sleep hasn’t developed to differentiate between day time sleep and night time sleep or naps and long sleeps. Frequent wakings actually reduces the risk of SIDS, a blessing in disguise.

Breastfeeding helps babies fall asleep. The oxytocin release that comes with breastfeeding is relaxing and naturally makes babies and parents sleepy. It isn’t a bad habit for breastfed babies to fall asleep at the breast and to want to return to the breast to help them settle when they wake in the night, it is normal. Including breastfeeding as part of the consistent bed time routine is a good way to help them get to sleep. If your baby has started solids, just be sure to brush their teeth before breastfeeding so that there aren’t any other food particles on their teeth that could lead to tooth decay. Breastmilk itself is fine for teeth as long as they are clean. Needing to breastfeed to sleep won’t become a lifelong crutch, we promise.

Babies breastfeeding at night helps milk supply. Prolactin levels (milk making hormones) are highest at night which means that babies wanting to breastfeed at night actually work together with those higher prolactin levels to help your body make more milk. A baby that starts sleeping through the night too early could lead to a lower milk supply. It may help to think of your baby waking to feed during the night as protecting your milk supply.

Realistic expectations- again! Research shows that only 43% of babies over 6 months actually regularly sleep 8 hour stretches without waking during the night. That leaves 57% of babies over 6 months that do wake in that time and need help getting back to sleep. By 12 months those numbers flip and 57% of babies over 12 months regularly sleep 8 hour stretches without waking during the night, so 43% of babies are still waking. 72% of babies are making it 6 hour stretches without waking during the night by that age. The expectation that the majority of babies are going to be sleeping through the night by 6-12 months is a myth and causes unnecessary pressure based on unrealistic expectations. If your baby isn’t sleeping through the night, they’re in good company.

Breastfed babies wake for other reasons than to feed. Though they may prefer settling back down to sleep at the breast, they also wake if they’re cold, hot, wet or soiled, scared, were startled, and any other number of reasons. Just like adults. The difference is that adults usually wake and fall back asleep without needing assistance in doing so, a skill that takes some time to develop. Comforting connection that helps your baby feel secure is the best way to help them calm and settle back to sleep.

No matter how they are fed, all babies need a safe sleep space. A firm flat surface (no inclined sleepers) free of blankets, toys, and crib bumpers. Keep in mind that infants up to a year need about 12-16 hours of sleep a day and toddlers need about 11-14 hours a day. That’s a lot of time spent in their sleep space, consider the materials with which your child will be spending a significant portion of their day.

Most breastfed babies aren’t ready to go 8 hours without a feed until after 12 months. Due to stomach size and development, it is normal for them to need a snack and comfort in the middle of the night. Night weaning can actually lead to more wakings if done too early.

Sleep will happen, some day. It may seem like night wakings are lasting forever but most children do eventually settle into the normal sleep patterns we all crave. Even the worst sleepers improve but not everyone ends up with the “sleep through the night” pattern society tells us to expect. My 7yo still often wakes once a night in need of some comfort. Even I have times where I struggle with frequent wakings and have difficulty getting back to sleep. There’s a wide range of normal at all ages.

Keep in mind that there is a wide range of normal and there are a number of factors that can contribute to disrupted sleep for infants and toddlers. Having realistic expectations goes a long way in being patient with the process. If you’re concerned that your child may be exhibiting signs of abnormal sleep, speak with your child’s health care provider about your concerns. Sometimes sleep issues are a sign of something else more serious going on that should be explored by a qualified healthcare professional.

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Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of wereallhumanhere.com, freelance writer, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. Jessica lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest and co-parents her 7 daughters with her husband of 23 years.

Kid safety: at home, on the road, while they eat, and while they sleep

This campaign made possible by Title Sponsor: Naturepedic

Let’s talk about the responsibility of keeping our kids safe.

I bet that most of us never thought as much about kid safety as when we had our own kids to look after. All of a sudden we have the responsibility of keeping our kids alive, and not just that, but to keep them safe and healthy! A lot of that is outside of our control, which is daunting, but there are a number of factors we have to manage in our efforts to keep our children safe. That can also be daunting.

There’s a whole lot of pressure that we experience as parents, from outside as well as from within ourselves, to make sure that no harm comes to our little ones. The good news is that kids are extremely resilient. Most of us are going to mess up a few times without any lasting damage to our offspring. But we all want to keep our kids from experiencing any pain or discomfort that we have within our power to prevent.

However, as there’s no one guidebook for child safety and well-being, it can be overwhelming to figure these things out, especially when some of us still have parents who remember a time before car seats. They can only help so much in the safety department as the world’s understanding of child development and safety have steadily grown since they were new parents. What’s outdated advise? What are the latest recommendations? What new or newish products are really helpful? Which ones can you trust? What do you really need?

The Leaky Boob is here to help.

We are launching a 4 week campaign focused entirely on child safety, and we have 4 trusted brands coming alongside that each represent an area of expertise with child development and safety standards: Naturepedic with sleep, Qdos with home safety, Olábaby with infant feeding, and Britax with car safety.

From now through December 15 TLB will be focused on discussing safety that include and go beyond these areas of expertise.

Join us as we all seek to make our world a little safer for our kids. Look for posts with the hashtag #TLBsafekids2019, tune in to the 3 campaign livestreams on TLB FB, and enter to win some wonderful child safety products from our campaign sponsors below.

 

 

Thanks so much to these brands who invest time, creativity, technology, and funds to support new parents with products to help keep our precious children safe. The following products are featured in the #TLBsafekids2019 giveaway. Enter for your chance to win after the info about the campaign!

Naturepedic: MC46 Organic and Breathable 2-Stage Crib Mattress
Retail Value: $349
This mattress starts with a firm, flat crib mattress made from food-grade polyethylene for easy crib changing, and then we add the most hygienic breathable cover to maximize airflow. The waterproofing the back of the cover protects the mattress and the 2-stage design allows it to grow with your child.

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Qdos: a variety of wonderfully designed child safety products for your home- winner’s choice!
Retail Value: $100
Modern, innovative, easy-to-use, and made to complement your home’s style, Qdos designs products to make your home safer for your children, from outlet covers, to anti-tip furniture kits, finger slam guards, and more!

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Olábaby: GentleBottle, Steambowl, Training Spoon, and Toddler Spoon
Retail Value: $42
Made of 100% non-toxic silicone, the GentleBottle’s soft texture and shape allow baby and parents a safe and comfortable grip. Use the clever Steambowl both to prepare steamed baby food puree AND as a serving bowl. And the Training and Feeding Spoons are the perfect tools to get your baby started on solid food. The flexible material allows for easy scooping, cutting, or even slicing, and doubles as a teether!

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Britax: One4Life all-in-one Car Seat
Winner’s choice of color
Retail Value: $375
The Britax One$Life all-in-one car seat grows with your child for 10 years (from rear-facing infant to forward-facing 5-point harness, to high-back belt-positioning booster) and it’s the only all-in-one with ClickTight. It goes from 5 to 120 lbs.

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Meet our Campaign Ambassadors!

Here to test out these wonderful products is a group of moms that will be posting about #TLBsafekids2019 on their own social accounts.

Here’s a little info on this campaign’s ambassadors, listed in the order of the above picture, left to right, top to bottom: 

 

I’m Lissette. A stay at home momma from NYC. Have two little ladies, ages 4, and 3 months. Been breastfeeding nearly continuously for 5 yrs with the support of my husband as well as online spaces like The Leaky Boob. When I’m not on Instagram, I’m rewatching The Office, crocheting, or helping out at our local Community garden.

Follow Lissette on Instagram!

 

I’m Chinenye, mostly called “Chi” or “Nenye” by my friends and family. I’m a finance analyst but left my job to take care of my little munchkin Jidenna who is almost 13 months old and still grabs on to my boobs like his life depends on it. Lol. When I’m not chasing my little one and preventing him from putting the tiniest things only his eyes can see into his mouth, I’m making scented soy candles and other natural products or testing out new fragrances to include in my candle line. I’ve also recently picked up photography as a hobby.

Follow Chinenye on Instagram!

 

My name is Rachel! I am mother to 4 living children, 1 angel baby, former foster mother to 4 different children, and current foster mom to a teenager and her baby (yes, I’m a grandma at 33!) and wife to Milkman. I can be found stealing kisses from my husband in the kitchen, munching on baby cheeks, nursing a kid or two, chasing chickens around the farm we live on, juggling social workers, and sending memes to my besties. I blog over at SheRocksTheCradle.com, where I talk about parenting, babies, fostering, breastfeeding, and marriage. I am so excited to be back on a TLB Campaign, because it gives me the opportunity to build community with other mothers.

Follow Rachel on Instagram!

 

Hi, I’m Katie! I am a stay at home mom and Coast Guard wife. I have one beautiful daughter who is almost one and a nine year old chocolate lab who still demands as much attention as a real kid. I am one week away from my breastfeeding goal of one year with no intention or desire to wean any time soon. This is my third campaign with The Leaky boob and I am so happy to be back. When I’m not chasing around a baby you can find me in the woods hiking, camping, or exploring.

Follow Katie on Instagram and Facebook!

 

I’m Kimberly – mom of four, married 15 years, coming out of the fog of PPD and learning to fall in love with our big surprise baby and how different this stage looks than I expected. I love baking, binge watching, anything outside, and being right – just ask my husband 😂

Follow Kimberly on Instagram!

 

Hi! I’m Amanda. I am a wife to a hilarious and hardworking man and mama to 4 earth-side kiddos ages 7, 5, 3, and 3 months, and one precious angel baby. I’ve got a Masters in Clinical Psychology and had grand plans to become a Marriage and Family Therapist, but the pull of motherhood was strong within me and I’ve been a Domestic Engineer for 6 amazing years! I thrive in the crazy that is motherhood! I get my kicks hoarding books, singing, drinking coffee and wine, backing, and playing Sims.

Follow Amanda on Instagram and Facebook!

 

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