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To Nurse to Sleep or to Not… Does it Need To Be a Question?

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Little babes at play and at sleep

Little babes at play and at sleep

There’s all this silly controversy in the baby world of debaters and ‘experts’.  The attachment parents (AP) say, ‘nurse your baby to sleep‘.  The anti-AP (Is there a term for these people?) go on to great lengths warning parents that if they feed their babies to sleep that their baby will never learn to ‘self sooth‘ or whatever that is supposed to mean.  In fact, the anti-AP’ers are probably concerned that your teenager will still be nursing themselves to sleep when they come home from high school (joking….).  Ok, anyway, if you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you would know that I am adamantly AP. I co-sleep, breastfed a 3 year old (and her baby sister), baby wear, etc. etc.  I was having a chat today, at one of our baby wearing meets, with a lovely mumma to four girls.  At the moment, two of her girls are 6 months old twins, and we were talking about night waking/night feeding and how our babies fall asleep, etc.  So, I thought I would share a bit on how differently I’ve put my girls to sleep.

The Nurse to Sleep-er

Margo’s first word, other than ‘momma’ and ‘dadda’, was ‘BOOBA‘ (boobies).  She loves boobies (still does…).  When she was a newborn, her feeds would go on forever!  Forty five minutes sometimes!  I would get out my book, sit down with a plate of food, a cup of tea, or whatever, with my feet up and would sit on a comfy chair for ages with her.  She would fall asleep on me, then I would fall asleep too.  For naps, I would lay down with her in bed, feed her to sleep, and then usually fall asleep myself.  If she was having trouble falling asleep, I would keep offering boob until she would fall asleep.  Of course, with the first baby, this is easy to do because you can let the baby dictate the day.

Around five months old, I noticed Margo had started waking up at night nearly every hour!  I was exasperated and exhausted when I finally came across something called ‘Cry in Arms‘.  ‘Cry in Arms’ is something VERY different to ‘Cry it Out’.  ‘Cry in Arms’ is fancy term that basically means: allowing a baby or child to cry in your arms as a way of releasing stress.  It’s something you might do when they are overwhelmed, are coming on and off the boob, are tired, but can’t fall asleep, or maybe are constantly waking up at night.  As long as all of their needs have been met (fed, clean, dry, etc), and they are still grumpy-pants, that’s when you can do this ‘Cry in Arms’.  I started allowing Margo to cry when I noticed she was all crazy, and to my astonishment, after she had her big cry, she would actually fall asleep without boob!  Wow!  And then, she was even more tolerable and peaceful when she would wake up!  Double score!

I still fed Margo to sleep for the vast majority of her naps and sleeps as a baby, probably up until she was about 2 (unless I was at work).  Aside from the naps that would happen after a big cry, or a nap that happened in a baby carrier, the boob was the one-way ticket to sleepy land.  I was ok with it, 100%.  I saw no reason to try and get her to sleep any other way.  She liked it.  It worked a charm and it was easy!  Margo started daycare a few days a week when she was 16 months old.  She had never slept in a cot (crib) before and had never used a dummy (pacifier) and yet, she never had trouble falling asleep at her daycare.  Despite my concerns that she would never be able to fall asleep because of the way I always fed her to sleep, at daycare,  she was almost always the first child to fall asleep.

The Non-Nurse to Sleep-er

I was pretty sure that every baby was just like Margo, in that they preferred to be fed to sleep.  I always thought that maybe if people said that their kid could fall asleep just with a cuddle, that they were lying… until… Goldie came along!

Goldie was suuuuch a sleepy newborn.  I mean, you could just look at her funny and she would fall asleep.  To her, boobs were were had a very utilitarian status and one purpose only: FOOD!  Another thing going on with Goldie was my over-supply.  Meaning, since Margo had been priming the lines for over 2 years, when my milk came in, it came in with a vengeance.  It was just too much for her!  I remember many times feeding her laying down and noticing that there was so much milk that it was coming out of her nose!  If I even tried to feed her past when she was full (like trying to feed her to sleep), she would just spew everywhere.  So, Goldie learned right from the start to fall asleep without the boob.  Wether she wanted to or not, she just couldn’t handle the volume of milk, so she would just turn her head away and find some other way to nod off.

Another factor in Goldie’s non-nurse to sleep habit is her older sister…. Gone are the days when I can lay down peacefully and feed a baby to sleep.  It happens sometimes… but rarely.  I might start to do it, but then Margo comes bounding into the room and pouncing on the bed.  Goldie thinks this is all too exciting and pops her head up to have a look.  Nap???  Forget it!  Goldie’s nap schedule is all over the shop.  The only thing I aim for is to give the girls a middle of the day nap together, because then I can either nap with them or do my daily yoga and meditation.  This nap has very little to do with boobs.  Goldie has already been fed and we all just lay down and fall asleep.

She does fall asleep on the boob occasionally, but, unless Goldie has a nod off in the car or in the baby wrap, I would say, about 95% of the time, she falls asleep just by nuzzling into my armpit.  No dummy, just snuggles is all she needs.  Boob and sleep are completely dissociated.  I also do ‘Cry in Arms’ with Goldie, but I’ve noticed that since I allowed Goldie to cry as a newborn (she would cry in my arms for a long time when she was little), she now will only squawk for about 5 minutes max, and then is ready to fall asleep.  I also feel that allowing her to cry a little has made an ENORMOUS positive impact on her sleep.  She hasn’t done the ‘waking every hour’ thing… yet….  Although, she does wake up at least 2 or 3 times to wee in the middle of the night!  I have to say, there is nothing cuter than taking a baby to pee in the sink while she is half asleep. Bless her <3

 Anything Goes in My Book

So, after having two very types of boobie girls, I’m happy to report that you can do whatever you feel like!  To hell with all the baby experts (AP or non-AP).  Every baby is different.  If a baby really likes feeding to sleep, let them!  You can’t spoil a baby!  If a baby can’t fall asleep and keeps coming on and off the boob… let them cry (in your arms of course), get rid of that stress.  If a baby likes to fall asleep smelling  your armpit, well great!  Listen to your gut and listen to your baby!  They will tell you what they like!  They don’t need to ‘learn’ anything!  They don’t need to learn to ‘self sooth’ or learn to fall asleep!  Baloney!  Sleeping is not a skill!  They just need you there.  And, I guarantee, they will be able to fall asleep by the time they’re in high school… in fact, by that point, you might have trouble getting them out of bed 🙂

13 Responses »

  1. I love this. I remember well the masses of advice and criticism I received when Ming was a baby (not for this but for so much else). I admire you for simply doingwhatfeels best for you and the little beautifuls.

    Reply
  2. Hi Kate, there is a few times my 2 years 10 months toddler fell asleep by himself during nap and night time. Most of the time, he needs to be patted to sleep. So what should I do to let him sleep by himself?

    And thank you for liking my Relational Art Film ‘Circle Baby to Sleep’, your future visits and likes ~ Tienny 🙂

    Reply
    • Well… that depends… for some people, like myself, I really feel that small children and babies especially really benefit from having somebody there with them go to sleep. Being there for them, in whatever capacity is needed will make things easier in the long run and make them feel more safe and secreu (and their routine is always changing too). I wouldn’t worry too much if he won’t fall asleep by himself. But, if it’s a situation that’s exhausting and frustrating to you, maybe you could have your husband take over some days?

      Reply
  3. Here in the US, we talk a lot about teaching our children to self soothe. I don’t know why this is even necessary, since we don’t want our adults to self soothe (we call it becoming withdrawn or closed off). Thanks for the excellent post, it’s made me think and (as you know) thinking tends to result in a blog post.

    Reply
  4. Pingback: In which I ponder the importance of infant independence | Say All The Things!

  5. Kate, I was recommended your blog by a good friend Daniel b here in auckland. I’ve really enjoyed reading your blogs as the AP way seems to really resonate with me. My son is turning 7 months soon and I’m needing to consider child care options for October when I return to work. At the moment my son only takes my boobie (no bottle) and eats breakfast and dinner solids, I only nurse him to sleep and am worried what to do when he does go to day care, naps etc… An tips for me?

    Reply
    • Hi! Glad he recommended me 🙂 So, your son will be about one when you return to work? You will be so surprised how much he will change in the months between now and then! My older daughter was the same, boobies for everything, every nap and sleep, etc. I would highly recommend not stressing about it, but also find carers that you feel very comfortable with! By about 1, you might find that you might not even need to bother with a bottle. My daughter was 14 months when I went back to work and easily fed her before work and then straight away when I picked her up. Will you be working full time and for long hours?

      Reply
      • Oh my, sorry Kate, I realised my last post didn’t save… Yes he will be abou 11 months. Yes ill be returning back full time. Ill see if I can go without breaks perhaps so that should shorten the day a bit. Next big choice is what kind of care… I’m currently looking into in home care with ‘porse’ … Any advice will be much appreciated. Loving your blogs x

      • No worries! I started off with family day care, but found a really awesome Steiner daycare that left me with the warm and fuzzies… Margo still goes there. You just never know, so if you like the feel of a place, give it ago! You can still give milk in a sippy cup at that age? I don’t think it would be a problem… Maybe even just giving one pumped bottle a day, if you feel up to it?

  6. Very well said.
    And no you definitely CANT spoil baby/child with too much LOVE.

    Reply

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