Newborns Sleeping Through The Night? What About Breastfeeding?

Newborn Sleep Through The Night

Did you catch all the controversy a few weeks ago over the latest baby sleep book? The book in question is called The Newborn Sleep Book: A Simple, Proven Method For Training Your New Baby To Sleep Through The Night. The two authors who wrote it allege that by using their method (called “the Jassey Way”), you can start training your newborn baby to give up night feedings and sleep 8 hours or more each night, starting from about a week after birth. They boast an impressive 90% success rate among families who use their techniques.

That means 90% of families had newborn babies who were sleeping 8+ hours at night, and not waking to feed during nighttime hours.

To some people, that might sound awesome; to me, it sounds pretty scary.

Why The Jasseys’ Method Is Not Breastfeeding Friendly (Not Even A Little Bit)

The implications of this sleep training method are pretty unsettling – parents are supposed to start weaning their newborns from night feedings as early as three weeks after birth, and “distracting” their hungry newborns as a way to phase out middle-of-the-night feeds. Parents are also supposed to try and stretch all daytime feeds to four hours apart; the Jasseys allege that this “resets” a baby’s hunger receptors.


But aside from the awful mental picture of a parent “distracting” a very hungry newborn baby (makes me angry just thinking about it!), I was immediately struck by how anti-breastfeeding this is. Yes, we all want babies who sleep well, but not at the expense of breastfeeding and bonding. As many of us moms know, in order to breastfeed successfully, it is absolutely critical that you breastfeed often – like every 1-3 hours often! And feeding your baby on demand is crucial in the early days after birth. So how do those well-established breastfeeding best practices line up with the Jasseys’ method?

Here’s what I found, after reading the book: the Jasseys do instruct moms to nurse often in the first few weeks (3-4) after birth, in order to get their milk supply well-established. They go on to explain that after the first few weeks, you can begin spreading out and then dropping night feedings, and stretching daytime feedings to 4 hour intervals.

Sounds great, right? Except that it certainly won’t work this way for every family. Here’s the truth – according to Miriam (who is one of our sleep consultants and, remember, also a registered nurse and an IBCLC- certified lactation consultant), going 4 hours between feedings all day long, and then working towards reduced night feedings when baby is just 4 weeks old, will absolutely decrease breast milk supply for the majority of moms and babies, even if breastfeeding is well-established.

Here’s some math, to help illustrate:

Most breastfed newborns need 20-30 oz of breast milk per day (25-35 oz for 4+ months). If your baby is supposed to eat every 4 hours, day and night, that leaves room for six feedings in a 24-hour period. Except, according to The Jassey Way, you are also striving for 8+ hours at night without feeding, so that means fewer than six feedings. In order to consume 25 oz in, say, five feedings, that means a newborn would need to eat 5 oz of breast milk at each feeding, and that mom would need to be able to produce and store this much or more in her breasts between feedings.

But this “perfect” scenario is far from standard. Truth is, breast milk production and storage capacity varies GREATLY from mom to mom. Plenty of moms produce less than 5 total ounces within the space of a few hours – some moms produce more like 1-3 ounces between feedings. Moms with lower milk storage capacities simply have to nurse more frequently, in order to keep supply up, and in order to ensure that their babies are getting enough breast milk each day.

What’s more, while 4-5 ounces per feeding may be an average number, there are babies who consume more like 2 or 3 ounces per feeding, because that’s what their appetites (and tummy size) can handle. Babies with reflux, for example, have to eat small, frequent meals. There is simply no way to force a baby who’s a light eater, or who has reflux, to take in more breast milk at each feeding (my own son never took more than 4 oz, even when he was 9+ months old!).

Now, put those two together – a mom who produces less than 5 ounces, and a baby who consumes less than 5 ounces – and add in the forced 4-hour feeding intervals and early night weaning , and what do you get?

Most likely, you get a mom whose milk supply slowly begins to fail. What’s worse, she probably won’t have a sleeping baby to show for it, either!

While newborns can have ONE 4 or 5-hour stretch in a 24-hour period between feedings, that’s about all that most newborns and their moms can handle – ONE. Multiple long stretches, combined with dropped night feedings, will damage breast milk supply in the first few months after birth, for most moms.

What About Formula-Fed Babies? Will The Jassey Way Work For Babies Who Are Exclusively Formula-Fed?

But what about families who choose to formula-feed? It’s possible that many formula-fed babies may do well with the Jasseys’ approach. Formula-fed babies typically can go longer between feeds, even from a very young age, than can breastfed babies. What’s more, formula-fed babies tend to drop their night feedings faster than breastfed babies – in my experience, many 6-month old babies who are exclusively formula-fed can to go 8 hours or more without feeding. This is simply due to the fact that formula is harder for baby’s tummy to digest, and so it tends to stay in baby’s system longer, making baby feel fuller for longer periods of time. (Side note: this does NOT mean that feeding your baby formula will solve his sleep problems. To solve persistent sleep problems, you need to look at all the reasons a baby may wake, not just hunger).

But What About the Jasseys’ 90% Success Rate?

So, how do we reconcile the fact that the Jassey Way is not breastfeeding friendly at all with the fact that the doctors boast a 90% success rate?

First – I am convinced that many of the Jasseys’ patients, who tried and stuck to this sleep coaching method, did not exclusively breastfeed (or, at least, they didn’t exclusively breastfeed for long). I very much doubt that parents who were committed to exclusively breastfeeding lasted very long with this approach. Alternatively, I’ve had a lot of clients tell me straight-up that they simply ignored their doctor’s advice when it came to sleep training.

Second – I’m also convinced that this method no doubt DOES work, in the sense that it teaches newborns how to sleep through the night from a very early age. However, I don’t see that as a victory. It’s true that you can teach a baby to change their natural eating habits, and to sleep for long stretches at a very early age, but just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD. The truth is, human beings are incredibly adaptable; you can teach them to do all kinds of things, and humans can adapt and survive in a variety of conditions and situations. So it’s certainly true that newborns can adapt to this method of eating and sleeping. But surviving is not the same as thriving. What’s more, your primary goal during the newborn stage should NOT be 8 consecutive hours of night sleep, and long stretches between daytime feeding – it should be to care for your newborn in the best and safest way possible. Teaching a baby to sleep through the night has its place, but that just isn’t a realistic goal for a newborn. (And if you know me, you know that I am all about small, realistic goals for improving baby sleep!)

The Jasseys’ Approach DOES NOT Represent Sleep Training In General

I want to end with this: remember that the new Jassey sleep coaching book in no way represents sleep training in general. I’ve seen countless negative responses to the Jasseys’ book, but so many of those responses dismiss and criticize sleep training as a whole, as if what the Jasseys propose in the book IS sleep training.

This is simply not true. What’s true is that sleep training is a spectrum – on the one side, you have harsher methods, like cry-it-out, Babywise, and what the Jasseys outline in their new book. On the other hand, you have very gentle methods, like the Pick-Up-Put-Down method, or the Fading method. And, of course, there’s lots and lots in between. If you view sleep more like a journey, with the start being on fully dependent on you and the destination being fully independent, that journey can be weeks, months, or years long. YOU set the pace based on your present goals! We work with families who want to continue co-sleeping as well as families who want their toddler in a big boy bed. The range is vast and “success” is personal.

What I hope you’ll take away from this article is that while the Jassey approach should, in my opinion, be avoided (ESPECIALLY if you want to exclusively breastfeed – RUN from this method, in that case!!), sleep training itself is not bad. In fact, it’s a lifesaver for many families (our parent stories prove that!). But it has to be done carefully and safely, at the right time, with appropriate and healthy goals that are respectful of baby’s development, and using methods that align with your parenting philosophy. After reading the Jasseys’ new book, I don’t believe it fits that description. My team’s approach to sleep training, however, does.

Your turn – have you heard much about this new baby sleep book? What are your thoughts? We want to hear your opinions on this!

bss_ebook_3stepsystem_leftFor those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.
bss_ebook_masteringnaps_leftIf you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 45 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style.


bss_email_featprod_memberspic-CROPPEDOr, join our Members Area packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! As a member, you’ll also enjoy a weekly chat with an expert sleep consultant. And the best part – members receive 20% off all sleep consultation services!

Baby_On_Computer_RESIZEDIf you are looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation, and want plenty support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations. Your consultation package will provide you with the chance to interact one-on-one with a trained sleep consultant, who will create a Personalized Sleep Plan™ for your family and then work to help you implement it at home.

Can’t decide which product or service is right for you? Visit our Getting Started Page for help.

November is Prematurity Awareness Month

Premature Awareness MonthLast year, I wrote about World Prematurity Awareness Day and how it just didn’t seem like it was near enough to raise the level of awareness needed about premature births. In the US, the entire month of November is dedicated to being Prematurity Awareness Month. For the entire month of November, the March of Dimes will work to help the nation to focus it’s attention on premature births. The March of Dimes launched the Prematurity Awareness Campaign in 2003 and since then they have made significant strides in raising awareness about premature births and in working towards reducing the rate of premature births but there is still a long way to go. Recent news reports that the premature birth rate is down slightly to 12.2% but still quite far from the March of Dimes goal of 9.6% by the year 2020.

Premature Birth Facts:

  • 1 in 8 babies are born prematurely in the United States
  • Worldwide, 13 million babies are born prematurely
  • Premature births are the number on killer of babies
  • Premature babies are at risk for severe health problems and lifelong disabilities.

As part of National Prematurity Awareness Month, The March of Dimes has released 2011 Premature Birth Report Cards by State. Overall the United States has a grade of “C” when it comes to preventing premature births. You can click here to view the map to see how your state ranks for preventing premature births. It’s rather alarming that we only have one state with a grade of “A” and four states have a grade of “F.” Clearly, much more still needs to be done towards working to prevent premature births in the United States.

November 17th is World Prematurity Awareness Day. World Prematurity Day is set aside as one way to honor the million babies who die each year from being born too soon along with 12 million who struggle to survive. See inspiring stories and get updates on Facebook by joining the World Prematurity Day Facebook page.

How you can help:

How will you help to raise awareness about premature births?

Why Prematurity Awareness Can’t Even Get a Day

premature developmentLast Wednesday, November 17th, I turned 37 years old, where I will remain for the next 10 years. 😉 Last Wednesday was also Prematurity Awareness Day. Yes, you read that right. It was Prematurity Awareness Day. Unfortunately, one day is not enough to raise awareness about this very important topic. Actually, not even a month, but here’s why it can barely even get a day.

Sadly, over half a million babies will be born premature every year in the United States alone and 40% will be for unknown reasons. This will affect a premature baby’s development (sleep-wise and otherwise) and, often, her health. Sometimes it’s even fatal. :(

You would think that with that many babies born prematurely, we would have heard a lot more about prematurity awareness this month. But, we didn’t. I finally received this link on Facebook, because a few of my “Facebook friends” have had premature babies.

So, why can’t Prematurity Awareness even get a day?

First, take a look at this list of “special months”: List of Special Months. I mean, really? January is California Dried Plum Digestive Health Month and National Hot Tea Month? February is Weddings Month? Isn’t the most popular month for a wedding in the summer? March is Sing with Your Child Month? I mean, shouldn’t we sing with our kids all the time? May is Good Car-Keeping Month? Huh?

Now, I don’t want to offend anyone if you are passionate about some of these special months, but it seems like all of these different “special months” dilute efforts that can be made on topics such as Prematurity Awareness, which will save lives.

Second, although 500,000 babies being born premature is a lot of babies, it’s “only” 12.5% of babies (there are over 4 million born per year in the U.S.), so not as many parents are directly affected by it (which is good), which makes eduction on the subject harder and it’s harder to make people listen. When it comes to other causes like Breast Cancer Awareness, many people have been touched one way or another by it: a grandmother, mother, wife, aunt, sister (like mine who died from it the year I got married), daughter, friend, or co-worker, to name a few.

As my friend said, being in the NICU is not for the faint of heart and losing a baby must be one of the hardest things a person can go through. Yes, losing my sister was hard, but a baby that you carried for months in your womb, whom you thought you’d watch grow older and give you grandchildren one day? I can’t even fathom it. Dr. Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN, mother of preemies, and writer, says

“…I am really interested in promoting awareness, because before I delivered three premature babies and after 3 months in the NICU brought only two boys home from the hospital I had no idea prematurity was as terrible as it really is. I mean I knew it a happened a lot, I delivered many premature babies myself, but I never really appreciated the magnitude of the problem. I never appreciated the devastation. For us, the NICU stay was like a marathon through hell, but just when we got home we realized that those first 26.2 miles were just the warm up because surprise, we’re really signed up for an ultra-marathon in hell. Parting gifts include cerebral palsy and bronchopulmonary dysplasia.”

You can imagine that if it was hard for an OB/GYN, who saw a lot of premature babies born, to grasp the magnitude of the problem, that it needs a lot of education to the ill-informed. Even though I’ve never personally experienced the birth of a premature baby, and even though you may not have a premature baby, wouldn’t it be something if we could help another parent who did/does? Sometimes, even if it hasn’t touched our own lives, we still need to act, not for us, but for the babies, many of whom who will go on to have health problems from their premature birth. At minimum, we can raise awareness and reduce the number of premature births. After all, if it did happen to you, wouldn’t you want to feel less alone?

Lastly, I know how hard it is to actually get your voice heard. Building this website has given me first-hand knowledge about how difficult it really can be to a) Get Google to find you (we are now over 80,000 visits per month! Yeah!), b) Get people to stay and read (average is 2 minutes), c) Get people to open e-mails (why the link to this article went in my newsletter titled “How Thanksgiving Will Affect Your Baby’s Sleep” and nothing to do with prematurity), and d) Get people to act (click on a link, forward to a friend, etc.). So, in order for Prematurity Awareness to get the attention it deserves, it will take marketing, educating, and people sharing/acting. I don’t know who “organizes” all of these special months, but without a force behind it, the news stories won’t cover it, there won’t be ribbons to pin on our shirts, or “races for the cure.” It will continue to be just another item on the list of special months.

How you can help:

  • Learn the causes of premature births, so you can educate not only yourself, but your friends, families, coworkers, and anyone who will listen.
  • Learn that you can reduce your risks by getting prenatal care, spreading out your births by 18 months (if your first was a preemie), and talk to your doctor about progesterone supplements.
  • Share this on Facebook, Twitter, or e-mail the link, so other people know it’s Prematurity Awareness Day Month.
  • Consider a donation to March of Dimes

If you are a parent of a preemie, here are a couple of resources:

So, tell me. Will you help this cause stand out among the endless list of “special months” by sharing this article and your new found knowledge?

Prematurity Awareness Month

Babies PrematureNovember is March of Dimes Prematurity Awareness Month! Many babies (roughly 1,400 per day!) are born premature in the U.S. alone and unfortunately, the numbers are increasing rather than decreasing. Please take a moment to learn more about prematurity and what you can do in pregnancy to reduce your risks by reading When Babies Are Born Premature on the Babble Soft website this week. You can also read about premature development and your baby’s sleep here on this site. Please also consider forwarding the information to friends and family as you can save a life of two sharing the knowledge! Thank you for doing your part in this very important matter.

Premature Development

premature developmentAcross this site, I quote age a lot in terms of when a baby might sleep through the night or how long she might need to eat at night. But, premature development might change the way you approach your baby’s sleep.

According to HealthDay News and the magazine, Pediatrics, even babies born just 2 to 3 weeks early can be developmentally delayed. The risk is small for any ONE child, but as a group, even babies born at 34 to 35 weeks can be affected.

The earlier your baby is born, the more you need to make adjustments in terms of brain maturation. Premature development is complex, but most do catch up by the time they reach kindergarten and “85% of premature infants have catch-up growth and land on the regular growth chart by two years of age.” However, problems can show up early or later, so if you have any concerns at all, talk to your pediatrician. That’s what they are there for and always trust your instincts!

When it comes to sleep, premature development does not affect sleep any more than other areas, except that your premature baby will likely sleep like a newborn longer than if she was born full term. For example, you do need to keep in mind that when your baby turns 4 months old, you might not see the same changes that other parents have and instead, you might see them when your baby’s adjusted age reaches 4 months old. It depends on the baby and it depends on their unique premature development.

To find your baby’s adjusted age, take the # of weeks early and subtract from their actual age. For example, if your baby is 24 weeks old (6 months old), but born 8 weeks early, her adjusted age is 16 weeks old, or 4 months.

Since the age that a baby can sleep through the night is a developmental milestone, you can imagine that the length of time a parent of a premature baby has to feed at night is longer than other parents (by the adjusted age). Since even waking once per night to feed for months on-end is downright exhausting, I feel for parents that need to do it even longer than I did (about a year with both boys).

Premature development is probably one of the biggest things that worries parents. After all, there is already a lot to worry about being a parent. It’s also common for parents to compare their children to others, when they were rolling over, crawling, walking, etc. and I’m sure it’s harder for the parent of a premature infant to resist that temptation. If I compare my sons to each other, if I didn’t believe so much in the fact that each child is unique, with their own time table and their own temperament, I might worry about my younger son. After all, although he sat up early, he didn’t crawl until past 11 months (!) and now at 14 months he is only now just taking some steps to walk. His brother, on the other hand, crawled late too but walked 3 weeks later around 11 months. They are just different.

While reading my website about baby sleep, please use your premature baby’s adjusted age, as sleep is a lot to do with brain development. You may also want to track your premature baby’s development, immunizations, sleep, etc. by using an online tool. You can share your baby log with other caregivers and see the big picture when it comes to your baby’s premature development. You may also be interested in my newborn sleep tips.

Share your premature baby’s development story. How did it affect his sleep?