Tag Archives: weaning breastfeeding

Will Supplementing or Switching To Formula Help Your Breastfeeding Baby Sleep?

 
Will Formula Help Your Baby Sleep?

You don’t have to be a health expert to know that when it comes to baby feeding, breastfeeding is the best option for most babies. Besides being extremely low-cost, breastfeeding provides a whole host of health benefits to both mom and baby. But let’s be honest — if you have a baby who’s still waking frequently at night, the benefits of breastfeeding are probably among the last things you’re thinking about during those middle-of-the-night feedings! Instead, you’re probably thinking about how tired you are, and wondering how on earth you can get your baby to start sleeping more at night. You may be even feeling like you’re a worse parent because of it.

Some breastfeeding moms may find themselves wondering if formula is the solution to their problems. They wonder if adding a bit of formula to their baby’s diet might encourage sleep. And a few particularly exhausted moms may toy with the idea of switching to formula altogether as the solution to their babies’ night waking. Nicole remembers being told that her son was waking at night because “Breastfeeding isn’t enough.”

Will Adding or Switching to Formula Help Baby Sleep?

We can answer this question in two words: probably not. If you’re breastfeeding and having issues with your milk production, and if your baby isn’t getting enough to eat as a result, then formula may help your baby sleep better, simply because it would give her the nourishment that she isn’t getting from nursing. However, this isn’t a problem for most nursing moms. In fact, oftentimes, when moms think they’re experiencing low milk production, they actually aren’t. If your baby is nursing just fine, then adding a bottle of formula in here and there, or switching to formula altogether, isn’t likely to help her sleep any better.

The logic behind assuming formula will help baby sleep is easy to trace. Formula takes longer for a baby’s system to digest than breastmilk; for this reason, formula-fed babies tend to need fewer feedings per day than do breastfed babies. What’s more, babies tend to drink more from a bottle than they do from a breast. Add all of this together, and it’s easy to assume that formula-fed babies must sleep far better than breastfed babies since they won’t wake as much from hunger.

The truth is, baby sleep isn’t as straight forward as that. This line of thinking assumes that the only reason a baby wakes at night is out of hunger; that’s simply NOT the case. This excerpt from our article “Will Starting Solids Help Baby Sleep?” explains why the causes of a baby’s night waking can be complicated:

“But (as any parent who’s cross-eyed with exhaustion can tell you) hunger isn’t the only reason a baby wakes at night — far from it. Many babies sleep poorly at night due to sleep associations, or perhaps because they’re experiencing a sleep regression. In these cases, hunger has nothing to do with a baby’s night waking.

Keep in mind too that as babies grow, they need fewer and fewer nighttime feeds. By 4 months, most babies need 1-3 nighttime feedings; by 6 months, (the earliest age that experts recommend starting solids), that number drops to 1-2. Keep in mind, this is provided your baby is receiving all of their necessary daytime calories! So if your baby is waking frequently during the night, the problem probably isn’t hunger (or at least, it’s not just hunger). And that’s why there’s no actual link between feeding your baby solids and having him sleep better. If he isn’t sleeping well, it’s probably because he’s formed bad sleep habits, not because he’s constantly hungry.

Of course, this article references solids, but the same principles hold true for formula. There’s no real link between adding/switching to formula and having your baby sleep better, simply because hunger isn’t the only reason a baby wakes at night. Our client base alone is proof of this, since our Help Desk contains accounts for both breastfeeding and formula feeding babies alike.

And here’s an interesting sidenote: even if formula helped your baby sleep a little better, your own sleep might not benefit at all. A 2010 study revealed that breastfeeding and bottle feeding moms get the same amount of sleep. Time magazine summarized the findings this way:

“It’s true that formula takes babies longer to digest, while breast milk is processed fully and quickly because of its composition. But even if bottle-fed babies are sleeping longer, their moms are not, say the researchers.”

So even if adding or switching to formula helped your baby sleep a little better (and odds are it won’t), research suggests that it wouldn’t do anything at all for your sleep. After all, a parent getting up at 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. is waking twice just like a parent waking at 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Should You Switch To Formula?

Some breastfeeding moms reach a point of desperation and begin wondering if weaning their babies completely to formula is the solution for a better night’s sleep. This isn’t a strategy that we recommend. Instead, we recommend that you continue nursing and begin to work on establishing good, healthy sleep habits with your baby.

breastfeeding babyAnother sidenote: other breastfeeding moms may consider making the switch to formula for a different reason — they may be feeling pressure to switch because their babies aren’t gaining weight “properly”, or maybe even because a pediatrician has started using the “failure to thrive” label when discussing their babies’ growth. This can be scary for moms; on the one hand, they want to breastfeed, but on the other hand, they fear their baby isn’t getting enough nourishment. If you’re in this position, you may be wondering, “Should I just give up nursing and switch to formula?”

Before you take that step, consider Diana’s story. She was exclusively breastfeeding her daughter Bella, even though multiple doctors and nurses tried to convince her to switch to formula due to Bella’s small size and “failure” to gain weight. Despite all the pressure, Diana continued to breastfeed and searched for other ways to explain and treat Bella’s “condition”. Diana shares that Bella endured countless medical tests, and that she and her husband spent thousands of dollars searching for answers. And then something unexpected happened:

“Today we went in for our last appointment at Children’s. The doctor was pleased to see Bella gaining weight and doing so well. He turned the computer to show me the curve she was on, and how she was still under the 10th percentile but very healthy as all the tests had come back normal. And then?

He pulled up another screen. “And this is the WHO (World Health Organization) chart for breastfed girls/boys, we’ve just recently started using it. So as you can see, compared to other strictly breastfed babies, Bella is in the 50th percentile for height/weight. Which is right on target. It looks like you guys are good to go.

I.WAS.FLOORED.

All the months we spent worrying about her weight – when probably for at least the past five months or so she’s been fine. Right where she should have been as a breastfed infant. She never had to go through most of those horrible tests.”

If you’re considering switching to formula out of concern for your baby’s growth and development, consider consulting the WHO chart and asking your doctor to look it over with you.

Should You Supplement With Formula?

Other breastfeeding moms want to continue nursing but wonder about “topping off” with a bottle of formula sometimes (like right before baby goes to bed for the night). It’s perfectly fine to combine formula feeding and breastfeeding, if you are okay with it. You can even mix powdered formula with breastmilk. Keep in mind that any amount of breastfeeding is beneficial for your baby.

That said, there are three things to be aware of when you “top off” with formula:

  • If you regularly offer bottles of formula while nursing, it may affect your milk supply, since nursing is a “supply and demand” process. Your baby will need less breastmilk if he regularly gets a bottle of formula each day, which will lead to a drop in supply.
  • If your baby is newborn, switching back and forth between breast and bottle can cause nipple confusion. Consider waiting to offer any formula until nursing is well-established (usually in the first 4 – 6 weeks); at that point, nipple confusion shouldn’t be a concern.
  • Remember that formula is harder to digest than breastmilk and contains ingredients that your baby may not yet be able to digest easily. This means that formula can lead to digestive issues, like gas and constipation. And those digestive issues can make your baby’s already-problematic nighttime sleep even worse!

Change the Sleeping Habits, Not the Food Source!

While there are a few families we’ve come across who notice marked improvement in sleep after night weaning, ultimately, changing your baby’s food source probably won’t help him sleep any better. Don’t let that discourage you, though! Even though the solution to your baby’s sleep issues might not be as straightforward and simple as adding or switching to formula, rest assured that there is a solution. And we can help you find it! Why not try a personalized, one-on-one consultation with one of our expert sleep consultants?

 
Browse our list of consultation package options here.
 

Once you make your choice and purchase, you will immediately receive an e-mail with your Helpdesk login information. You’ll be able to login and start your Family Sleep History form right away – it’s that simple!

Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers. You can also take a tour of the Helpdesk.

bss_email_featprod_memberspic-CROPPEDPrefer to work on your baby’s sleep yourself? 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!
 

Did weaning or using formula make a difference in your baby’s sleep? Share your story!

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How Weaning from Breastfeeding May Affect Your Baby’s Sleep

If you’re considering weaning your baby from breastfeeding to a bottle or cup, you’re probably thinking about which weaning method you’ll use. Or, you might be considering which bottle or cup will make the transition easiest. And, if you’re reading The Baby Sleep Site, you are probably also thinking about how this may impact your baby’s sleep. This article will discuss ways, both good and bad, that weaning from breastfeeding may impact your baby’s sleep.

Weaning from breastfeeding can cause an otherwise great sleeper to wake and fuss more often, and if your baby already struggles with sleep, weaning can make your nights even more sleepless. On the other hand, if your baby is breastfeeding to sleep, weaning can improve sleep, in some cases.

A Word of Warning: A Reason Not to Wean from Breastfeeding!

Breastmilk digests faster than formula. For this reason, formula-fed babies do tend to sleep for longer stretches at night than breastfed babies, sometimes, depending on the baby. That said, if you’re considering weaning to formula in an effort to get your baby to sleep through the night, please reconsider. This isn’t a strategy we recommend here at The Baby Sleep Site, simply because we’ve found that it is possible to breastfeed your baby AND have him sleep well at night and for naps. Changing your baby’s food source probably won’t change his sleeping habits; instead, you’re better off working on the sleeping habits themselves. We work with many families who don’t breastfeed that have just as many baby sleep problems and babies who do not sleep through the night.

Why Will Weaning Impact My Baby’s Sleep?

The reason weaning can have a major impact on sleep is because weaning is about more than simply exchanging one food source for another. For our babies, the end of breastfeeding can be an emotional, difficult experience.

How Will Weaning Impact My Baby’s Sleep?

For starters, weaning means the end of prolonged skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby. Remember that breastfeeding is more than just feeding time; it has comforting associations for baby. Some babies even end up using mom as a “human pacifier”! For these reasons, weaning can make your baby much fussier than normal, which can lead to interrupted naps and lots of nighttime waking.

Weaning can also disturb your baby’s sleep if you’ve made a habit of nursing your little one to sleep each night. If that’s the case, then nursing has likely become a sleep association for your baby. Therefore, when you change that feeding, you’re changing the thing he needs to fall asleep. This can make bedtime an exhausting battle each night.

If your baby is no longer feeding at night, then her nighttime sleep may or may not be affected. Her naps, however, could be. If you’re weaning and find that your baby’s naps are disrupted because of it, consider downloading our FREE napping guide, 7 Common Baby Nap and Sleep Schedule Mistakes.

Weaning can also impact your baby’s sleep when the weaning is “mom-initiated” instead of “baby-initiated.” Generally, at some point between 1 and 2 years of age, a baby will show signs of self-weaning. Baby-initiated weaning like this is usually easier and takes less time. Of course, baby-initiated weaning isn’t always possible; sometimes weaning has to happen earlier! If you’re weaning your baby before the one-year mark, however, it’s important to remember that the process may take longer, and your baby’s sleep may be disrupted.

Once you begin to wean, you may notice that it takes a little time for your baby’s appetite to adjust. This can be another reason for sudden nighttime waking and sleeplessness — your baby’s appetite is adjusting to this new method of feeding. This adjustment can take 1-2 weeks. You can help your baby during this time by making sure you’re offering enough nourishment during the day. But, remember that breast milk and formula should be your baby’s primary nutrition during the first year, so do not overcompensate with solids, if it’s not time. Check with your doctor on adequate amounts of formula for your baby’s age.

Finally, it isn’t just baby’s sleep that may be disrupted during the weaning process — mom’s may be, too! Weaning can lead to engorgement and possible infection, called mastitis. This is especially true for moms who try to wean their babies quickly, cutting out multiple feedings at once.

How Can I Help My Baby Sleep Well During the Weaning Process?

Avoid a “cold turkey” approach (in which you abruptly stop nursing). This can be very upsetting for your baby, and, as mentioned earlier, it’s likely to cause complications for you. Instead, opt for a gentler, “slow and steady” approach; it’ll be far less disruptive to your baby’s sleep. A “slow and steady” approach would look something like this:

  • At feeding time, nurse your baby as you normally would. Then, offer your baby a bottle of formula or cup of milk.
  • When your baby has gotten used to the bottle/cup, then reverse these steps: offer the bottle/cup first, followed by a nursing.

Consider using the “Don’t Offer, Don’t Refuse” method. This is the gentlest way to wean. With this method, you don’t offer your baby the breast, but if your baby is clamoring to nurse, you don’t refuse her, either. This method is slower, but if you have the time to put in, it’ll mean more restful nights and restful naps for your baby!

Don’t wean too fast! Nicole remembers that while weaning one of her sons, he’d start biting her shoulder when she’d hold him. That’s a classic sign of weaning too fast, and she had to slow down. Experts recommend that you eliminate no more than one nursing at a time; then, wait about a week to let your baby’s appetite adjust.

Like so many other things in life, weaning goes best if there’s a plan in place. Try to plan weaning during times when life is most normal — in other words, don’t wean around a holiday or a vacation, during a move, right before the birth of a new baby, etc.

That said, remember that you work the plan — don’t let the plan work you! Life happens, and unexpected things like teething, illness, a work-related trip, new medication for mom, etc. can sometimes destroy a mom’s best-laid plans. What’s more, you might find that your baby simply refuses to cooperate! You didn’t exactly consult him when you made your plan, after all. If this is the case for you, remember that like sleep training, weaning is not a battle to be won. Consider taking a break and trying again later if your baby is showing major signs of resistance.

What about you? Did you find that weaning affected your baby’s sleep? Do you have any weaning tips to offer moms who are struggling?

If you’d like help getting your little one to sleep soundly during the weaning process, please be sure to pick up your FREE copy of 5 (tear-free) Ways to Help Your Child Sleep Through the Night, our e-Book with tear-free tips to help your baby sleep better. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep (babies) or The 5-Step System to Better Toddler Sleep (toddlers). Using a unique approach and practical tools for success, our e-books help you and your baby sleep through the night and nap better. For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan™ you can feel good about! Sometimes it’s not that you can’t make a plan. Sometimes you’re just too tired to.

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