Baby Sleep and Breastfeeding Series: Part 1

Baby Sleep and Breastfeeding Series

Breastfeeding moms are very loving and caring moms! And, so are formula feeding moms! Although I breastfed both my boys for their first year, I am also a firm believer in respecting a parent’s choice for how they choose to feed their baby, so I welcome ALL to my Baby Sleep and Breastfeeding Series!

This series is going to discuss baby sleep and how it relates to breastfeeding, and not discuss anything to do with whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding or formula feeding is better, worse, or indifferent. I try to keep this a judgment-free place and the way you feed your baby is a very personal choice and sometimes not a choice at all, for some. The goal of this series will tackle things like how breastfeeding relates to sleep, whether you need to co-sleep to succeed, how often you can expect to feed your baby at night, how your diet may affect sleep, and what methods of sleep training are open to you. So, let’s get started!

Does breastfeeding cause sleep problems? Should you wean?

Yes! You CAN have a baby who sleeps and breastfeed, successfully. I did it for 12-13 months with both boys and successfully improved their sleep in the process. I did give them one night-feeding with both boys until they were one year, but many breastfeeding moms can night-wean before that. My boys were just slow to be able to go 12 hours without a feeding, even though I did try…at least with the first. I sort of just accepted it with the second having already gone through it once before.

My story might not be enough to convince you, though, so I will also tell you that I get a lot parents who have to give a bottle numerous times a night or replace a pacifier upwards of 10 times a night, too. I do NOT just get breastfeeding moms to this site and although my mother-in-law may have THOUGHT my son’s sleep problems were due to my breastfeeding (she thought he was just hungry every night), it wasn’t. He proved her wrong eventually when he was eating solids and we still had problems. 😀

Having said all of this, whether you wean or not is a very personal decision, but it does make me sad when moms wean simply because they hope it will improve their baby’s sleep. It simply doesn’t always work that way.

The human pacifier or use a pacifier?

If you are breastfeeding more than 2-3 times per night at 3 months or more than twice after 4-5 months, then you have likely become a human pacifier. Some people believe this is 100% what we should do as moms and are fine with it. I became a pacifier, too, and for a while it was fine. Later on, it wasn’t…for me. These are all personal choices.

When your baby is first born, you should hold off using a real pacifier until your milk supply is fully established. Your baby suckling stimulates milk production, so typically waiting 4-8 weeks is preferable. Just keep in mind what I said that using a pacifier does not guarantee your sleep won’t be interrupted because many people become “paci police” replacing it numerous times a night. Depending on the age of the baby, you can try to throw several into the crib and your baby might learn to replace it, but many babies even when they can replace it, don’t.

My Boys…

Neither of my boys had a pacifier (besides me – the human pacifier – when they were very young). My first simply would not take one even though several people tried very hard to give one to him and to this day inanimate items aren’t a good enough replacement for human contact. He did take to a lovey very well and still sleeps with it to this day. He never sucked his thumb, either.

Because I enjoyed the fact I didn’t have to break a pacifier or thumb-sucking habit with my first, I purposely skipped the pacifier with my second and introduced the same lovey. He never sucked his thumb, either. Both played with finger sucking for a very short time, but it never took, thankfully. Maybe I just got lucky. I’d make sure I breastfed often during the day and give lots of affection. I can imagine we had more fussy moments in the car or out in public without a pacifier, but we made it through.

Pacifiers can make good solutions and they are especially good for babies with strong sucking needs. As long as the pacifier has not become a problem more than a solution, it is not a problem to use them.

Do you have to co-sleep to succeed in breastfeeding and get some sleep?

If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you know that co-sleeping did not work for me. So my short answer is… No. You don’t have to co-sleep to succeed in breastfeeding and get some sleep. In the early days, it can be easier, though. Again, this is a personal choice. I have helped countless breastfeeding families successfully help their baby learn to sleep and continue breastfeeding. I urge any family to try, if that’s what you want for your family. It might not be easy, but with determination, we can solve your sleep problems without weaning.

In the next part of this series, explore night feedings, teething, and weaning: Baby Sleep and Breastfeeding Series: Part 2.

Additional Resources on Breastfeeding and Baby Sleep:

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25 thoughts on “Baby Sleep and Breastfeeding Series: Part 1”

  1. Hi, since breastfeeding takes a long time (until baby finished) perhaps around 40 mins, how to establish routine for newborn?

    • @Desy In – Thank you for writing to us! I am happy to help. With newborns, it can be challenging to get them on a set routine until they are a little earlier. We have an article about newborn sleep and how it works that will give you more information on how they sleep, as well as how to navigate through the early months:
      Generally, you will want to look at the time the baby wakes up, and will put them back down to sleep 1.5 – 2 hours after they wake (during the day). Many parents do eat-play-sleep routines and many don’t! How you structure your routine will be up to you. I personally, breastfed on demand in those early months which is great for establishing your supply, and making sure the baby is getting everything that they need. We didn’t really get on any sort of schedule until closer to 6 or 7 months. I hope that helps! Enjoy your little one. 🙂 Thank you for using the Baby Sleep Site as a resource for sleep!

  2. My littles is almost 14 months and is still a night nurser and cosleeper. She wakes about every 2 hours as I am her human pacifier. She does not self soothe nor has she ever taken to a pacy. Is it possible to continue to cosleep but get her to sleep thru the night while I stille want to be a nursing mama, just not thru the night?

  3. my son is 14 months old.he wakes up more than six times a a night
    to breastfeed,thanks to Nicole am getting to understant the reason for all these.sleep associations.after learning my mistake,i wish to completely break off from this habit,what are some of the altrenatives that that i can use to soothe him back to sleep without having to breastfeed?…kindly help cause i believe this could be one of the reasons why he is a poor feeder,doesn add enough weight when i take him for well baby clinic.he is 14 months and 10.1 kg.
    kindly assist…..

  4. my boy wakes up more than 4 times at night. he is 6 and a half months old. though he had colics which disturb him up to today his sleeping habit is disturbing. Help

  5. My 2-month-old has actually regressed since he was 1 month old. He used to sleep a 5-6 hour stretch at night but now he is only sleeping 2-3 hour stretches all night, waking several times. I don’t know what happened! He is very good during the day and can take naps on his own, sometimes just crying for a few minutes before falling sleep. Nighttime is a different story. I find it very difficult to soothe him back to sleep at night without breastfeeding, even if I know he is not hungry. If I try the paci or even rock him, he still acts like he wants to eat and I end up feeding him. Letting him cry, he just gets more and more worked up. How do I soothe him back to sleep without breastfeeding?

    During the day he eats every 3 hours during the day and takes normal naps. I feed him the last time at 8 p.m. and he goes straight to sleep. Sometimes he is asleep and sometimes he is awake when I put him down. He sleeps in his own crib. Now he eats so much at night that he seems less hungry during the day.

    Help! Have I inadvertently created a bad habit?

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