During initial enquiries and consultations, this may be the most common question I get asked and the short answer is yes, you can still breastfeed whilst sleep training.
Many parents think that breastfed babies sleep worse than bottle-fed babies, but this is actually a myth and in no way is there any research that backs up this statement. So, what do you need to know?
- When babies struggle to sleep it’s often that there is an association between feeding and sleeping and this can be any type of feeding, it doesn’t just apply to breastfeeding. It’s relatively easy to determine whether a child has a feed-to-sleep association. Therefore, the main outcome of any sleep programme where a little one is fed to sleep will be to break the association between feeding and sleeping. Often, when a child falls asleep in your arms and wakes up in a different setting (because they’ve been put in their cot to sleep), it can cause them to startle and many parents find themselves restarting the feed-to-sleep cycle, which is exhausting for both child and parent.
- Your baby can still feed in the night. The true aim of sleep training is to teach your little one great self-soothing skills so that eventually, when they are ready, they can go for longer stretches during naps and night time without needing your attention. Depending on their age, it’s very likely that your little one may still need a feed during the night and that’s okay. Waking your baby gently or them waking from hunger, feeding them and putting them down again awake is perfectly acceptable and yes, there may be a few tears but if they are fed, clean and in a good sleeping environment, it won’t be long before they drift back off to sleep, with a little reassurance from you.
- Sleep training is about doing what’s best for you and your little one. As parents we get caught up in making sure our little ones have everything they need, and we often forget about our needs. Happy parents equals happy children and so getting a good night’s rest is crucial to our wellbeing and mental health. Having a good sleep routine may even enhance your relationship with breastfeeding.
- You shouldn’t have to choose between sleeping and breastfeeding. I always say to my clients that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. You can breastfeed and sleep and if that’s what you would like to do, it’s important to make sure you find a sleep consultant who will help you on that journey and support you throughout.
- Be kind and remind yourself that you are doing an amazing job. Parenting is hard, feeding is hard and sleep deprivation is hard, but you are not alone. I see many formula and bottle-fed babies who also don’t sleep well; so the need for sleep training is in no way exclusive to breastfed babies and it’s important to remember that.
Research shows that there really is little difference between sleep patterns in bottle-fed and breastfed babies and so choosing to swap from breastfeeding to formula feeding should be a decision made based on other factors and not sleep. If you are struggling with your little one’s sleep, then get in touch today because regardless of how you feed your child, I will be able to support you and create a sleep training programme that is tailored to what suits you and your family best.
I’m a baby and toddler sleep consultant specialising in designing gentle sleep training programmes for babies and toddlers. I work with clients on a one to one basis and I also have a series of age-specific online courses for you to implement at your own pace.