Sheryl Jesin

Nursing to sleep – some more info


I often hear from new moms that their babies often or always fall asleep nursing. These moms are usually quite worried that they are creating bad habits or doing something wrong.  They are afraid that their babies will never “learn” to fall asleep on their own.

If you want to read about my personal experiences with nursing to sleep, I’ve written a post in the past about the Joys of Nursing to Sleep, and I recently wrote a post about how my 2 year old who has always been nursed to sleep has recently been sleeping long stretches on his own.

The Kellymom website provided me with some extremely helpful information when I was a new mom and unsure about nursing to sleep.  Kelly’s words made me feel good about my decision to continue to nurse my son to sleep, despite hearing from various well-meaning friends and family that what we were doing was WRONG!  My heart told me that what we were doing was natural, and the info below helped me strengthen my convictions.

I highly recommend that every breastfeeding mom read Nursing to Sleep and Other Comfort Nursing.   Kelly believes that nursing to sleep is completely natural:

Many moms feel guilty for nursing their baby to sleep. Nursing your baby to sleep is not a bad thing to do! It’s very normal and developmentally appropriate for babies to nurse to sleep and to wake 1-3 times during the night for the first year or so. Some babies don’t do this, but they are the exception, not the rule. Many children, if given the choice, prefer to nurse to sleep through the second year and beyond. Nursing is obviously designed to comfort baby and to help baby sleep, and I’ve never seen a convincing reason why mothers shouldn’t use this wonderful “tool” that we’ve been given.

Kelly answers a number of common questions in her usual reassuring and non-judgemental way.  These questions include:

Kelly includes an inspirational quote from Paula Yount, one of the moderators from the Kellymom forums.  I hear from so many moms that they feel like a human pacifier after many hours of nursing.  Paula explains her views on this:

You are not a pacifier; you are a Mom. You are the sun, the moon, the earth, you are liquid love, you are warmth, you are security, you are comfort in the very deepest aspect of the meaning of comfort…. but you are not a pacifier!

It’s not surprising that so many moms feel guilty about nursing their babies or toddlers to sleep when there is so much information out there from so-called sleep experts about sleep training.   I hope that other moms receive the reassurance they need from the Kellymom site.   Nursing your baby to sleep feels natural and normal because it is!   It can even be joyful.

What have your experiences been with nursing your baby or toddler to sleep?

6 thoughts on “Nursing to sleep – some more info

  1. I used to do this. My son would not fall asleep any other way, and often woke up when I tried to put him down. His sleeping just got worse and worse until he would not sleep more than about and hour and a half (if I was lucky) at a time without nursing, and he would only nap for 1/2 hour which translated to 4 daytime very short naps, and he was often cranky and tired. When my husband could not handle my continual crazy sleep deprivation- and neither could I, We finally did some “sleep training” where Daddy would try to get him back to sleep first 3 hours, then 4, etc until he slept all night It did work, and slowly he began to sleep all night- about 12 hours, and take real naps- that’s 1-2 hours at a time. His mood improved enormously, and so did mine. I know for many kids non-sleep training is an option- obviously it worked for your child, but it did not work out for me.

    • Hi Rachel. As Dr. Sears says: If you resent it, change it! Sounds like you did that. I’m glad that you were able to find something that worked for the needs of your family.

  2. Thank you .. didn’t read the whole thing but did read – “You are not a pacifier; you are a Mom. You are the sun, the moon, the earth, you are liquid love, you are warmth, you are security, you are comfort in the very deepest aspect of the meaning of comfort…. but you are not a pacifier!
    Now sitting here with tears on my cheeks. My son is 20 weeks and he is a hungry boy. He feeds ALOT. Despite all this he is average weight and exactly the same weight as my daughter was at this age. My family (as much as I love them) is pro me letting him settle himself and seeing what happens if I don’t feed him when he asks. And becuase I DO feed him when he asks (and my 4 year old is particularly stompy at the moment) I am feeling like a human pacifier / punch bag (not physically). At the beck and call of both of my children. Thank you for reminding me that at the heart of it I am so much more.

    • Hi Larissa. Sending you big hugs!! Sounds like you are doing a wonderful job meeting the needs of your kids. I know it can be so hard being a mom. My son fed A LOT too in his early months. It was really tough, especially when everyone around me was saying I was feeding him “too much”! Now I know that it is impossible to nurse a baby too often, and I’m so glad that I fed my son on demand…I believe it created a really strong bond between us.

  3. My son is four months and usually goes to sleep at night by being rocked after a long feed. I have found that feeding him to sleep has led to him waking much more frequently than if I don’t (as in waking every hour rather than every three or four.) Our approach has been to feed him when he wants, as much as he wants, but if he falls asleep feeding I gently wake him and then rock or cuddle him to sleep. I’m very pleased that this worked for us, with no tears or denying feeding, and also gave me the sleep I need to be a living, happy mum.

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