Although initially breastfed babies wake more often during the night to feed than their formula-fed counterparts, eventually sleep patterns stabilize as the baby grows older, advises the American Academy of Pediatrics. Sleep training – the process of guiding your baby to more independent sleep habits – has special challenges for many breastfeeding moms because of the strong attachment in the baby.
It’s common for breastfed babies to develop a single sleep association – the method with which the baby goes to sleep. With many breastfed babies, the sleep association is breastfeeding because the baby falls asleep while feeding. To begin to sleep train a breastfed baby, it’s important to introduce a different sleep association that the baby will accept and use to fall asleep, recommends author and pediatrician William Sears, with the Ask Dr. Sears website. Additional sleep associations include lying in bed with music, rocking and bouncing in a parent’s arms.
As you strive to incorporate additional sleep associations for your baby, introduce a predictable bedtime routine that you will use every night when it’s time for bed. The routine must fit your family’s style, and might perhaps including a bath, pajamas, snuggling with books or soft music, the final breastfeeding session before bedtime and then moving into whatever sleep association you will be using to ease your baby into sleep.
When striving to encourage better sleep habits overnight with your baby, ensure that you feed your baby adequately during the day. Feed your baby a minimum of every three hours during the day, advises Sears. You might also provide your baby with several feeds over the course of an hour in the final hour before bedtime – known as “cluster feeding.”
Breastfed babies typically engage in some level of night waking, states professor of psychology Darcia Narvaez, with the Psychology Today website. Although this can be a difficult situation to manage with ensuing sleep deprivation, it’s important to understand that night waking is normal and expected with breastfed babies. After the baby reaches toddlerhood, you may be ready to take steps to night-wean your baby by training him to sleep throughout the night without waking to eat.
Encouraging Longer Sleep
Take specific steps to encourage longer sleeping in your breastfed baby, advises Sears. Keep the room dark, provide white noise in the background and ensure you dress your baby comfortably for the ambient temperature in the bedroom.