Breastfeeding my Baby to Sleep: Reaching Acceptance

I can’t quite remember the first time it happened, but I remember my confusion about breastfeeding my baby to sleep.

At the start, I didn’t think about breastfeeding Precious Sparkle to sleep, sleeping was just part of the feeding process. In the early months when I had the thick dark cloud of inadequate weight gain hanging heavily over me, I found this to be an unfortunate part of feeding. O yes, that horrible fear of a negative verdict from the health visitor at the next weight check. No new mum wants to hear that their child is losing weight when he should be gaining.

I remember many attempts to keep my little man feeding and not sleeping; my word … so many advise about how to do it – solicited and not. ‘Tickle his feet’ … ‘hold him near an open window whilst moving him from side to side’ … ‘blow air on his face with your mouth’ … ‘I just talk with mine, and that keeps him awake’ … ‘switch him from breast to breast often’, ‘undo his clothes’, ‘change his nappy’, and so many others I can’t remember.

Oh, those were difficult times. The feet tickling rarely ever worked, talking and undoing his clothes didn’t seem to make any difference, and the breast switching was too much of a burden when latching was an unmastered art. Thank God, babies outgrow these tips in no time, though it seems like forever when you’re going through it.

Breastfeeding my Baby to Sleep - acceptance

It took me a while to actually connect breastfeeding as a way to get him to sleep, though I observed over and over again that he usually slept whilst feeding. I remember pacing with him up and down to get him to sleep at night, and making up different kinds of movements along the way. We eventually got into some kind of routine; and I particularly started feeding him to both eat and sleep.

And then the question about how he slept began, and the advice started pouring in. I remember the horror on some faces when they learnt that I allowed him to sleep whilst breastfeeding. They obviously thought it was not the thing to do. I was assured that I was creating a future rod for my own back.

‘You must take him off the breast before he falls asleep, and put him in his cot sleepy, but whilst still awake’. ‘He has to learn how to sleep by himself, otherwise he will not sleep by himself for a very long time to come’. ‘You really should start training him to sleep without the breast’. ‘He is going to be so dependent on you for his sleep and that’s a bad idea’.

Then after some months, there were points like, ‘he needs to learn not to wake up in the middle of the night for feeds’ … ‘no wonder you’re so tired, you’re still feeding him through the night’ … ‘teaching him to sleep doesn’t involve a lot of crying’ …ย  etc.

On and on and on and on, comments were made verbally and via facial expressions; some were gently spoken and others implied. I know folks were looking out for me and I really appreciated it. However, I didn’t know how to do what they said I should do. I just couldn’t master training my little one to sleep without the breast.

I tried many times but his crying was unbearable. I was told it was because he was used to feeding to sleep, and that eventually he would learn to sleep without my breast help.

I found myself talking a lot about my need to be persistent with training my little one to sleep without the breast. I also took care to explain why I struggled to keep up with it, and I recounted our few sleeps without the breast over and over again.

You see, there were days when he had catarrh and sniffled a lot; I just really couldn’t bear him crying when I knew I could feed him to sleep without tears. I especially felt that crying made his sniffles worse, and I didn’t want that for him. I modified the different sleep methods I came across to accommodate what I was comfortable with.

Eventually, I started questioning myself about what was so bad with feeding to sleep when I knew it worked for my baby and I. I met mums at my breastfeeding group whose norm was breastfeeding to sleep.

It seemed I’d forgotten that I wasn’t my friends or family, and I wasn’t the mums I’d read about. Those who didn’t breastfeed to sleep or thought less of it were entitled to their view, but I’m also entitled to decide the sleep path for my son and I. It dawned on me that I could admire the ‘sleep-without-breastfeeding’ impact of my friends’ ‘no-breastfeeding-to-sleep’ methods, without feeling the need to emulate them.

In the end, I concluded that whilst breastfeeding my baby to sleep meant his reliance on me for sleep, it was okay. I’m okay with breastfeeding my baby to sleep and how others react to it is not my problem. I have nothing to be ashamed of; I’m alright with breastfeeding my baby to sleep. I’m alright with telling those who ask that I breastfeed my baby, and now my toddler, to sleep; and I plan to continue doing so until my child self weans.

Yes, I’m really okay with him using me as a dummy and sleep aid. I’ve learnt that one of the ways to keep up with motherhood is to OWN my responsibility for my child’s well being.

I can’t abdicate this role and let the way others mother, dictate how I should be with my child. He is my child, right?

So, I have decided to breastfeed my child to sleep for however long he needs me to. It doesn’t mean that I always want to, or even that I always like it; I definitely don’t always feel like it. But I’m happy with my decision and I hope you’re happy with whatever way you choose to get your child to sleep too.

It’s worth noting that Precious Sparkle sleeps without breastfeeding when I’m not at home, he and his dad have found what works for them. I’ve also noticed in recent months that he’s happy to doze off next to me, after he’s fed enough. Their needs change as they grow, and it’s such a privilege to walk with them in this, as we know best. ๐Ÿ™‚

Did you find it hard to decide how to get your child to sleep?

Linkup: #BreastfeedingandI 14 | #MaternityMonday 43 | #TwinklyTuesday 27/10/15 |

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First-time Mum / Freelance Writer / Thinker / Educator / Business graduate / Improving Photographer / so much more. \\ Recording my mu-m-sings from the South East of England | Sharing lessons from my life's journey to encourage and inspire | Filled with gratitude for my faith, family, and friends.

33 thoughts on “Breastfeeding my Baby to Sleep: Reaching Acceptance

  1. Good for you!You do whatever is right for you and your little one, no one should make you feel bad for breastfeeding your baby to sleep if that is what works for you. I stopped feeding Leo in the night when he was 9months because he really wasn’t feeding, I was a human dummy for 2minutes until he nodded back off to sleep. But up until that point I always fed him to sleep, day or night. In fact, when I stopped breastfeeding altogether at 10months sometimes all I wanted to do was feed him to sleep, so much easier than walking around with the pram or pointlessly driving in circles. You are a true breastfeeding inspiration and your little boy is lucky to have such a thoughtful Mummy xx #maternitymondays

    • Thanks Wendy. I don’t think anyone who spoke to me intended to make me feel bad, and indeed some advice were given only on request. I just didn’t know that I had to find my way and that it was okay if the sleep way that worked for us didn’t fit into what I’d heard and read.

      I must say I briefly considered night weaning but wasn’t sure where to start because my little one loves his ‘boob’. However, I sometimes end some ‘feed to slepp’ feeds if I’m not happy to keep going after I know he’s definitely full up. Sometimes, he’s alright with this and other times not, in which case I allow him to latch back on after I’ve taken a break ๐Ÿ™‚ We each work together to make it work for us, and it’s not always without tears :-).

      Good job you found a cut off that worked for us and I can understand you missing ‘feed to sleep’. I can’t see much beyond it now when it comes to his sleep when we’re together; even then, I look forward to the next phase whenever it comes.

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment and for sharing your story. I’ll tell my toddler what you said. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. You’ve got to do whatever works for you at the end of the day and what makes you happy. There is no right or wrong answer as every baby and family life is different. With my first I bottle fed and did controlled crying which was so difficult but only took 3 days to crack, it was more a battle of wills! With the second I breastfed and it was a lot easier to get into a sleep routine.
    Now I’m pregnant with no 3 after a 7 year age gap and I have no clue what we’ll do. I’m just going to make it up as I go along and do whatever fits in with our lifestyle. #maternitymondays
    Lisa Backsnbumps recently posted…Someone is being impatient!My Profile

    • O yes, controlled crying is one battle of wills, isn’t it. I do lots of making up too … I just wish I knew that making it up as you go is actually the norm for me; and not the exception. Knowing this is less isolating and makes it easier to go at one’s own pace in terms of what works with one’s baby. All the best with baby no 3 … wow with the 7yrs gap. I wonder if you remember much of it, or if it feels like back to square one.

  3. as a mother you really should not have to justify how you get your baby to sleep. Feeding aside, sleep is the next controversial thing that people love to ‘advise’ you about. Most babies fall asleep when they are full and warm.
    The last few weeks, I’d have let the dog feed G if it meant he slept haha. You’re doing a great job. Do what is best for you and don’t apologise for it.
    Thanks for linking up as always #MaternityMondays
    farmerswifeandmummu recently posted…#MaternityMondays Week 43My Profile

    • Indeed,unfortunately, not all mums know this. I didn’t know I didn’t justify my baby sleep choices for ages and the interesting thing is that most people don’t actually expect a justification.

      LOL with you dog comment; hope baby G’s sleep improves. Thanks for your lovely comment; no more apologies for this, for sure. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Brilliant post! I completely agree, do whatever works for you. It sounds like you’re in the same place I was, although after a few months of hubby being able to put her to sleep, all of a sudden my little one wouldn’t go to sleep for my hubby (when I was out for the first time). We though that it could be a problem if for some reason I couldn’t feed her to sleep so then we started trying to get her bedtime feed to be from a bottle, she was 6 months or so when we managed. I also loved having my little sleepy baby in my arms ๐Ÿ™‚ #maternitymondays
    New Mummy Blog recently posted…8am Mummy’s, how do you do it?My Profile

  5. Thanks for sharing this powerful post. I’m a firm believer in parents doing whatever they feel is right for their child. I’m personally from the go-to-bed-awake camp but I figure it is NONE of my business how other mums choose to get their babies to sleep. There is too much judgement in the mummy world as it is.

    My experience was very different. I was unable to breastfeed as my milk never came in following an EMCS so sadly bf’ing to sleep was never an option for me. Bottle feeding didn’t really work that way, he would still go into milk coma but would wake a few minutes later with wind. So instead we would feed him, wake him, burp him and then put him down awake. I was also suffering terrible anxiety from PND so felt unable to co-sleep or cuddle him to sleep every night which was the only way really if we wanted to put him down asleep.

    At around 9 weeks old we decided to start “sleep training” of a sort, mainly so that he could get used to having a bed time and we could get some time alone in the evenings to ourselves to help with my emotional wellbeing. The first three nights were hard. He cried, we would go in and cuddle him, then put him back down. He would cry some more and we continued this method until he fell asleep. It was very stressful. Thankfully, after only a few nights he began getting himself to sleep without tears and this has continued for 2.5 years for the most part. However, we have still had a few periods since he became a toddler where he hasn’t been so good at settling, but like all the phases it passes.

    That’s my story but there is no right way. Only the right way for YOU ๐Ÿ™‚ x


    • Yeah, we each have to find our way. So sorry you had EMCS. PND is such a downer, lovely that you had support with it, and found the sleep path that worked for your family. Thanks for sharing your experience. I see the rational of the go-to-bed-awake camp, but I just couldn’t figure out how to do it without tears, and I can’t stand the tears when I know what could stop it. ๐Ÿ™‚ Whatever the case maybe, I continue to learn that we each have to find our way on the parenting road. Thanks for commenting.

  6. I can really relate to this. I had a very similar experience when my firstborn was a baby and heard all the same sorts of advice from well-meaning people who actually just made me paranoid. I tried sleep training for about two minutes, realised it wasn’t for me, and went back to feeding, rocking, singing, whatever he needed at the time to help him get to sleep. And guess what? He’s two and a half now and doesn’t need any of that stuff to get to sleep. He doesn’t wake up through the night. None of the predictions of doom came true. Stick with what works for you and your family! #TwinklyTuesday

    • Thanks for your lovely comment. I suppose we sometimes seek advice and try to imitate others in order to achieve their results. We forget our uniqueness, that what works for one will not necessarily work for the other. It’s because it’s a new road I suppose, we’re unsure of where to go and what to do, so we pay attention to others we got there before us. It takes a lot of guts to step back to review, to know that it’s a journey and that it’s okay to experiment, to know that it’s okay to be alright with what might not fit into what we’ve heard and read. My word, I see a blog post coming on there ….

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience too; always reassuring to know others get to the ‘self sleeping’ phase through other roads.

  7. I am thrilled to read this – so refreshing.
    I have 4 children and at some point have breast fed them all to sleep. This has happened the most with my 4th, now 13 months. He still relies on me for sleep and i am ok with that too. People will always have their own opinions and we have to try our best to ignore that and carry on with what we think is best. it wont be forever so enjoy xxx #TwinklyTuesday
    Mummy Fever recently posted…Halloween readingMy Profile

    • Thanks so much; what an encouraging first line! Having opinions is part of our human nature, and it sure does help to have confidence to do what works best for us and our little ones, all things being equal. They won’t need us the way they do now forever and we do well to enjoy it indeed.

      I must state that in this instance, I sometimes sought people’s opinion because of my own ignorance that I had to find what works for my little one and I amidst so many options, and that it was okay to work with this.

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  9. Aah we do what you can, as a mother don’t we? Whatever works for you and your baby โ€” do it.

    Don’t feel pressured by others. Your approach was totally opposite to mine โ€” I breastfed the twins in their room, never in my bed, and put them down afterwards to self settle. They didn’t cry themselves to sleep, just coo-ed for a while then drifted off. As a result, they were sleeping from 12am-7am from 9 weeks and have always remained to be amazing sleepers. Now at 2 and a half they sleep from 7pm-7.45am most nights. That approach worked for me; breastfeeding your son to sleep works for you.

    I think parenting is hard enough with being preached at โ€” ultimately, we do our best. Whatever route we choose ๐Ÿ™‚ xx Thanks so much for linking up to #TwinklyTuesday
    Caro | The Twinkles Mama recently posted…Colour Your World | #16 Pantoneร‚ยฎ TitaniumMy Profile

    • So lovely that they sleep through; really nice you found a way that helped to make this happen. Yeah, we each find our way and do the best we can in our context. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for your linky.

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  11. I remember reading the No-Cry Sleep Solution when I was struggling with encouraging Jessica to sleep better and one of the biggest pieces of advice that I took from that was the reassurance that if something isn’t a problem for you, then you don’t need to make it one. It is something that I now apply to every parenting situation where I am going against “accepted” advice – for example, with my preschooler co-sleeping with us. If something works for you, then go with it. Sophie fed to sleep for naps right up until the day she stopped breastfeeding and whilst her stopping now means that she has mostly given up naps unless she falls asleep in the car, I am fine with that. Those sleepy breastfeeds are precious and if you and Precious Sparkles are both happy with them, then there is no reason why you should stop. Our children are only little for a very short time – one day they will want to be more independent and then we will miss them being reliant on us for so many little things x
    Louise (Little Hearts, Big Love) recently posted…The Friday Focus 30/10/15My Profile

    • Brilliant words, thanks so much. Yeah, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. ๐Ÿ™‚ It takes a lot sometimes to be confident in our decisions, doesn’t it. Indeed, they are only litle for so long, and will only need us for so long. ๐Ÿ™‚ You’ve just inspired a new blog feature! Will tell you when its up and running.

  12. I TOTALLY agreed with this post! I still breastfeed my 15 month old to sleep and have heard all the same comments that you have mentioned here. And guess what, I have come to the exact same conclusion that you have. He is my baby, and I will do what works for us. I also intend to continue until he self weans, and yes I’m confident that this will be before he reaches his teens!
    Min recently posted…Can I interest anyone in a flat? Anyone?My Profile

    • ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for commenting. We’ve got to give each room to decide what works best for us, in nourishing our children; when we clearly mean them no harm. ๐Ÿ™‚ Keep boobing, fellow boober ๐Ÿ™‚

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  14. If someone says “you mustn’t breastfeed him to sleep or he’ll never learn to go to sleep by himself” I tend to tell them I had better stop before he starts uni, then, or the commute will become a pain!

    Well done for following your instincts and doing what you know is best. Really enjoyed reading this.

    • Fab line …. one to use for sure. Thanks for your lovely comment; I found it helpful to reflect and record my thoughts on the issue. Thanks so much for dropping by to read. ๐Ÿ™‚

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