This is a guest post by the founder of my *favorite* resource for helping baby sleep without crying it out. Please enjoy Nicole Johnson's post below, and leave a comment at the end! xx Andrea
Parents of newborns know that the baby will wake at night multiple times to eat, pee, poop, and then go back to sleep. In the early days, waking up at night with the baby is expected and, possibly, even welcomed. Since you can worry a lot about your baby in the early days, it’s comforting when you know they are waking at night to eat and, hence, gain weight!
As the days turn into weeks and even months, though, you expect your baby to wake less at night. Eventually, you hope your baby will even sleep through the night! But what if your baby is dependent on breastfeeding to sleep and waking every 1-2 hours all night to breastfeed back to sleep? Is there anything you can do about it?
Yes! This article is a guest post from Nicole Johnson, founder and lead sleep consultant of The Baby Sleep Site®, sharing 7 tips on how to help you baby sleep in longer stretches at night.
1. Have an Age-Appropriate Sleep Schedule
Setting up your baby for success is one of the best things you can do to help your baby sleep better. One of the first steps in helping your baby sleep better is to put them to bed at the “right” time. But sometimes that time is not based on the clock but how long your baby has been awake. Our bodies release hormones to fight fatigue, so if your baby is over-tired, it will be that much more difficult for your baby to not only fall asleep but stay asleep. Take some time to review your newborn baby’s sleep schedule each week or your older baby’s sleep schedule each month.
2. Maximize Daytime Calories
All babies need 20-35 ounces of breastmilk each day. When you’re breastfeeding, it’s hard to know exactly how much your baby may be getting at each feeding, but keep in mind the more they consume during the day, the less they will need at night. In general, an average size feeding after 2-3 months old is around 4-5 ounces. So, most babies will need approximately 6-8 feedings each 24-hour period. That means if you are feeding your baby 4 times during the day, it’s very unlikely she needs to eat every 1-2 hours all night, for example. That will help you have more confidence that your baby will not go hungry if you start changing his sleep habits.
Please Note: Always check with your pediatrician before you begin night-weaning, though, as you do want to make sure you choose the right number of feedings for your individual baby.
3. Massage Your Bedtime Routine
The first step in helping your baby sleep better at night is helping him or her learn how to fall asleep without a nipple in their mouth. The reason for this is that if your baby is dependent on breastfeeding to sleep, they will associate that with going back to sleep through the night. Instead, we want to breastfeed as part of the bedtime routine, but then have your baby fall asleep without the nipple in their mouth. So, instead of ending your bedtime routine with breastfeeding, consider doing at least one or two steps after the routine that does not include breastfeeding.
4. Introduce a Lovey
If your baby is old enough, you could consider introducing a lovey or replacement object. A lovey is something your baby can use for comforting and self-soothing. Sometimes parents transfer their scent to a lovey by sleeping with it themselves to help associate the lovey with comforting, too. For safety purposes, you aren’t supposed to put anything in your baby’s bed until they are at least a year old, but since attachment often takes time, it’s better to start sooner rather than later.
5. Substitute Breastfeeding With…
As a “baby step” consider substituting breastfeeding with something else such as rocking, patting, etc. Even better if Dad or your partner can help with that part! Although this may not get you that much more sleep long-term (though it could!), the theory is that it will be easier to change a less-favored habit than breastfeeding back to sleep and this can reduce the amount of crying or upset greatly. A great time to do this is when your baby may be eliminating during the night rather than waking to be fed.
6. Have Realistic Expectations
In my 10+ years of sleep consulting, I’ve heard so many stories about when a baby is ready to go all night without breastfeeding at all. In other words, when your baby will sleep all night, as in 11-12 hours, without eating. In my experience, breastfed babies tend to eat longer at night than formula-fed babies. Furthermore, it is usually best for mom’s milk supply to keep at least one night feeding until 9+ months old. Although there are some breastfed babies who may night-wean by 6 months old, in my experience, it’s more common to have at least one feeding until 10-12 months old.
7. Promote Sleep Independence
And, finally, one of the biggest puzzle pieces that leads to better sleep at night is for your baby to be able to sleep more independently. Although babies need us some of the time, once they are old enough, they can sleep more independently. When you feel your baby is ready and your family is ready for a change, you can consider gentle sleep training where you teach your baby how to fall asleep more independently and learn some self-settling. There are many ways to teach these skills, including gentle sleep coaching methods, where you are there every step of the way teaching this wonderful skill to your baby.
We hope these tips have helped you have confidence that you can breastfeeding and improve your baby’s sleep at the same time! We’ve helped many families improve sleep while also maintaining their breastfeeding relationship and strengthening their bond with their baby. And, if you want to have a library of resources at your fingertips as your child grows and you grow your family, you may want to consider becoming a member of The Baby Sleep Site. In the Members Area, there is a library of resources that grows with your child including e-Books, case studies, sample schedules, a custom schedule generator, live chat with a sleep consultant, and more. You’re never alone in your journey to better sleep!
Nicole Johnson is a married mother of two wonderful boys and owner of The Baby Sleep Site. When her eldest son was born, he had a lot of sleep problems – he would wake every one or two hours, all night long! She got busy and thoroughly researched literature and scientific reports until she became an expert in sleep methods, scheduling routines, baby developmental needs, and more. She overcame her son’s sleeping issues in a way that matched her own parenting style, and knew it was her mission to help other tired parents “find their child’s sleep”. If you have your own sleep issues, Nicole and her team at The Baby Sleep Site® can help! Download the popular free guide, 5 Ways To Help Your Child Sleep Through The Night, to get started today.
Thank you for the wonderful post, Nicole! I've been a big fan of yours for many, many years and I hope my readers will go to you with all their sleep issues. A few more things before you go, y'all. xx Andrea
Everyone...please leave a comment below with the #1 point you took from today's post.
My Testimonial about the Baby Sleep Site's Sleep Plans:
When our 4th baby was 7 weeks old, he would cry nonstop from 7 pm to midnight every night, completely exhausted. He would not settle down for sleep without the five hour struggle, no matter what we tried. We ordered a personalized sleep plan and counted the minutes til we received it. With that and the 5 email follow-ups (which we definitely used on crisis days), our newborn sleep problem was solved within a week. When we hit more hiccups a few months down the road, our sleep consultant was responsive and helpful. Branson was sleeping through the night pretty soon thereafter…and we couldn’t have done it without you!
Enter our BONUS Giveaway!
As you can see, EC and good baby sleep can go together so with that in mind, we’re happy to offer you this joint giveaway with The Baby Sleep Site and Go Diaper Free. You can enter to win a Basic Sleep Consultation package (value $179) from The Baby Sleep Site. The Basic Email Consultation Package will include a comprehensive Personalized Sleep Plan(TM) plus one email follow-up with an expert baby sleep consultant. If you already have a Help Desk account, your account will be credited.
The winner will also receive these popular products from us at Go Diaper Free:
- Go Diaper Free is Andrea’s popular book about elimination communication for parents of 0-18 month babies.
- The Tiny Potty Training Book is a simple manual for non-coercive potty training toddlers 18 months and up.
- Tiny Potty is a board book that teaches children 6 months and up the entire potty routine, without a focus on “readiness” myths or diapers.
- Night Potty is a board book that is a bedtime reminder for children 6 months to wake up and ask for help if they need to pee and stay dry at night.
The giveaway starts today and runs through Friday, March 15, 2019. This giveaway is open to US and International entrants.