Breastfeeding and Sleep

How to Feed and Co-sleep Safely With Your Baby

Many parents who I speak to are under the impression that a breastfed baby will automatically sleep less than a formula-fed baby.  I truly think this is a myth – all babies are different and have their own unique temperament and the way they are fed does not necessarily have an impact on how well they sleep.

Breastfeeding mothers are, in fact, shown to get more sleep in the first few months than those who are formula feeding – breastfeeding releases a hormone called prolactin in the mother which aids falling to sleep more quickly once you’ve finished a feed. 

Having said that, let’s be honest – however, your baby is fed no mother of a newborn feels well rested!

Breastfeeding to Sleep

In the first few weeks, feeding and sleep are so often interlinked, with your little one feeding frequently and often dropping off to sleep on you mid-feed. 

Some parents that I speak to are worried about this and are concerned about “bad habits” forming. To them, I would always say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with feeding your baby to sleep and cuddling them whilst they do it. You can do this for as long as you want to, don’t feel the pressure from anyone else to stop – it’s completely between you and your baby. 

Whenever you feel that you would like to help your baby to learn to fall asleep themselves, you can try to feed them until they are drowsy and awake and see if they are able to drift off to sleep themselves. However, there is definitely no timeline involved in this – each baby is different and there is no need to force this before your baby is ready.

Safe Co-Sleeping

According to safer sleep guidelines, the safest place for your baby to sleep is in the same room as you in their own cot, crib or Moses basket for the first six months. Often mums who are breastfeeding choose a bedside cot which has three sides to it – this can be placed right next to your bed and makes it easy to reach over and get your baby for a feed during the night and then pop them back over once the feed is done.

Many breastfeeding mums choose to co-sleep with their little ones as it often means that everyone gets more sleep. Something that is the main aim for most parents of wee ones! 

Co-sleeping is a great way of keeping your baby close to you and allowing them to feed in the night without either of you waking up too much. 

It is important to ensure that you are co-sleeping safely by keeping any blankets, pillows and duvets away from your baby and placing them to sleep on their back after they’ve fed.

Ensure that any adult in the bed hasn’t been drinking alcohol or is extremely tired. More information on Safer Sleep including safe co-sleeping can be accessed from The Lullaby Trust https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk/safer-sleep-advice/

My most important bit of advice as a Mum of older kids is to enjoy the cuddles and closeness whilst you can – they grow up before you know it and you’ll miss those moments.

Caro Graham is a Certified Sleepy Lambs Sleep Consultant based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Caro supports families local to Edinburgh and around the world.
In addition to bespoke 1:1 consultants, Caro hosts sleep workshops and clinics. For details of upcoming workshops, click HERE.
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