Are you reading this because you keep seeing articles about getting your life back as a new parent?
Get that baby to sleep! Enjoy date nights with your partner!
It all sounds great. All that free time. Or time to do the dishes, put on a load of washing and walk the dog.
But maybe it’s not that simple.
Maybe you’re not just breastfeeding to sleep because your baby needs it.
Maybe you’re doing it because you love it.
That warm little person snuggled up next to you, dozing off at the nipple.
Like me, you’ve probably done enough research to know that sleep training doesn’t have to be a horror story of baby screams – and parent tears.
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Routine is key to getting baby to bed
Maybe you’re just not ready to sleep train this baby.
We started a couple of months ago by sticking to a daily nap routine and it totally changed my life. You can read about that here.
I assumed once she was used to an earlier bedtime we would work towards rocking to sleep instead of nursing and then on to putting her in the crib awake.
That hasn’t happened. The reason is simple. I just don’t want to. I’m lying in the dark now nursing her and writing on my phone. If I got on with sleep training I could be writing on a laptop at a table.
Here’s the thing. I’ll still have a laptop in six months. Will I still have a nursing baby?
Comfort nursing is OK
Maybe you also enjoy comfort nursing your child but you know other mamas who sleep trained and their babies sleep 12+ hours and they get loads of evening time.
It’s easy to doubt yourself when you wonder if others have really got it better than you but if you’re uncomfortable with the alternative, don’t be swayed from what feels right to you.
These days mean so much and if you don’t just want an easier life – if the seemingly tougher path is the one that works for you – just do it.
You’re the boss when it comes to your baby
Who is anyone to tell you that your baby should go to bed independently? There’s no need to do stuff with your kids because you feel like you should. You’re the boss here.
There might come a time when you feel that both you and your little one are ready for independent bed times. (Or maybe there won’t, which is also fine.)
You might just change to rocking to sleep or lying beside your little one until they nod off. There are plenty of options besides sleep training – and you get to choose what works for you.
If what you’re doing is working for you, keep doing it.
What if you actually do want to stop breastfeeding to sleep?
If it’s not working – if you’re spending your whole evening getting your child to sleep – then make a change.
But if it IS working, just tweak what you do to make it work BETTER.
Making nursing to sleep work for you and baby
If you want to keep doing what you’re doing, just make your breastfeeding to sleep routine fit your life and need for ‘me time’ in the evenings.
Stick to your routine
I talk about our routine here. Starting bedtime early can help. If you know it’ll take an hour to get that baby sound asleep, aim to have her nursing by seven pm or even earlier. Then even if it takes longer than usual you still should be done by 8:30. Mostly.
Plan how to move baby to the cot
Once baby falls asleep you probably need to move her to her cot or crib. This is tricky at best. A fast asleep baby can become an awake, crying baby very easily.
Try a fleece blanket instead of a sheet. Fleece is warm where cotton is cool so when you transfer her, she won’t be woken by being placed on a chilly surface.
Make sure the cot is ready for baby
Move all extra blankets away so you can just pop her in with minimal fuss. It also helps if baby is either wrapped in a blanket or in a sleeping bag so you don’t disturb her by arranging blankets once she’s in the crib.
Try a blackout blind
Breastfeeding to sleep when it’s really bright outside can take a long time.
If you live in an area where the days are long in summer, a blackout blind can make a big difference. Here are some of the top rated ones.
This one is great because it attaches with suckers so you can take it with you when you travel. I use one every night from March to October, wherever we go.
Use white noise
Turn on a fan or use a white noise recording to make a dull repetitive noise while baby sleeps. It seems to work well – and certainly helps mask the clattering noises I make coming to bed later on.
You could just get a white noise machine though, like one of these.
Become a baby ninja
Pop her in the cot very gently with the minimum of rearranging once she is in. Don’t have any bright light near the cot.
If baby stirs once you’ve put her in the cot, sit very still and shush her quietly. She might go back off if you just give her a minute so be patient and don’t immediately grab her back out of the cot.
Where’s the harm in breastfeeding to sleep?
Your baby’s sleep is your business. If baby is healthy and thriving and you want to snuggle beside her and nurse her to sleep, where’s the harm? If you’re both getting what you need then that’s the main thing.
Breastfeeding to sleep is fine. It’s normal. It’s healthy. Women have done it forever.
And soon your baby won’t be a baby anymore.
What happened next with my baby’s sleep?
It’s now well over a year since I wrote this post – and we’re not nursing to sleep any more. In fact, my daughter’s two years and two months old and goes to sleep without me in the room. I’m not gonna lie to you – some nights she’s a teeny bit of a pain for getting up again but we get there with a lot of deep breaths and a few firm words.
How did this happen? How did we go from nursing to sleep to going to sleep by herself? Well, the short version is that we nursed to sleep until it stopped working (she wriggled and sat up in bed and generally didn’t go to sleep on the boob any more) and then rocked until I couldn’t take any more 90 minute bedtimes and we used the chair method to sleep train her. She was 17 months old and we were SUPER gentle about it – always returning to her if she cried. And that was great – until she hit 2 and regressed like crazy.
So we regrouped and went back to the chair method but it so was not working – we were sitting with her for ages – so we figured we’d try her with my signature plan for older toddlers (2.5+) even though she’s a little young. And it worked great – to my surprise and we can leave her to go to sleep alone (well, except for her brother who shares her room.)
I’m so glad I nursed my babies to sleep.
I got to watch them doze off in my arms – and relax into sleep without any drama. And now I get to look back and feel great about how I handled getting them to sleep as babies.
So if you feel like nursing to sleep’s the only way you can get your baby to sleep right now, don’t worry. Do what you need to and be proud.
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