Babies and sleep deprivation often go hand in hand.
You desperately want your baby to doze off but you've found nursing baby to sleep is the only thing that works.
Some researchers even call the problem a sleep disorder, which affects 25% to 40% of children.
It's not necessarily that severe. But it can interfere with your domestic routine.
What happens when you're at work?
How will other family members care for your baby if she'll only sleep while nursing with you?
You need to find a way to separate nursing and sleep time.
Read on to discover 5 ways to stop nursing baby to sleep and create new routines.
1) A Nap Routine That Isn't Built Around Nursing Baby To Sleep
This works best if you start as young as possible. Don't always include nursing in your baby's nap routine.
You can start as early as 12 weeks old. That gives you plenty of time to establish a routine.
You can try nursing in outdoor areas, or at different parts of the day during playtime, just not right before sleeping. This way, baby doesn't get completely used to the routine that nursing is a signal for bedtime. Rather, nursing can happen at anytime and is not always indicative of meaning "time for bed".
Work the routine around your baby's needs. They often get hungry or tired after a regular amount of time, so build around that. If baby is hungry and it happens to be around bedtime, just follow your gut and nurse as you feel necessary.
Babies actually love routine. So it might be hard at first but it's worth persevering.
Read books before nap time, or sing songs. Your baby will soon realize that they won't be nursed to sleep, but they'll still get cuddles.
But you know your baby best, so try a routine and see how you do.
2) Create a sleep time environment
You know that you sleep better when it's quiet and dark. Your baby is no different.
So dim the lights and quiet the house. It's a good cue for your baby to go to sleep. Her circadian rhythms are still maturing and need a little help.
If you've tried the above tricks and still found that nursing baby is the only way to get her to sleep, try adding a quiet, dark space to your routine instead. A soft noise or lullaby in the background may also help if pure quietness doesn't work.
As mentioned above, don't try to avoid nighttime feedings if you feel it is necessary. You produce more prolactin when you breastfeed at night - that's the hormone that helps promote milk production. So those night feedings actually help you to keep producing milk during the day.
3) Look for new ways to soothe baby
Some mothers introduce a pacifier to replace nursing.
But some babies won't accept pacifiers. So experiment to see what works.
Try rocking your baby, or even singing to them.
White noise apps are a brilliant way to soothe your baby to sleep. They replicate the sound of being in the womb. You don't need to buy any fancy machines either. There are plenty of apps available for free that will do the job just fine.
If you turn it on while you're soothing your baby, they'll soon associate the sound with sleep time. No more nursing baby to sleep!
4) Avoid playtime before naptime
Just like you find it hard to sleep if you've been super active, your baby can't sleep if they're over stimulated.
Change play time to earlier in the day. Introduce a relaxation period before naptime to help induce sleep.
Play time might make it harder for baby to settle down. So take playtime out of the nap routine and you won't need to end up nursing baby to sleep.
Some babies get very excited when they start learning a new skill, like crawling.
They'd rather try out their abilities than sleep. But you'll need to be firm that it's sleep time.
Some babies will wake up and chatter to get your attention. They'll often entertain themselves until they fall asleep again.
If your baby cries instead, then they may be suffering from separation anxiety. This often accompanies new motor skills. However, you may still need to leave her line of sight or she'll learn that crying will get her cuddles.
5) Slowly introduce the idea that they don't need to suckle to sleep
Many parents don't like the idea of the cry-it-out method. It sounds cruel to deprive your child of your attention. But if you're really struggling with a nursing baby that insists on breastfeeding to go to bed, then there is another, more gentle, method you can try.
When your baby is about to fall asleep at the breast, release your nipple. Close your baby's mouth.
Your baby will probably wake up and search for the breast again. You can let her suckle for a moment and then remove your nipple.
Repeat this process until your baby dozes off without the nipple. This method also works with bottle nipples as well.
It'll take time to overcome the suckle-sleep association, but it does work for many. It's also less traumatic than letting her cry.
Once you've broken the association, you can create your new routine.
If your baby is older than 8 months, breaking the suckle-sleep association will make it easier for them to sleep through the night.
You can let someone else tend to the baby during the night. This will stop the need to nurse your baby to sleep.
It'll also give your partner the chance to get involved and help your baby learn that they can comfort them too.
You'll soon learn when your baby is genuinely hungry and when they just need cuddles.
Remember That Contact Is Still Super Important
It doesn't matter which of these steps you try. Just remember that cuddles, skin-to-skin, and comfort are still an important part of your baby's development.
You can also check out our 14 special ways to bond with your newborn.
If you manage to get past nursing baby to sleep, your partner will be able to help you provide love and care too. Find out even more ways dads can help breastfeeding moms here.
For more new mama tips, be sure to check out our Bun Maternity blog.
SHOP cute and functional Nursing Tanks, Tees, and Hoodies here.