**This is an excerpt from my book on sleep, “Boobin’ All Day…Boobin’ All Night. A Gentle Approach To Sleep For Breastfeeding Families.” CLICK HERE to order.**
I remember a dear friend of mine who had a baby a few months after me. This was way back in time (when I was still young and fresh and had only one grey hair instead of seven). We hung out quite a bit and realized quickly that we mothered our babies very differently! As I sat there breastfeeding my baby to sleep, she would rock and jiggle and burn off the breakfast she just ate, trying to get her baby to sleep. She (among many other women out there) went with the “do not let your baby fall asleep at the breast” concept that has been floating around out there for many years. I have one question…. Where did this concept come from?! Who thought of this in the first place?! I’d like to have a word with them…
**Believe me, for all of you out there who have trained your baby to fall asleep on their own. I understand your frustration. I understand why this was your answer. I understand how difficult the whole sleep issue can be! I just have a different perspective…
First let’s look at normal infant behaviour…
-Most babies LOVE to be cuddled (doesn’t everyone?)
-Most babies LOVE to be comforted when they are upset or tired (doesn’t everyone?)
-Most babies would much rather fall asleep with someone next to them rather than by themselves in a cot (wouldn’t everyone?)
-Most babies and toddlers would choose to breastfeed to sleep rather than just fall asleep on their own (wouldn’t everyone? OK, maybe not past childhood…)
The continual theme throughout this is that babies are social creatures, just like us! Unless you are a loner who is anti-social and would much rather wander by themselves then go to a party (Dad, I’m talking about you here) then you fall into the category that most every human falls into. A social being. Babies are not only social, they are also born very pre-maturely compared to other mammals. When an elephant is born, it drops about a mile down to the ground, gets up, looks around and says, “Great! Let’s get moving!” and continues on its way across the African plains with its herd. When a whale is born it comes out, looks around and starts swimming. Swimming! The point of my ever so interesting ramblings is that instead of asking, “why should I feed my baby to sleep?” The question should be, “why would I do anything BUT breastfeed my baby or toddler to sleep? It’s the most natural and normal thing in the world!” Because babies are social creatures, it would also make sense that when they do things such as: eating, sleeping, playing or just plain old hanging out, they tend to like to be with someone to do it with! Therefore the simply activity of falling asleep definitely falls into this category.
The composition of breastmilk also includes things that actually help babies fall asleep! Not only does it nourish and protect our babies but it also helps them to relax. This is not by accident! There are no accidents in nature (well, except my natural progression to dressing like Courtney Love in eighth grade but that’s a whole other story which requires a separate blog). There has been research done which shows how the nucleotides in breastmilk studied actually increase at night which might indicate the role that they play in sleep homeostasis and the relaxing affect it has on the baby. Simply put, your milk is putting your baby to sleep! This is what is supposed to happen… your baby is literally meant to fall asleep at your breast. This is normal and beautiful. Check out this link to the research.
All of the pictures shown throughout this post are pictures of my little boy taken after he has fallen asleep at the breast. How could anyone argue with that little face? He is happy, content and full. He eats, falls asleep and then I put him down for his nap or for the night (haha! By night I mean for two hours until he wakes again to breastfeed)!
Some people argue that their baby needs to learn how to fall asleep on their own. Why is this? All three of my babies have been breastfed to sleep. My eldest boy now barely kisses me goodnight before he reads a book and then falls asleep (all by himself! Gasp!) and my middle boy who is five gets a book read to him and a song and then he falls asleep (all by himself! Gasp!) It happens! They do get to an age where this happens! Without them having “cried it out.” Ever.
There are three VERY IMPORTANT secrets to parenting…
1. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS
2. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS
3. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS
If people are giving you well meaning advice to let your baby “learn” to fall asleep on their own (in other words, CRY) and it doesn’t feel right to you then TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS and breastfeed. Smile at these people and ignore them. There will come a time when your little one no longer breastfeeds to sleep. Then you will miss these quiet beautiful breastfeeding moments. Especially when your tween is yelling out, “I hate you! I hate this house! I’m moving out!” Then you will REALLY miss those moments…