“Will I ever be able to leave my baby?! I’m the only one who can put them to sleep!”
I completely understand the anxiety surrounding this. Most of us in the early days can ignore the naysayers who tell us to, “stop creating bad habits” and we happily continue to breastfeed our babies to sleep. I mean, it is the most natural thing in the world, happens so easily for us and our babies clearly love it… (for the 9 reasons I recommend breastfeeding to sleep click here). But as the months go on many of us start to wonder…”But how will I ever leave you for an extended period of time if you can’t fall asleep without the boob?!”
Here are the reasons you actually don’t have to worry and some things to consider …
- Your baby is smart. Are you returning to work when you will still be breastfeeding? I have some great news for you…you can still breastfeed your child to sleep when you are with them. You don’t have to stop breastfeeding them to sleep just because you are returning to work. Babies are amazing at adapting. Watch my You Tube video for more on this topic! 🙂
2. It’s all about establishing routines. No, I do not mean the “eat, play, sleep routine” (click here for why that makes NO SENSE for a breastfed baby). What I mean is having a set of rituals leading up to each sleep time that anyone can do with your baby or toddler. The set of routines then end with you breastfeeding, or if you’re not there, the person caring or your child cuddling or just being with your baby or toddler as they sleep. The rituals can include reading a book, singing a song, low lights and in the same place around the same time for every nap and to bed. By doing this, you can create cues for your baby so when they get older and you leave them, someone else can follow those same rituals which will help your baby relax. While you end this set of rituals with a breastfeed, the person watching your child can end it with a cuddle or can lie down with them to fall asleep. For more on following safe sleep guidelines when bedsharing check out this graphic from my BOOK:
3.Consider their age and where they are at developmentally. In the early months of breastfeeding it’s true that you will not be able to leave your baby for more than a short time unless you want to pump and leave your baby with a bottle (or cup). Babies will breastfeed anywhere from every 5 minutes to every 4 hours! And all in-between! The good news though is as the months go on you’ll start to know the windows that appear in the day when you’re baby is likely to stay happy for a couple of hours. I remember I used to just run to the shops that were right down the road (when I knew he’d be happy for awhile…usually in the morning!) and if he did need a breastfeed I could quickly pop right back home easily.
4. Get creative! After we have a baby we spend the first few months happy to just hang out but then many of us start to go a bit stir crazy and want to go out to dinner with our partner or hang out with our friends! Here’s the thing…your baby will get to an age where you know they will be happy for a couple of hours without you but it’s probably in the morning! Not in the later afternoon or night. Your life will change after having a baby but that doesn’t mean you have to stop doing everything you did before! You can have it all…just not all at once. 🙂 My husband and I would go out to breakfast instead of dinner when our kids were little! We still spent time together just as a couple but we had to get a bit creative. Here’s how we combined attachment parenting with our marriage: For some advice on combining attachment parenting with a partnership, read my article here!
5. Trust your baby’s carer and communicate clearly and truthfully with them. This is a BIG ONE. When you leave your child with someone (whether they are 2 months old or 2 years old) it’s so important to be open and honest about what is important to you. If your 12 month old usually breastfeeds to sleep and you know you’ll be gone during the time they need a nap, let the person know what your child will need. Sticking to the set of rituals you have leading up to nap time (book, song, dark room etc) and ask that they hold or cuddle them to sleep. The more honest you are, the better you will feel leaving them as you know they won’t just be left to cry. When I would leave my children with my mother I knew that I could trust her 100%. She would never let them cry and would always call me to let me know if I needed to return home. This trust is crucial.
6. Have realistic expectations. Most babies who are breastfeeding will not be happily but down to sleep without breastfeeding. Most toddlers who are breastfeeding to sleep will not be open to anyone else putting them to sleep UNLESS you are not there. Most breastfed kids do get to the stage where you can leave them and someone else can put them to sleep without them crying or being upset. However IF YOU ARE ARE HOME it’s highly unlikely they will want anything but YOU.
7. Only leave your child when it feels right. In Western cultures we often get pressure to “go out with the girls!” or “just leave your baby to get some time away!” and when we really think about it, we realise that we’re upset not because we want to leave our baby but because we DON’T want to leave but are there feeling guilty like we should want to leave! (Am I being confusing yet?) The main point I’m trying to make here is that it’s important not to feel as though we MUST leave our baby for some “me time” unless we really WANT to be separated from our baby. You will know when you are ready to leave them. It might not be until they are weaned at 3 years old! It might be when they are 3 months old! And both are OK. It’s about what feels right for YOU. No one else. And being realistic about what your baby or toddler is capable of easily handling.
For more on breastfeeding your baby to sleep have a watch of my video below!