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It’s okay to nurse your baby to sleep

November 15, 2010

Really, it bears repeating; it’s okay to nurse your baby to sleep!  But most of the parenting books out there will warn you never to let them fall asleep at the breast.  Why? Because they’ll get used to it.

The truth is, they will get used to it.  And there are times when it will feel inconvenient or tedious.  It was hard sometimes when Boo was a baby and she needed me and only me twenty-four hours a day.  It is only in looking back that I realize how short her babyhood and that period of intense need was.  She still needs me but it’s different now, and in fact these days she will only go to sleep with papa!

Honestly, when I was pregnant for the second time I made up my mind to teach this baby to go to sleep with either parent, and not to nurse so frequently at night.  But when Bubbles was born and I held her in my arms, none of those convictions made sense anymore.  She very clearly wanted to nurse to sleep!  I needed her to fall asleep the easiest way possible so that I could rest.  And I made peace with the fact that a baby needs her mama….In fact, I’m fully enjoying this time of being the most important person in her world.  When Bubbles is needing to nurse all night long, I just remember that This Too Shall Pass.  And I will definitely miss it.

There are a lot of ways in which our culture discourages connection, even within our own families.  Please don’t feel that you need to discourage connection between yourself and your baby.  She looks up at your face and sees the sun, moon and stars reflecting down on her; she feels safe and complete in your arms.  So nurse her, let her fall asleep at the breast.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. November 16, 2010 1:29 am

    I agree totally. You’ve said it so well.

  2. November 16, 2010 10:00 pm

    So true! With my first daughter I was nervous about her getting used to nursing to sleep. And to tell the truth, I sometimes wished her daddy could share that burden! But after a while I began to realize that it truly was the easiest & best way to go. We didn’t stress about weaning her from night-nursing (or nursing in general) and she was able to give it up herself when she was ready. No hassles, no struggles, no heartaches for any of us!

    • November 17, 2010 8:08 am

      Thanks for sharing your story Sara! I don’t want to gloss over the challenges of nighttime nursing, but I also don’t think mothers should feel guilty about making that choice…it’s a valid and healthy way to parent! :)

  3. November 17, 2010 10:09 pm

    I think you’ve hit the nail right on the head. Our culture so actively encourages independence, even in the smallest of babes, that it seems strange. Unnatural.

    To me, too, it seemed unnatural not to let them fall asleep while nursing. It is such a cozy, warm, loving space and time, that it seems the most comfortable place to take a snooze, not to mention the easiest way for an over-tired mama.

    I’m pregnant with my second right now and looking forward to being able to help my new little one fall asleep so easily. After struggling for about an hour with my toddler tonight, it sounds positively sublime.

    • November 18, 2010 12:11 pm

      Thanks Danielle! I agree, as they get older and don’t just fall asleep at the breast, it does get harder and makes you appreciate all those easy nursings! :)

  4. November 26, 2010 4:52 pm

    My daughter is 15 months and co-sleeps with us. Some nights, she nurses all night long it seems. You are so right, that this too shall pass, and I do try to remember that I wouldn’t do it any other way if given the chance. It baffles me, this notion that we are spoiling our children by doing what comes most naturally. To think that a child will “get used” to the feelings of safety and reassurance and thereby become “spoiled” is such a strange idea to me.

    Thanks for writing this, I agree wholeheartedly!

    • November 26, 2010 8:33 pm

      Thanks Gwendolen! Bubbles is 15 months also, and we are struggling with all-night nursing too! It is such a challenge to be patient, and so helpful to know that other mamas are going through the same thing. But I agree with you, I wouldn’t do it any other way…building this relationship for the long-term is so much more important than getting great sleep in the short term.

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