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Thread: Nursing to Sleep: Time to Stop?

  1. #1
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    Default Nursing to Sleep: Time to Stop?

    I've nursed my baby to sleep since my baby was an infant. I went with my instinct and was amazed at how beautifully nursing my baby to sleep worked for my entire family. Everyone was getting more sleep!

    My baby is over 9 months old now. When I nurse my baby all the way to sleep now and move the baby to the baby's sleep area (which is very near my sleep area, but somewhat divided from my area too), my baby typically wakes up very disturbed and upset now, almost scared perhaps. Thus, my baby's sleep is much more disturbed as is the rest of my family's.

    There are many developmental leaps happening right now for my baby and separation anxiety seems to be at a peak, so I know these can play a huge factor.

    An online source is telling me that the sleep issue we're experiencing now is related to object permanence. They're saying my baby needs to be put down drowsy, but awake, so the baby won't be freaked out by going to sleep nursed in mom's arms and waking up in a different place. The online source also says this won't stop until baby learns to go to sleep on its own and is also saying nursing to sleep is a contributing factor.

    I don't know if I really buy this, because I don't know how I feel about their advice to stop nursing all the way to sleep. It seems a bit insulting to the relationship between nursing mothers and their babies. Stirring my baby awake after nursing the baby almost to sleep is disturbing to my baby as well at times. Putting the baby down more awake has helped some, but something just doesn't feel quite right about it.

    What is going on here? I'd love some advice from moms who are advocates for nursing. When did you know it was time to stop nursing your baby to sleep and put them down awake?

    Thank you!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Nursing to Sleep: Time to Stop?

    I'm not sure who your online source is, but I don't think I agree with them!

    The problem with sleep is honestly everyone has an opinion and they all make it sound like solid research but very little research has actually been done in the area.

    I'm sure I can find online sources that say you *have* to do CIO/CC for your baby to sleep independently; and I could find another that says if you don't co-sleep until they are 3 you will cause development/attachment issues. They can't both be right!

    Go with your instincts and what works for your family. I've never met an adult who nurses to sleep so we all get there eventually one way or another

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Nursing to Sleep: Time to Stop?

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*thawingsnow View Post
    When I nurse my baby all the way to sleep now and move the baby to the baby's sleep area (which is very near my sleep area, but somewhat divided from my area too), my baby typically wakes up very disturbed and upset now, almost scared perhaps. Thus, my baby's sleep is much more disturbed as is the rest of my family's.
    This is when I stopped nursing my baby to sleep. I don't for one second regret the many months that I did nurse her to sleep and am so grateful that it worked for so long. But, when it stopped working, I decided I needed to do something different.

    It was hard seeing her wake up from her short cat naps so startled and unhappy and not rested. Once I started putting her down awake (after nursing) she started taking longer naps and was just generally much happier. I knew then that we had made a good change.

    PP is right...everyone has an opinion and no one is right. Gather opinions, do some research, and then go with your instincts and do what feels right for you.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Nursing to Sleep: Time to Stop?

    Thank you both for your replies. I'm truly grateful for them.
    Yes, I definitely agree that there are so many opinions out there, and each family has to figure out what works best for them.

    bsua65, the opinions do vary dramatically! Thank you for your humor too!

    mamawin, you mentioned that this was when you stopped nursing to sleep. Thank you for that.

    Is this a common time when many nursing moms stopped nursing to sleep?
    Have other nursing mothers continued to nurse to sleep beyond this stage?

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Nursing to Sleep: Time to Stop?

    I still nurse to sleep with DD at 14 months and I currently have 1 friend doing it at 18 months and another at just over 2. I also have a friend who did the rouse them after a feed thing from pretty young, around 3 months.

    I can't imagine nit nursing to sleep at this point, mainly because I like the easy life and in our house that is what is easiest

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Nursing to Sleep: Time to Stop?

    Wouldn't it be great if the online source said something like this: "The night-waking you are seeing might be related to your baby's developing sense of object permanence. To put it in layman's terms, your baby is suddenly a lot more aware of when things are not where they used to be! That can be pretty upsetting for a baby: she wakes up all alone, in the dark, and thinks "Yikes, where's my mom?!". To see her through this developmental leap, it may help to bring her in closer to you at night. That way when she wakes up you will be immediately available to offer the consolation she needs."

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Nursing to Sleep: Time to Stop?

    An online source is telling me that the sleep issue we're experiencing now is related to object permanence. They're saying my baby needs to be put down drowsy, but awake, so the baby won't be freaked out by going to sleep nursed in mom's arms and waking up in a different place. The online source also says this won't stop until baby learns to go to sleep on its own and is also saying nursing to sleep is a contributing factor.
    Can you identify the online source? I am very curious what, if any, research backs up such a specific recommendation.

    I nursed my children to sleep well into toddlerhood. They pretty much stopped nursing to sleep at night, or during the night, at about the time we stopped bedsharing which was during their third year which was well before they weaned entirely. This was a very calm and painless transition, in fact with my second child it happened entirely on his own with no encouragement from me. Of course, they never nursed to sleep EVERY time they slept. They fell asleep in the car and in other circumstances from infancy. And sometimes I wanted to and tried to nurse them to sleep, but they did not fall asleep. But nursing was in general a very reliable and easy way to gentle them into sleep. It was so easy and natural, that I soon realized it was set up that way, that children are designed to nurse to sleep. For me, being able to nurse my kids to sleep was/is a wonderful tool in the toddler years, which I personally find far more difficult and exhausting both emotionally and physically than any other childhood period.
    Last edited by @llli*maddieb; February 1st, 2015 at 10:31 PM.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Nursing to Sleep: Time to Stop?

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*maddieb View Post
    Can you identify the online source? I am very curious what, if any, research backs up such a specific recommendation.
    I would estimate at least 9/10 online resources will tell you to stop nursing/rocking/back-rubbing baby to sleep by the time they are 3 months old. It is pretty much the standard. Because, how else will they learn to sleep on their own, right?

    I have absolutely no scientific or child development reasoning behind this, but here is what I would do: If baby is waking up crying only 5 minutes after you put him down asleep, I would try putting him down awake and back-rubbing (or something similar) until he drifts off. If baby is waking up crying many hours after you put him down asleep, I would continue nursing to sleep and see if it is a phase that passes. This is only based on my own instinct and experience with my daughter, who seems to have moved past the phase of waking up scared to be alone.
    My little man was born 12/17/2010.

    Baby girl was born 4/30/2014.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Nursing to Sleep: Time to Stop?

    Thank you for your replies everyone!


    bsua65, thank you for letting me know about the different ages of the babies you knew being nursed to sleep including your own. That really helps!


    mommal, thank you for how you reframed the issue in a context that is conducive to nursing moms. The wording you chose was so appropriate. I am finding that keeping my baby closer in many senses of the word (even just being a little bit quicker to comfort my baby during this sensitive time) seems to be helping me continue to nurse to sleep and comfort my baby through transition.


    maddieb, I am not well researched on the topic of baby sleep.
    However, the one website I was referring to is: http://www.troublesometots.com/what-...-night-part-i/.
    The website as a whole seems to take a lot of stuff from the book, Happiest Baby on the Block, at least when it talks about the first 3 months of a baby's life. From there, I'm unsure about where the rest of the author's research comes from as I haven't spent enough time on the site.

    What shocked me most were these words from the end of the article:
    "This ends when you stop surprising your child when they sleep. When you stop rocking them to sleep. Stop nursing them to sleep. Stop cuddling them to sleep and then sneaking out the door. When you stop using any timed device (mobile, music, etc.). When you stop using pacifiers at bedtime."

    This also shocked me: "When you’re ready to stop shuffling around like a sleep-deprived zombie, you’re going to need to come up with a plan to teach your child to fall asleep in such a way that there will be no surprises throughout the night."

    These two things together made me think, "Really? Stopping nursing is one of the ways to fix this object permanence issue? This is one of the only ways I'm going to not be a sleep deprived zombie? This doesn't seem right..."

    The info from this site also gave me the impression that, at least from their perspective, my baby's anxiety around naps and bedtime was just going to continue to increase to a point of no return if I didn't follow their advice about object permanence and getting my baby to fall asleep unassisted.
    Has this really been other people's experience? I don't know. I do know my baby seemed a bit scared at times upon waking, so imagine my increased concern upon reading an article like this.


    It seems like I've found many other websites throughout my parenting journey so far that have similar views on baby sleep. I think it can be a really difficult topic, because parents are desperate for sleep at different times. I just wonder how much truth is actually in widespread advice given to vulnerable parents.

    maddieb, thank you for mentioning your experience with your kids as well. I too have found that nursing to sleep (at least up until this point, and it's getting better thanks to everyone's advice here) has given me the impression that, like you said, naturally nursing to sleep is "set up that way." If you are willing to share some ways that you utilized nursing during toddlerhood, I would greatly appreciate it as I sense that season quickly approaching.


    sassypants, yes, I too have found that most sites are advocating teaching your baby to fend for themselves at night by around 3 months old. Thank you for sharing what worked for your family. It's helpful!


    Thank you so much everyone. We're really doing much better at least for now thanks to your advice.
    Last edited by @llli*thawingsnow; February 5th, 2015 at 04:52 PM.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Nursing to Sleep: Time to Stop?

    One of my biggest problems with the way people talk about infant sleep is the fear-mongering. "If you don't get your baby out of your bed TODAY, he's never going to leave and will probably grow up to be a serial killer!" "If you don't stop rocking/nursing/parenting your child to sleep, he will never learn how to sleep on his own and you'll be rocking him to sleep when he's in college." "Waking up several times a night is sooooo destructive to you as a mom! You'll never be happy if you continue to get up with your baby, so sleep-train him ASAP!"

    I think that a better approach to infant sleep is "Be patient. Whatever is driving you bonkers right now is going to change as your baby develops, even if you do absolutely nothing about it. No matter what you do today- sleep train/don't sleep train, nurse to sleep/don't nurse to sleep, have a family bed/have your baby in a crib- your baby will eventually sleep on his own and in his own bed. So don't freak out. Just do what you can to maximize your own sleep for the time being, and continue to be a responsive parent. You know your baby better than anyone else, and if you feel that he needs to be fed/rocked/parented at night, then you are surely right."

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