“I have a question. My 8-week-old baby breastfeeds to sleep. He doesn’t seem to know how to sleep any other way, and everyone tells me I should get him to fall asleep on his own. Is it bad for him to fall asleep at the breast?”
When a baby comes into our lives, one thing that generates the most questions is the baby’s sleep. And even if we have been warned that babies do not sleep too much, when reality hits, few of us will feel ready for such a big change. Having a baby is exhausting, and nights can be very long, so it is great for everyone if we find a way for all the family sleeps.
And let’s face it, most adults have some kind of difficulty falling asleep. Many of us need to use a trick, or two, to get our eyes to close and fall asleep. Often, to achieve this, we have to read a little in a book, watch TV or turn on the radio. Others prefer to count sheep, take deep breaths, and adults take medication to sleep in desperate cases. Sometimes falling asleep is difficult, and we need extra help to drift off.
What about babies?
Basically, all babies know how to sleep. In fact, it is an activity to which they devote many hours a day; neither adults nor babies can live without sleep.
And just as adults find their individual way to fall asleep, babies also need an effective method to get to sleep. You don’t have to look far or think of complicated solutions; just remember that breastfeeding is much more than only giving food. In fact, the method of breastfeeding babies to sleep was invented thousands of years ago; it’s as simple as that.
Many adults seem to find it hard to accept that a mother’s breast is useful for many things, and it seems that the only valid thing a baby can do at the breast is to “use” it for feeding. The ability to suckle is an essential reflex for a newborn; it allows them to come into this world and feed themselves in order to survive. But also, when a baby suckles, they immediately get relaxed and calm. Suckling rewards them with pleasure and encourages them to repeat this activity. Because nature has it all figured out.
Some might even claim that if a baby does not suckle actively, stops or seems sleepy, they should be woken up, removed from the breast or woken up. They may think that it is not good or healthy for them to do so. And these statements fill new families with fears and doubts, but babies never have bad intentions and don’t do anything wrong that we should avoid or correct. Nature intended it this way, and even though it can be exhausting for mothers, breastfeeding is a brilliant solution to keep babies satisfied, safe, happy and asleep!
Should I give them a pacifier?
Offering a pacifier (dummy) to a baby is just one more parenting decision parents will have to make. Babies don’t usually need them if the mother’s breast is available on their demand, but parents may need to use one at certain times to soothe the baby.
And it is not, as is often heard, that the baby uses the mother’s breast as a pacifier because, in reality, babies use a pacifier as if it were a breast.
Don’t be afraid of breastfeeding your baby to fall asleep; if you feel like doing so, there is no reason to worry. The day will come when your little one will know how to fall asleep without suckling at the breast. This is just a short stage of their life in which they can “use” breastfeeding for much more than just eating, as long as it’s okay for you.
Do you have any other questions?
If you need more information about breastfeeding and maternity, please download our free app, LactApp, for iPhone or Android. In the contact section of the app, you can find an in-app consultation channel where our experts will answer your questions.