Breastfeeding Baby to Sleep

Today, many women feel that it’s important to breastfeed your baby for as long as she seems to want to breastfeed. Others set a specific time limit, such as the first year. Really, it’s up to you how long you’re going to breastfeed, and you should do what’s both comfortable for you and appropriate for your child.

Newborns and babies in those first couple of months of life typically need to feed right before they go to sleep. Many will fall asleep while feeding, and this can actually become something of a habit for them. In fact, some babies, even as old as ten months or a year old, may not be able to fall asleep at night without being breastfed.

There are a couple of issues to consider when you think about how long you should breastfeed your baby to sleep. The first issue is the learned behavior. You’ve taught your baby, whether or not it was intentional, to rely only on you to go to sleep. If he’s not taught to go from being sleepy to being asleep, especially without breastfeeding, he’ll never learn it. In fact, as he gets older, it will become more and more difficult for him to unlearn that behavior.

What this means is that you need to start teaching your baby to fall asleep without you. When you put her down at night, wait it out a bit. Give her some time to cry herself to sleep if necessary. If she’s inconsolable for more than half an hour or so, you may consider feeding her.  Try this several nights in a row, just to try to get her in the habit.

The second issue has to do with your baby’s dental health. As his teeth start to come in, if he’s falling asleep while being fed he’ll have a mouth that’s full of sugar from your breastmilk. While it’s hard to clean your baby’s teeth while he’s asleep, you need to make sure that it happens each night. This will help prevent tooth decay.

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