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Feeding Baby to Sleep


I feed my baby to sleep – ALL THE TIME!

Guess what?

HEAPS of Mums do it!

Feeding Baby to Sleep

Feeding to sleep? Some people will tell you it is a terrible thing! Yet babies love it – they are lulled into ‘booju’ sleep quite naturally.

Here’s what I’ve learnt about feeding to sleep and how I do it! (and lots of other Mums too!)

It is NICE! It is NATURAL! It is EASY! It is a true benefit of breastfeeding…

It won’t be forever… we can build on from there other sleepy cues!

Some useful info about hormones and feeding to sleep:

“We mothers have, at our disposal, the perfect sleep-inducers. They are called breasts. Breastmilk contains a wonderful hormone called cholecystokinin (CCK). CCK induces sleepiness, both in the baby and the mother. When the baby sucks, CCK is released within the mother to help her rest and relax. Many mothers say that breastfeeding tires them out. Certainly caring for a new baby is tiring for all mothers, but the sleepiness caused by breast-feeding is to ensure that the mother gets the rest she needs.

In the baby, CCK release is caused by sucking and when food, especially fat, enters the stomach. There are actually two CCK peaks, one at the end of a feed, and the other higher peak between 30 and 60 minutes after the feed. The baby sucks, gets sleepy, dozes off for a while then wakes again for a top-up feed. That higher-fat feed causes the second peak and the baby goes into deeper sleep. Top-up feeds are also great for the mother’s milk supply.

Feeding a baby to sleep is therefore not spoiling him or her; it is helping sleep to come in the most natural way possible. The baby feels satisfied and secure and learns to trust. Attending to a crying baby quickly also is not spoiling. The work of Ainsworth and Bell at John Hopkins University showed that parents who responded quickly to their babies during the first months of life had infants who cried less often and for shorter periods later, and were more likely to show healthy independence when they were ready.” Source: Controlling or spoiling? http://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bfinfo/control.html

Why I feed to sleep

“The process of breastfeeding itself regulates baby’s temperature and heart rate and lowers his blood pressure, and puts him to sleep. This helps your baby develop a healthy attitude about sleep, where baby views sleep as a safe, comforting, natural state…It is normal, natural and healthy for your baby to fall asleep nursing. Nursing babies fall asleep so quickly – how can anything so perfectly designed be worrisome?” Source: Kellymom’s Nursing to Sleep and other Comfort Nursing

  • It is natures way of helping my baby to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • It helps me to go to sleep, and back to sleep – the hormones work both ways!
  • It gives the baby a first point of focussing his attention or concentration, stilling his mind and body so sleep can take over.
  • It helps the baby to ‘tune out’ externals – noises and so on, so he can focus and relax to sleep.
  • It is a natural base on which to add other sleep associations over time, so that sleep time is always a peaceful time as baby grows and learns to fall asleep over time naturally.
  • It works, it is easy for me, normal and programmed into baby – I’m not messing with nature and then getting a baby that finds it hard to get to sleep!

My role? My role is thus very simple – help baby to go to sleep and then to stay asleep all night, so that he has relaxing, peaceful sleeping.

Meanwhile supporting his need to seek the various supports provided by boob access, as he needs it at his early cues, so that he only experiences transitional waking during the night. That way, when he is ready, in neurobiological terms, to sleep all night, he will do so easily. It has worked really well; in between his “Boobathons”, he sleeps longer stretches with no manipulations on my part, these stretches are lengthening naturally as he gets more mature.

How I feed to sleep

  • Boobing off – feeding to sleep is the underlying way to help baby relax to sleep. This is the natural method built into our evolution. He lays on his side at boob height while I feed him and breathe on his head. Quiet feeding and sleepy breathing was almost all we needed for at least six months to relax him into sleep. We’ve slowly added other sleep inducers in over time as he’s needed them. No tears thanks.

Sleep Sharing Minutiae- Tips

(I love the word minutiae) Minutiae are “small or trivial details” – the little things that I do to help baby to relax to sleep and to stay asleep all night long, only briefly rousing (transitional waking) to find the boob for a feed. Baby has so seldom woken at night past the itty bit stage, he always gets a solid sleep, although my sleep is segmented! Sleep sharing minimises my sleep segmenting as well, so it is easier to meet his instinctive needs as a baby and young toddler. This is called a ‘paediatric’ approach to parenting, and is part of ‘attachment parenting’.

Added to boobing off over the months are other ways I have learnt from fellow Mums, books, websites, or discovered myself, to help baby to relax into sleep, and help him to stay asleep. By doing these things at the same time as ‘boobing off’, they are becoming relaxing sleep associations. I was astounded at the range of things we have used over time, as I just say “I feed to sleep”. Sometimes he drops into sleep in two minutes, other times it takes up to an hour – a couple of times longer, but only recently – turns out that was related to a burst of mental development. (17m at this writing)

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