Why “Breastsleeping” Isn’t a Solution

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Breastsleeping is a term use to describe the combination of breastfeeding and co-sleeping that more and more sleep experts are recommending to new mothers.  When a baby is born, their sleep is fragmented.  They sleep A LOT (up to 18 hours!), but their bouts of sleep are more frequent in a 24 hour cycle.  And, they need to eat a lot as well.  In the first three months of life, babies will wake up several times throughout the night to feed.  Of course, this means that mom wakes up several times as well.

Experts cite that moms lose more sleep going back and forth between rooms to breast feed.  These specialists say that by “breastsleeping” mom can keep baby close by and simply feed quickly and go back to sleep.  Sounds pretty convenient, right?

Of course, there are those out there who voice concern about co-sleeping: the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies sleep on a firm surface, without blankets, pillows, etc. that can cause suffocation. Bed sharing is not recommended by the AAP.  As a sleep trainer, of course, this is of great concern for me.  However, I do not recommend bed sharing/co-sleeping simply because it often leads to babies learning that the ONLY way they can fall asleep is with mom or dad there with them.  While some parents sing the praises of sharing their bed, I have spoken to enough families who realize that they have created “a monster” and are ready to reclaim their beds and night times.

By breastsleeping, baby will not only treat mom and/or dad as a “sleep prop”, but it can also create a very strong association with sleeping and eating as well.  Imagine the only way you could fall asleep each night is eating multiple times.  Doesn’t sound very restful, does it?

Sleep happens in cycles and these repeat roughly every 90 minutes.  After each cycle we wake up briefly, and for those of us who sleep well we can get ourselves right back to sleep and in the morning don’t even remember this interruption.  However, if you fell asleep with your pillow and blanket in your bed, but then woke up on the couch I could bet that you wouldn’t just roll over and go to sleep again.

Same thing can happen with breast feeding and co-sleeping: if baby falls asleep eating and with mom, goes to sleep and then wake up without those things there, guess who they’re calling? Some babies may grow out of this habit, but in most cases this dependency lasts a long time.  These poor habits can greatly affect sleep quality and consolidation of sleep cycles as your infant gets older.

So, as tempting as breastsleeping sounds during the first few weeks of your infant’s life, it can create long term issues down the line.  Yes, it does mean that mom will be woken up and her sleep is going to be affected.  But, keep in mind that a baby starts to sleep in longer and longer stretches after 12 weeks.  By teaching your baby to self soothe and by creating the separation between sleeping and eating, these sleepless nights will be fewer for mom and your baby will have much better quality sleep.

If you are ready to stop co-sleeping or your baby only sleeps when breast or bottle fed, I can help!  Contact me, or schedule a free, 15 minute phone consultation to learn more!