Monday, February 20, 2012

Nursing to Sleep

For a long time anything regarding bedtime routines/nap time routines or sleep schedules would stress me out.

As a first time parent, I'm already a little hesitant to assert that I'm doing things right every time. In fact, despite my many hours of research and advice from others, it takes little for me to suddenly doubt what I've been working hard on and seen small successes with. A part of this is my own self-doubt, which I am overcoming as I am learning more about my capabilities and my son. I may not fully get over this until I have a second (or third?) child grown, healthy and capable of themself.

But enough of that side step. I stressed over sleepytime routines for the first 2 months - I had none whatsoever, other than that my son nursed to sleep. The only surefire way to get him to sleep was to nurse him, and this has continued on up to and including these days at 21 weeks. From (what seemed like) every direction, I was told "Don't nurse your baby to sleep". The reasons given were that I would hate to be tethered to my child every night, every nap; or that I would begin to feel like a human pacifier. This has never been my experience. Sure, once in a while I might grow impatient and want to be doing something else. That's normal. However, 95% of the time I love it. The closeness, the bonding. It's just a special, quiet time for me and my son.

Despite my own feelings on nursing him to sleep, I remained convicted that I was doing something wrong. I thought that I would regret it, down the line somewhere.

I thought that time came a few weeks ago, when suddenly my baby was waking up more than 6 times each night, and of course he needed to be nursed back to sleep each time. Out of nowhere, instead of waking only 3 times a night, it more than doubled. And this, this was my "proof" that nursing him to sleep had been a mistake.

After a few days of less than an hour of consecutive sleep, I was desperate. Anything to get more sleep, for my child and for myself. I asked for advice, and posted in one of my favorite forums r/breastfeeding.

I received several bits of advice that included sleep training guides (both cry-it-out and no-cry training), and a couple that advised me to have daddy pick up Nathan and soothe him to sleep at night, so he doesn't expect a feeding every time he's roused from sleep. However, I didn't expect the numerous people who told me that nursing to sleep wasn't doing any damage, and unless I personally disliked doing it, there is no reason not to at this age. They even pointed out what I had missed, which was that this sleepytime change came on suddenly, and was likely a temporary situation that I had to just power through. My choosing to nurse him to sleep had certainly not caused it, and I shouldn't feel guilty for something that is healthy and comforting for my child, and something that I enjoy immensely.

Even as adults we enjoy being comforted to sleep. Do any of you sleep better with the television on, or with your significant other sleeping beside you? Or perhaps you like to read a good book to settle down and fall asleep? These are all methods of soothing - similar in many ways to a baby nursing to sleep.

Update: 10/30/12 -

So, around 8 months later and I am still nursing the little guy to sleep. I have Jason put Nathan down to sleep on the weekends and some weekdays, and on those nights Nathan does not nurse to sleep. He is sleeping better at night (wakes around two times each night) and typically can fall back asleep immediately without requiring me to nurse him back down.  In my opinion, nursing to sleep has possibly encouraged Nathan to wake up at night - only because there is the likelihood of getting to breastfeed if he does. If I ever decide that I am done nursing him to sleep I will get to test that theory. For now, I love spending this time with him, and the ease of which he falls asleep with me.

1 comment:

  1. I know all to well the feeling that everything I'm doing must be wrong. :( I'm glad that you found people who encouraged you to follow your mommy gut. Each child is different, and nursing to sleep doesn't necessarily mean that they will wake up. Then again, it doesn't mean that they won't either. :)

    Thank you for linking up with the Breastfeeding Blog Hop! ~Jeniffer