How to Feed and Co-sleep Safely With Your Baby
Many parents I speak to are under the impression that a breastfed baby will automatically sleep less than a formula-fed baby. I genuinely think this is a myth – all babies are different and have their unique temperament, and the way they are fed does not necessarily impact how well they sleep.
Breastfeeding mothers often get more sleep in the first few months than those who are formula feeding – breastfeeding releases a hormone called prolactin in the mother, which aids falling to sleep more quickly once you’ve finished a feed.
Let’s be honest, regardless of how your baby feeds, no mother of a newborn feels well rested!
Breastfeeding to Sleep
In the first few weeks, feeding and sleep are so often interlinked, with your little one feeding frequently and often dropping off to sleep on you mid-feed.
Some parents I speak to are worried about this and about “bad habits” forming. To them, I would always say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with feeding your baby to sleep and cuddling them whilst they do it. You can do this for as long as you want to, don’t feel the pressure from anyone else to stop – it’s entirely between you and your baby.
Whenever you feel that you would like to help your baby learn to fall asleep themselves, you can try to feed them until they are drowsy and awake and see if they can drift off to sleep themselves. However, there is no timeline involved in this – each baby is different, and there is no need to force this before your baby is ready.
According to safer sleep guidelines, the safest place for your baby to sleep is in the same room as you in their cot, crib or Moses basket for the first six months. Often mums who are breastfeeding choose a bedside cot with three sides to it – this can be placed right next to your bed and makes it easy to reach over and get your baby for a feed during the night and then pop them back over once the feed is done.
Many breastfeeding mums choose to co-sleep with their little ones as it often means that everyone gets more sleep, an important goal for most parents of wee ones!
Co-sleeping is an excellent way of keeping your baby close to you and allowing them to feed in the night without either of you waking up too much.
It is crucial to ensure that you are co-sleeping safely by keeping any blankets, pillows and duvets away from your baby and placing them to sleep on their back after they’ve fed.
Ensure that any adult in the bed hasn’t been drinking alcohol or is extremely tired. More information on Safer Sleep, including safe co-sleeping, can be accessed from The Lullaby Trust https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk/safer-sleep-advice/.
As a Mum of older kids, my best advice is to enjoy the cuddles and closeness whilst you can – they grow up before you know it, and you’ll miss those moments.
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Caro is a Senior Certified Sleepy Lambs Sleep Consultant® based in Edinburgh, Scotland.
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