Breastfeeding to Sleep

Just lately I’ve had a question from a couple of mothers through email and Facebook asking me what to do as their babies are now 6 months old and they are still exclusively falling asleep at the breast.

A paediatrician to one of them told her to stop this, and the other was told that ‘feed, play, sleep’ was some kind of gold standard to work towards as early as possible.

It’s perfectly okay for babies to continue falling asleep at the breast if you are both happy with it. There is nothing essential about separate sleeping and nothing biologically important about teaching babies this skill. Nice if you can have it happen, but not worth the tears and anguish if it doesn’t work, especially if you and your baby don’t mind.

There isn’t a ‘sensitive window’ at any age. It’s not true that if you miss teaching it by a certain time the baby will still be insisting on breastfeeding to sleep in a month, or a year, or when they go to school.

If you want to get your baby to fall asleep independently, try it, and if it works that’s great. If not, keep going until one or other of you are sick of it down the track. Then it will spontaneously stop or you can try to modify the behaviour in the usual ‘step by tiny step’ technique.

But don’t let our ‘separate sleeping’, and ‘let’s make our babies independent as soon as possible’ culture determine the timing.

PS from Georgy (my

By |February 11th, 2016|21 Comments

Helping Babies to Settle

 I’m getting confused between how to teach my baby how to “self-settle” and not employing “control crying”. Can you explain the difference, at what age you can start to teach self-settling and the best way to do it?

This is a couple of edited excerpts from the chapter on “Sleep” from my new book “Your Cherished Baby” published by Pan Macmillan and released on the 1st August 2014.

Read on…… IIt is important to understand that babies up to the age of about six months have almost no ‘working memory’. That means that they can’t really ‘learn’ anything at this early age. ‘Controlled crying’, that is, leaving a baby to cry for gradually increasing periods of time, is stressful to the baby (and the parents) and is a complete waste of time and tears.

There is a world of difference between the newborn under 3 months and older infants. At this age the problems are not so much ‘sleep’ problems but that of general crying and fussiness.

In the first weeks babies sleep pattern is mostly dictated by their stomachs. When they’re hungry they wake, when they are satisfied, they sleep.

There is good scientific evidence to suggest that in the early months, prompt attention to distress leads to less frequent waking and disruptive crying patterns later on.

So, always check that your baby is not hungry. Remember that some babies require another feed within an hour of the last one. Studies have shown that the stomach may empty within 30 to 40 minutes following

Swaddling: Mostly Pros, Few Cons.

 Many thanks for looking after our baby Hayden in Hospital and he will be seeing you again around 6 weeks. A question about swaddling, Hayden really likes to be swaddled, he will be 1 month old tomorrow. How long should we continue to swaddle him? I have read about some concerns after 1 month with interfering with mobility and development? What is your advice?

D  Done properly, swaddling is a useful and safe practice for young babies. It quite definitely helps to calm them and improves their sleeping pattern for a couple of reasons:

  •  The swaddled position reminds them of how they were in the womb, the arms across the chest, bent at the elbow; and the legs flexed at the hips and knee, with the knees slightly splayed.
  • All babies have a ‘startle reflex’ during the first 3 months. If the baby’s head drops backwards, extending the neck, their body thinks that they may be falling, so the arms involuntarily fling out and make grasping movements in the air. It really upsets them. Swaddling the arms suppresses the reflex.

There are, however, a few precautions that should be taken when swaddling your baby:

  • Very important is that the baby should sleep on his back. We know that all babies should be put down ‘back to sleep’ anyway, but it is even more important if they are swaddled, as their limb movement and ability to wriggle around, to keep their airway clear, is restricted by the wrap.
  • For the same reason
By |September 7th, 2013|5 Comments

Routines for Infants, and gentle sleep persuasion.

I just wanted to know your thoughts on establishing a routine for a seven month old baby. Who (or where) would you recommend for advice on this? Or do you think that 7 months is still too young for a routine? She sleeps only about 1.5 hours over 2 naps during the day (45 mins per nap) and often only about 10 hours at night (on a good night) and almost always has broken sleep through the night after 1am.

Also, I have been soothing our baby at night with breastfeeds – often 3 or 4 times during the night. I don’t think she is hungry, just using this to soothe herself between sleep cycles. Can we start teaching her to self settle in another way? Obviously her sense of security is paramount to us and we don’t want to be cold or neglectful of her when she is unsettled.

 Finally, when she is upset, she often has a tight tummy and draws up her knees. I think this is wind and I hold her close, bounce a little and pat her back to ‘help’. She often farts, but is still upset and continues with the arching and crying and so on. Do you think this is probably the right ‘diagnosis’ that I am making and the right solution? My partner thinks whenever this happens I should feed her. I suspect that this might be adding to the problem. We found your book to be a great guide in the first few months.