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 daughter, who writes ‘Georgy’s Motherhood Musings’). “Breastfeeding is a demanding job. An advantage of it is you have an instant method for getting your baby to sleep, anywhere, anytime. Use and enjoy it! At 14 months of age it is still my favourite trick for getting my toddler to wind down for naps, and go back to sleep at night.”