This following message was sent by a very sleepy reader. It reminded me of that famous song, “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk. “She’s up all night till the sun, she’s up all night to have fun, she’s up all night to get lucky….” I imagine that song is talking about adult activity, but some of us parents now know “Up all night” in a very different way!
“Hi Moorea- My baby is 11 months and co-sleeps in my bed. She nurses to go to sleep and wakes up maybe 5-7 times through the night and always has- and needs my breast to get down. I feel like she’s up all night but doesn’t show any ill effect and I’m losing my mind! What do you do to fix this? Not up for the CIO [cry it out] sleep training method and she does not use a pacifier…other than me! ” Natalie (shared with permission).
Dear Natalie, Baby’s getting her heart’s desire and you’re going crazy. Well, I was once there and I was near postpartum psychosis waking up every hour as a tiny one. I’m here to tell you from both personal and professional experience (150+ sleep clients so far!) that you can gently gradually teach her new boundaries with your body, not nurse every time she wakes, help her learn to go to sleep after the breast and not on the breast.
Falling asleep with the breast in the mouth, is totally normal and natural and awesome* for many families- but it sets up a sleep association. That means that she needs to wake all the way up and nurse (and wake you up) whenever she comes out of a normal short baby sleep cycle, rather than just rolling over. So not falling asleep on the breast at the beginning of the night is the place to start. It is possible to make some changes without weaning or ending co-sleeping!
For many families this is the first time they have ever set a boundary with their baby! Think of it as communication and consent regarding your body and not as sleep training. There is never a need to think of our parenting as “training.”
Each week I teach families how to do this in my classes and coaching practice. You don’t have to “do nothing” and you don’t have to stop nursing or cosleeping. That’s the good news! The bad news is that there is sometimes fussing or even crying when we set a boundary. Most babies (and adults!) hate change they must now adapt to! But if you make changes, you will see changes. It requires a few days of strength, but you can do it! You will kiss yourself…and your baby!
Many families can create and stick to a plan on their own or with the help of my online sleep program- or I’m available to help you over the phone! FYI, a pacifier is not any better than your current situation. They fall out multiple times a night and even a toddler often can’t find it in the dark and will need you to wake up to help. Plus you’d eventually need to wean off of it for dental reasons so it isn’t a good habit to start now.
*Note, I mostly work with family sleep changes when children are 9mo or older because infants need to eat at night, breastfeeding should be on demand if possible for a tiny one, and littler babies are all need and very little “behavior” that we would want to change.
Love, Moorea www.SavvyParentingSupport.com