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The Myth of Sleeping Through The Night

Waking every hour or two to nurse ALL NIGHT LONG. Ugh. Whether you do it for a few days because your baby is teething or have been doing it for months or years, it takes a toll on you.

Sick of it? Probably.
Cranky? Yes.
Tired? Definitely.

First, I'd like to address some common misconceptions:

Myth # 1 Formula fed babies sleep through the night. Some do, some don't. Formula is harder to digest so babies do stay fuller longer. Formula fed babies have completely different sleep cycles from their parents. That's why experts recommend that parents who formula feed do not share a bed with their baby.

Myth #2 Sleeping through the night is a desired outcome. You really don't want your baby sleeping all night until they are 9 months or older because their brains are not fully developed. Some babies go to sleep, forget to breathe and can't wake themselves to breathe. This is SIDS and it's different from suffocation or overlaying. Things that help the baby wake to breathe are breastfeeding, sleeping with the parents in the same bed (if breastfeeding) or room (if not).

Myth #3 "Everyone else is sleeping through the night." In 14 years of counseling mothers, I have met a number of babies who slept well from birth until 3-4-5 months when they started teething. I have met a only handful of babies who are good sleepers even through that period. Many babies settle down to predictable naps and 4-5 hour stretches at night by 9-12 months with occasional interruptions for growth spurts, teething, or overstimulation.

Some babies are not good sleepers. What I have found these babies have in common is one or more of the following:

    Parents who are not good sleepers
    Disharmony in family relationships
    Stress from moving, unemployment, siblings, etc.
    Mom working
    Lack of nursing limits

I'll just cover the last two for now. If Mom is working, many babies catch up on their "mom time" at night. Being connected is essential for babies to survive. It's not just something nice to have. It is essential. It's hard to accept and usually something has to give. Either go to bed earlier, get some domestic help, let things go or work less. This really is important to do for the first year or so.

When your baby is about a year and eating a good amount of complementary food, you can start setting nursing limits. If you plan on weaning around a year, this will come naturally because you are clear that you want to end the breastfeeding relationship. You understand your baby may fuss and find ways to deal with it.

If you would like to have Baby-Led Weaning, you may find yourself in conflict because babies usually don't agree with you refusing to nurse. Up to this point you have probably nursed whenever and wherever. You can give yourself permission to set some limits on nursing. When you start with little requests, you keep the balance in your nursing relationship. Up until now, you have given and given. Your baby can learn basic principles of human relations in a gentle way.

Here are some things to try:

Substitution:  Nursing is a fast way to get calories. Limiting nursing will mean a hungry baby if you don't keep them fed and watered.
Distraction: A howling fire engine racing by wins hands down over nursing. Keep a supply of novel, or huggy distractions at hand.
More Love: Make a point of snuggling, smootching, holding, and wearing your toddler without nursing.
Not here, Not Now. When your toddler can understand, you can insist on, "No nursing in the store." "No nursing in the dark." "You can have milk now and nursing next time." "You can nurse until the count of 10 or the ABC song." "You must keep my shirt on."

This is an important skill to learn. It helps your baby feel secure and it helps you feel good as a mom.

My Love to you and your family,
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