How to maximise sleep with a breastfed baby?

Some reminders of what might help you now:

1. Reframe! Instead of focusing on the negatives or what you perceive is negative (lack of sleep), try and focus on the flip side: your baby loves you, is securely attached, is thriving and feeding well!

2. Off load! Rant, talk to anyone who listens and doesn’t try to fix or give unwanted advice (La Leche League groups are a good start, but hopefully you’ll have some such friends, family members).

3. Movement, fresh air, self care. Ask for all the help you can and/or do it with your baby! She’ll sleep better too. Evening walks with your baby in the sling or pram and vigorous play before bedtime to wear your baby out can do wonders for everyone’s spirits and readiness to go to sleep.

4. Learn about normal baby development, breastfeeding behaviour and sleep behaviour for this age. Great sources: BASIS website, La Leche League website and books (The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and Sweet Sleep), James McKenna website and books and many more (see my posts on recommended literature and websites).

5. Sleep/rest in the daytime, and early evening/morning, whenever you can get help with your baby. Partners are often happy to spend an hour or two before going to work, when getting home from work or at weekends, playing or walking with the baby. Can you swap favours with a friend?

6. Anything you can do WHILE you’re lying with the baby to distract yourself or the opposite- use it as an opportunity to meditate, marvel in her? Different things work for different people… If aversion gets really serious, seek out Zainab Yate’s work: Facebook groups and book (Aversion Sucks). Meditation, mindfulness works for you? Could you put on some soothing music, an audio book, a meditation app? Could it be that you’re piling the pressure on yourself to ‘get stuff done’ while the baby sleeps? Could it be the case that the most important place for you to be right now is next to your baby?

7. Try a later bedtime for your little one? Especially as days are getting longer… Your baby might be more ready to sleep, sleep longer and deeper. Worth a try? You could create a ‘nest’ in your living area for a couple of hrs before bedtime, in your living area, so baby gets to be part of family life alongside YOU, rather than being isolated (with or without you) for prolonged bedtime battles. You might choose to use this time to get some chores done while daddy/partner is playing with the little one.

8. Joined bedtimes with the baby’s daddy, your partner, a loving family member, and create a nice relaxed atmosphere around bedtimes, switching around bedtime routines if you like? Some babies might really insist on being breastfed to sleep though, well into the first (or second or third) year of life, and it IS the quickest and easiest way for all involved, so please only consider changing it if it is a problem for YOU. It is not true that they will need the breast to be put back to sleep EVERY time if you feed to sleep. I’ve met many babies (including my own) who could distinguish perfectly well between being breastfed to sleep in the evening but being soothed back to sleep in other ways later in the night or in the day.

9. Habit stacking: associating a new stimulus with breastfeeding, i.e. patting, shushing, singing, stroking, with the view of occasionally being able to replace a full feed in the middle of the night with one of the new stimuli alone. Not a quick fix, can take up to 4 weeks to work. See the wonderful Lyndsey Hookway’s work on this. I have references to her book in my book recommendations post.

10. And finally, just a reminder that IF you ever need an emergency break, and your baby gets left with a loving adult, and cries for a bit, it is OK! It does not equal crying it out, and is not harmful! Crying in the arms of a loving adult is exactly what we (adults) need sometimes too, to feel better. And hopefully you get a little break and come back refreshed after your walk/jog/yoga/bath whatever else relaxes and recharges you.I would love to hear about YOUR experience.

How did you cope? Or maybe you didn’t…

What was your ‘go to’ strategy to get more sleep?

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