It’s OK To Nurse Your Baby To Sleep

We’ve just welcomed our third sweet baby girl to this earth. All I want to do is hold her tiny body, watch her as she sleeps and soak up all the moments in between. These desires stem from the knowledge that this is our last baby, and also from the feeling of freedom to embrace my instincts and to trust our chosen parenting path.  I can’t get enough of those swirly baby ears, dimpled hands and flickering expressions in her sleep.

Here’s the irony though. Our third baby — that equals minimal opportunities for just basking in the glow of babyhood! There’s nearly always a six year old chatting, a three year old racing through the house shouting, or some place we need to go.

I hate to admit it, but with our first baby I was swayed by all the ‘helpful’ advice to give her a few minutes of crying before going to her and the steady stream of recommendations from professionals, family and friends to let her learn to self-soothe. I half-heartedly believed that it was a bad idea to do things like breastfeed to sleep, to hold my baby while she slept, or to co-sleep. Even though I did these things, I’d have this shadow of doubt and feelings of guilt plaguing me, as if I was somehow harming her.

Fast forward almost 6 years. I wish so much that I had relaxed and enjoyed those snuggles. Those snuggle times that, back then, had no other little people to juggle and no other distractions.

We’re thrown so many crazy notions that feed our guilt or sense of failure or belief that something’s wrong with our sweet babe…

“Your baby is six months old, surely she’s sleeping through the night by now.”

“When she starts solids she’ll sleep better.”

“Leave her to cry when you first put her down. That’s just a settling cry, she’s not actually upset.”

“Put her down just before she’s completely asleep so she learns to fall asleep by herself.”

“Don’t nurse her to sleep, she’ll get used to it.”

Um, she’s a baby…I’m ok with helping her fall asleep and ensuring that she feels loved and secure as she’s drifting off.

And the hormone, melatonin, and amino acid, tryptophan, are found in breastmilk; both are associated with inducing and promoting sleep. There are even increased levels of melatonin found in breastmilk during the night compared to other times of the day.

And in this article are five cool things noone ever told you about nighttime breastfeeding. So surely breastmilk is nature’s perfect tool to help our little ones go to sleep. I, for one, would far rather use breastfeeding than some other strategy, that is likely harder work, to settle my baby to sleep.

So, finally, this time around, I no longer feel any guilt for breastfeeding my baby girl to sleep, for holding her on my lap or wearing her during her naps. Sure, there are times when I’m busy or my muscles are aching, and it’s convenient to pop her down while she naps. But first I’m going to nurse her as she falls into a peaceful, dreamy sleep…and if I can hold her in my arms, I’m going to relish every sweet moment and try to etch it into my mind; the look of her tiny innocent face and those sweet, dimpled baby hands.

These times are so precious. Enjoy them. Enjoy your beautiful baby. The other stuff, the “self soothing” (wtf is that anyway?!), the not creating “bad habits” etc is rubbish. They are someone else’s standards and ideals. They do not promote a healthy parent-child attachment. They promote detachment and an insecurity that the child will carry with them for a long time. You have every right to reject this outdated and harmful advice and go with your heart. This evening I’m going to sit here while I nurse and cherish my sleeping baby girl.

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