Dear Judy: Well, I know that every baby is different and all will finally sleep through the night whenever they’re ready, but at 6 months, my daughter is still not sleeping through the night (she did it 3 times over the course of last month, then it stopped). Various people have told me that this is because she’s not learning how to put herself back to sleep because I breastfeed her everytime she wakes up. They’ve told me that she’s conditioning herself to need the breast to get to sleep. She’s always been a big comfort nurser, it’s how I get her to bed every night, and honestly, it seems like they’re right — she won’t go back to sleep unless she breastfeeds (pacifiers, bottles of breastmilk, rocking, etc. don’t really work). She doesn’t eat much at these feedings, and they’re occurring every 3-4 hours, so I don’t think it’s a hunger issue.
I don’t want to give up opportunities to breastfeed her because I work full time and one lunch feeding plus evening/night feedings are what I have left, but if I’m creating a child that won’t sleep, that’s not good either.
It’s a big worry because she doesn’t sleep much at all during the day (seriously, this child will NOT nap), so I want to maximize the sleep she’s getting at night. Thanks, Krista
Hi Krista, Sleep is probably the “issue” with the most divergent opinions when it comes to babies. The truth is – every baby is different and every baby has different needs. Many breastfed babies wake frequently at night. You have to remember that your baby’s belly is only as large as her little fist - so even though she is six months old, she may need to eat during the night to help her get back to sleep. You might want to try waking her up a bit when she wakes up so that she gets a bigger feed and then put her back down. If she gets more in, she may stay asleep longer than if she just takes a nibble and falls back to sleep. There is a great article on babies and sleeping which you can read here.
Also, keep in mind that when doctors talk about “sleeping through the night” they mean that your baby goes for 5 hours without waking. Sleeping through the night does not mean sleeping all night long! Your baby may be “sleeping through the night” more often than you realize.
Have you considered co-sleeping? My son started sleeping through the night at age 4 weeks (yes I was VERY lucky!). When he was 4 months old, I went back to work and within 2 days of returning to work, my son started waking during the night to feed. You mentioned that you also work – so your daughter may be waking up to spend time with you. Once I started working again, my son was up all night nursing. He didn’t eat very much during the day with his caregiver and did the majority of his nursing at night. To get some sleep myself, I started co-sleeping with my son. He would go down in his own bed at 8 PM and then when he woke up at 1 AM or so, I would bring him into my bed. He would then nurse whenever he wanted and we would both get much more sleep! My husband used to tell me that he would wake up during the night – my son would be nursing away and I would be sound asleep. This worked until he was about 11 or 12 months old and he got too squirmy to sleep with – then I transitioned him back to his own bed.
I’m sorry that I don’t have anything “concrete” to help you – but all I can say is YOU KNOW YOUR BABY better than anyone else – if you think this is what she needs, then it probably is. Don’t worry what others are telling you – do what is right for you and your baby.
Did you have sleep issues with your baby? How did you overcome them? Please leave a comment with any tips or tricks that worked for you!