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Breaking the Feed to Sleep Association

One of the most common concerns moms have when sleep training or are even thinking about sleep training is that their little one only falls asleep while nursing or bottle feeding.

For many, it's more about comfort rather than actually needing the feed. Typically, around 8 months most babies are on one feeding a night (of course, every baby is different).

Regardless of how many times you feed your baby at night, or if they're waking for a comfort feed, many moms can't ge their baby back to sleep UNTIL they've fed their baby. It's a sleep association that they've learned and now depend on to get them back to sleep.

I've worked with many mothers where sleep training sort of takes a pause because the child just isn't comfortable with the change. In cases like this, it's important to break that association so that they can learn independent sleep skills. You don't HAVE to take feedings away, rather put them in a different part of the routine so they start to break the cycle.

So how do you begin to break that cycle?

First, feed your baby at the beginning of the routine. This allows for other steps to take place and breaks up the "feed, sleep" routine they're used to.

Secondly, before bed keep the lights on. A dim room can make them even more comfortable and relaxed, causing them to fall asleep.

Next, lay your baby down awake. If they fall asleep while feeding and you then lay them down, it can cause them to immediately wake up or they can wake up a little after being laid down and then will need you to give them another feeding in order for them to go back to sleep.

If you're already working on sleep training, you can extend your response time by a minute or two to see if they'll go back to sleep (it could be they're going from one sleep cycle to the next).

I want to note that frequent night feeds when it's not hunger related can lead to Reverse Cycling. Where more calories are being taken in during the night rather than during the day. This in itself can lead to more night wakings and lack of sleep for everyone.

More importantly, you want to teach them independent sleep skills (sleep training) and you'll find that with time, in a couple of weeks, they won't wake up for a feed if they're not hungry. They'll wake up and put themselves back to sleep!

But what about the middle of the night feeds?!

I hear you! It's one thing while baby and you are already awake, but what happens when they DO wake up and are hungry?

Keep the lights dim or totally dark (just enough light so that you can don't trip)

If you're nursing and feel they start to get comfortable, switch breasts.

If you're bottle feeding and they start to get comfortable, take the bottle away and change their diaper, then lay them back down (awake).

Lastly, if you know it's a comfort feeding and they start to fall asleep quickly, you may want to think about weaning them. A good way of knowing if you're dealing with comfort feeds is age, time they wake up, and duration of the feeding.

Age- typically, by 8 months most babies are waking up once a night for a feeding. BUT EVERY BABY IS DIFFERENT.

Time- if your baby is waking up at different times of the night, the chances of them needing a feed are slim. BUT if they are waking up at the same time, then my professional opinion is that they need that feeding.

Duration- if your little one is falling asleep 1 minute or immediately after the feeding starts, then you can call that a comfort feed.

Please hear me out. If you're dealing with a comfort feed and it doesn't bother you, keep it. I did! My daughter didn't need her one feed a night at her age, but it was a time for us to bond in the quietness that we didn't get during the day and I weaned her when I was ready. So if it works for you, keep it.

I've added a link to let you know how much your baby should be eating in a 24 hour period. By rule of thumb, if you've removed any feeding during the night or if they've weaned themselves, then you want to add those calories into their day. Click the link below for the list.

If you need any extra help or support, please feel free to contact me.

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