Are you wondering how to put your baby to sleep without nursing? Follow these six tips and break the habit that’s keeping your sleep-deprived.
The convenience of putting your baby to sleep while he’s nursing saved you a number of sleepless nights. Not to mention how magical it felt to be able to lull your little one to sleep just by breastfeeding.
However, not all is bliss in the motherland.
Hooked on breastfeeding, your little one now refuses to go down any other way. He won’t take the pacifier and fusses at the bottle.
Sleep-deprived and at the end of your nerves, you ask:
How the heck do you successfully put your baby to sleep without nursing?
Instead of driving your fussy baby around the block until he drifts off to dreamland in the backseat of your car, here are six tips for how to put your baby to sleep without nursing for good.
Let’s jump right into it!
Change the order of your bedtime routine
If you nurse your baby right before bedtime, he’ll begin to associate feeding with falling asleep. In other words, he’ll need to be nursed in order to go to sleep.
What you should do is separate feeding and falling asleep by 10+ minutes.
Instead of feeding him right before you place him in his crib, change the order of your bedtime routine.
For example, you can start by giving your little one a bath and a little massage.
Then, you can feed him. After he’s fed, you can end the bedtime routine by reading him a book. This should take a few minutes.
Play some white noise in his room, and gently place him in his bed once he gets drowsy.
However, if you notice that your baby is still getting drowsy while nursing even after you moved the feeding a little earlier, then you may want to move his feed at an earlier time.
For example, start with the feed first before giving him a bath and a nice massage.
Decrease your involvement a bit each night
Every night, try to remove yourself more and more from helping your baby fall asleep.
For example, if you’re currently patting him for 10 minutes to help him fall asleep, try to shorten it to seven minutes. You can still sit in your chair, but make sure the comforting is more hands-off than hands-on.
On night two, try shortening your involvement to four or five minutes. Sit on your chair and do more verbal reassurance.
Ideally, you want to decrease your involvement to one minute where you’re patting him for one minute and spend the other nine minutes sitting in your chair.
Once he’s used to having no more shush-pat and you’re only sitting in your chair as he falls asleep, try moving your chair farther away from his crib.
The ultimate goal of you physically distancing yourself from your little one is to teach him to fall asleep entirely on his own, without you in the room.
Keep baby awake during the night feeds
If he wakes up in the middle of the night and he’s genuinely hungry, go ahead and feed him.
However, make sure he stays awake during his feed. Even if he falls asleep during his feed, sit him up and burb him, or do anything you can to wake him up a little bit.
Place him down into his crib as awake as possible.
Create a sleep-conducive environment
Babies are delicate little people who need a carefully designed sleep environment that supports long and healthy sleep.
With that said, end with any overstimulating activities and start creating a more sleep-conducive environment for your baby an hour before naptime or bedtime.
This means dimming the lights, turning on the white noise machine, and speaking in a low voice.
Setting the mood for sleep not only increases the chances of your baby falling asleep faster, but it also encourages longer and sounder sleep.
Let your partner help
Mothers are usually the ones that put babies to sleep as babies know their mother’s smell. Some research even states that babies learn their mother’s smell early in life, wiring the scent into their brains.
As mothers remind babies of milk, it may be a good strategy for mothers to distance themselves away from their babies before naptime or bedtime.
So, during the transition from nursing to sleep, try letting your partner do some of the feedings.
When bedtime arrives, hand your baby over to your partner and leave the room.
Although this may be a painful process for you, find strength by knowing that you’re teaching your baby how to fall asleep without nursing.
Even if you still want to breastfeed him before naptime or bedtime, have your partner take care of the late nighters. Have some breastmilk ready at hand so that your baby can feed without the nursing-sleep association.
Make sure he’s drowsy but awake when placing him in the crib
If you’re putting your baby down in his crib after he’s fallen asleep on your breast, he’ll learn to associate bedtime or naptime with feeding.
Avoid this by putting him in bed more awake than completely asleep on the breast. Ensure his eyes are open when being placed in bed and he’s aware of where he is when falling asleep.
Keep in mind that the drowsy but awake method works best for babies not older than four months. Older babies should be put to sleep awake and not drowsy.
There’s nothing wrong with nursing your baby to sleep.
The problems begin when you have to return to work and need that eight-hour sleep every night.
If you want your little one to sleep through the night, it’s critical that you break the habit.
The best way for breaking the habit is by:
- Changing the order of your bedtime
- Decreasing your involvement
- Keeping baby awake during the night feeds
- Creating a sleep-conducive environment
- Letting your partner help
- Making sure you’re placing him down drowsy but awake
Whether he’s three months old, six months old, or even one year old, the most important thing is to stay consistent. Don’t give up and know that habits exist to be broken. It won’t be long before your little one starts dozing off without nursing.