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Nursing babies to sleep

When I first had Levi I was taught not to “feed him to sleep”.

If I did that, I would create a baby who was dependent on me.

…Kind of a funny thought considering of course he was dependent on me. Um, he’s a baby.

Yes, there’s something to be said for teaching children to sleep independently.

There is a certain liberating feeling putting your baby down for a nap when they are awake and happy and then seeing them drift off to sleep happliy minutes later. (I used to love watching the process on the baby monitor with Levi after he learned to sleep on his own.)

But freaking out about creating a “dependency” in terms of holding or feeding your baby to sleep is kind of silly.

I’ve never heard of a 12 year old that still needs his mother to rock him to sleep. (Have you?)

So why all this fuss about “sleeping independently” anyway?

it will come.

Partly with our coaxing and teaching, partly as a developmental milestone like any other thing babies or children learn.

With my second baby I let him fall asleep in my arms all the time.

In fact, I encourage it.

He loves it and so do I.

Do you know that breastmilk actually induces sleep? (God’s clever like that… So why wouldn’t we want to go with it and take advantage of this amazing sleep elixir?)

These months race quickly. Quickly. Soon, I will be aching for one last chance to hold him in my arms.

So why wouldn’t I take advantage of the time I have now to let him fall asleep in teh most pleasant way possible for both of us?

I love it. And so does he.



Q for you: Getting babies to sleep can be tricky, I know that, and every parent needs to discover the best way to help their child to sleep in a way that honors the child and fits with the family values. I just happen to have a wide opinion on what fits within “right”… and it defininitely includes feeding and rocking my baby to sleep as much as he needs or I want (in addition to encouraging him to learn how to sleep by himself as he’s ready/able). When’s the last time you nursed/rocked a baby to sleep? Was it as beautiful and therapeutic for you as it no doubt was for baby?




  • Reply Jessica (@mommyhoodnxtrt) 24 March 2012 at 12:00 am

    I left a very long comment, but I accidentally deleted it. To sum things up, I adore this post. The important part is that you do things that you’re happy with now and can live with later on.

  • Reply Jessica Giglione Wolstenholm 24 March 2012 at 12:00 am

    I totally agree Adriel. I was so hyper sensitive about scheduling and sleep training the first time around. This time it’s a bit of a free for all…partly because I have a preschooler and partly because I know he’s my last. I don’t have the privilege of breast feeding since I wasn’t able to but I let him fall asleep in my arms any chance I can get. It’s worth any extra work that might come later!

  • Reply Robyn H 24 March 2012 at 12:17 am

    With my first, I often nursed her to sleep. However, it wasn’t the dependency that was the problem maybe as much as the addiction. The first 3 months were great, but from 3-6 months she became unable to go longer than 2 hours without nursing. Often only one sleep cycle of 45 min would go by before she needed to nurse for 2-5 min before going back to sleep. I actually became almost non-functioning from lack of sleep. In the end, if she’d slept with us, maybe it would have been ok, but our bed is too soft for that to be safe. She finally got to the point that while I couldn’t even nurse her to sleep anymore, we were both so exhausted. She’d fall asleep but instantly be awake again. She actually needed me to leave her alone, but she had no skills to fall asleep that way. I would say that even now, @ 2 years, she has trouble falling asleep. Her naps are only 45 min, and though she is ok with that amount of nap, she almost always wakes up in a foul mood. On occasion, when she does sleep a longer nap, she seem way more rested and happy.
    With my 2nd, who is now 4 months, I didn’t worry about nursing him to sleep the first 6 weeks. Then I slowly started to decrease the number of times he’d fall asleep nursing. At night I don’t worry about it, but I did put him on a schedual about 2 weeks ago that if he woke up and it wasn’t time to eat, he had to wait. As I write this, I just nursed him to sleep, in my bed. @ 630 am, he will wake if I move him, but we are enjoying the cuddle time and he will enjoy a bit more sleep. So far, in my personal experience, I need to start early, slowly helping my kids to move towards greater independancy. So when the time comes that they cannot depend on me for that one thing, they have the skill to do it themselves. I don’t know if Ellie would be a better sleeper if I did things differently with her, but what I learnt from her has helped Sam quite a bit.

    • Reply Adriel Booker 24 March 2012 at 3:29 pm

      i’m so glad you’ve found what’s working for you guys!! babies and mamas need sleep, that’s for sure. so figuring out how to get it is so important! 😉

  • Reply Ana 24 March 2012 at 1:01 am

    There is just something wonderful about holding our tiny little babes while they are drifting off into sleepy land 🙂 I love it!

    My first was a champ nurser/sleeper. He would even just randomly drop off if you were holding him and he was tired. No dice with my second little dude! He loved to nurse to sleep, and he was an okay sleeper, but he was weaned by 9 months (sad mommy here!) due to a week that I was away. And Phinneas never has just randomly fallen asleep on anyone. He has always wanted to be awake and seeing things, even if he is incredibly cranky!

    But I sure cherish the memories of them curled up in my arms or laying next to me in the middle of the night. Isaac, my oldest, is now a great sleeper–falls asleep on his own, naps when he needs it. Phinneas is now 18 months, still needs a little comfort of the bottle when he drifts off, and he wakes up once during the night, but despite the hassle, I still love that baby part of him!

    • Reply Adriel Booker 24 March 2012 at 3:31 pm

      oh, i’ve yet to experience a “champion sleeper”! my friend has one and i get insanely jealous. 😉 she totally knows my envy, just for the record. but i’m glad for her. maybe my third baby will be an easy sleeper like hers… you never know. until then, like you, i’m just trying to figure out how to work with my kids and find what works best for them! (and me/us!)

      • Reply Ana 25 March 2012 at 3:43 pm

        It took a long time to get to that champ stage! lol, I didn’t write that part out really well…Isaac didn’t start sleeping through the night until he was about 19 months. He was weaned off the bottle by 2 years old. Now, he can sleep like a rock and is totally awesome! But it took us a few years to get there 😀 That time will come for your babes…my solution: coffee in copious amounts 😀

        The most awesome thing is that you know your babes better than anyone–and when the times comes, they’ll be sleeping through the night, and you’ll do what I do sometimes…you’ll curl up next to their sleeping little bodies, kiss their cheek, snuggle and sigh that happy mommy sigh 🙂

  • Reply LeiShell 24 March 2012 at 1:51 am

    Oh I so agree! I heard that all the time too! I’m blessed to still be nursing (21 mos now) so we’ve definitely taken advantage of God’s natural elixir. Sadly, I know our journey is coming to an end, such a fast one it has been. Eli can fall asleep on his own now, but there still are times when he needs/ wants me. After all I wanted to be his momma…so It’s okay with me. I laughed at the 12 year old part. Really, why do we worry so much?! Everything falls into place eventually. For this same reason I never believed in CIO. If if felt wrong, then why do it ( in my case) and that eventually fell into place too. Great post!

    • Reply Adriel Booker 24 March 2012 at 3:33 pm

      yes, cio feels wrong to me, too. it’s a fine line though – figuring out what works best for your family while making sure that no one suffers unnecessarily. i don’t think there’s every just a straight forward answer… *sigh*

  • Reply Becca 24 March 2012 at 10:48 am

    We have a sweet routine where we sing him 2 songs about Jesus and then lay him down. Typically he goes to sleep on his own, but sometimes he needs some extra mama milk or some rocking from daddy, and we love it. I’m trying to cherish every bit of his babyhood because I know he will be a big boy in about 5 minutes.

    • Reply Adriel Booker 24 March 2012 at 3:35 pm

      love that. that’s similar to what we do with levi. judah’s not quite there yet (sometimes goes down like that) but he’ll get there. for now he needs some extra rocking and cuddling and sometimes some boob time. 😉

  • Reply Rachel 24 March 2012 at 9:04 pm

    At 16 months, Xave has recently stopped nursing himself to sleep. He still nurses right before bed but rarely falls asleep at the boob. It’s kind of bittersweet. For one, I’m the only person who can put him to bed because we don’t CIO…which for the most part, I love this special time of day that we spend alone together. He’s finally still and quiet (doesn’t happen otherwise!). But I will admit that there are times when I desparately wish Jason and I didn’t have to wait till after 8 to go on a ‘date’, or that Jason could share the bedtime routine a bit more. I think a lot of it has to do with how much moving around we did when he was in his most impressionable sleeping stages and the fact that up until 4 weeks ago, we were all still sleeping in the same room (circumstances). BUT 4 weeks ago — he started sleeping through the night! They are not wrong when they say suddenly, they grow up! But the extra sleep = happy toddler = happy mama. So I say, whatever works!!! Anyone that says there is only one way…I doubt their sanity or experience!

  • Reply Branson 26 March 2012 at 5:32 am

    I am all about this! We co-slept until A was 19 months. In fact I *occassionally* will take a sleeping baby from his crib now just so we can cuddle before I go to sleep myself, haha. I tell Matt all the time that I can’t wait until this independent go-go-go phase fades and I get my cuddle monkey back!

    • Reply Adriel Booker 26 March 2012 at 2:34 pm

      oh, i know! i wonder if i will ever get an affectionate boy back?? levi is SO independent and always wanting to do his own thing. not sure how much of it is age (normal) and also just his personality. he’s SO independent… like his mama…

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