Can You Do Sleep Training While Breastfeeding?
Okay, you’ve made it this far…
Breastfeeding on track? ✅
Showering is no longer a rare timed privilege? ✅
When everyone in the house is ready for more sleep and you start considering sleep training, you may start to wonder if your supply will be affected and begin asking yourself questions like “Can I do sleep training while breastfeeding?”
Can you really sleep train without undoing all of your hard work and tanking your supply? Yes, you can!
This is definitely a case where knowledge is power, so I’m going to take you through some basics to help you with your sleep training and breastfeeding goals.
Is Your Baby Ready For Sleep Training?
First things first, we always make sure that your baby is physiologically ready. If you answer yes to the following questions, your baby is good to go!
Is my baby:
- Gaining weight appropriately?
- Having plenty of wet and dirty diapers?
- Over 4 months old, adjusted age?
- Cleared for sleep training by my pediatrician?
A healthy and thriving baby is developmentally ready to start sleeping through the night between 4-6 months. If you just started manically laughing as you read this while nursing your 10-month-old for the fourth time tonight, first off let’s talk, and second, it’s OKAY.
It is super common for babies to get stage-five-clinger attached to nursing at night, aka to develop a ‘feeding to sleep’ association. This basically means that nursing has become a habit and a sleep tool. What this doesn’t mean is that your child needs constant nourishment overnight. These little ones simply need some help learning new tools to fall asleep independently.
Does Sleep Training Mean I Have to Go Cold Turkey and Cut All Overnight Feeds?
No, every mother-baby couplet is different, so this is not a one-size-fits-all matter. Depending on your baby’s age, your supply and preferences, 1-2 feedings at designated times can be built into a successful sleep training plan. When we work with clients, we talk more about this and we provide night feeding and weaning guidance.
But What About My Overall Supply?
Well, breasts are smart, adaptable, and generally like to stick to some rules.
If you consistently ask for milk at x times, I’ll consistently give you milk at x times; if you don’t, it won’t.
What this means for night feedings is that if we stop ‘asking’ for milk overnight, supply will lessen overnight. But the key here is that if you are still nursing/expressing consistently throughout the day, you should still have milk consistently throughout the day = just what your baby needs.
There may be a period of adjustment with your breasts being fuller overnight, and you may need to utilize some comfort measures like brief hand expression or cool packs. But remember how quickly your milk came in after your baby was born? Just like that, it usually takes 3-4 days of consistent messages from you to adjust production appropriately.
To protect your supply and make sure your little one gets plenty of sustenance during the day, you can:
- Work on keeping your baby active at the breast— breast compressions, a quiet room, and silly faces are your friends, especially for distractible kiddos
- Offer both sides during each feeding
- Keep up with solids (6+ months)
- Pump if your sweetie is feeling sassy and rejects a daytime breastfeed
- If you are particularly concerned about milk supply, you can start by pumping once right before your bedtime
Should I Offer a Dream Feed?
In general, I would say no.
We are trying to extend your baby’s stretches of sleep, especially during those important pre-midnight hours. Dream feeding fragments your baby’s sleep and can make training more confusing/difficult for them.
Feel Like You Need More Insight Or Have Lots Of Questions?
If you have special breastfeeding or sleep considerations like the following, teaming up with a friendly neighborhood IBCLC + sleep consultant (me!) can help:
- a borderline-low milk supply that takes a lot of effort to maintain
- notice a marked decrease in overall supply
- have oversupply and are worried about discomfort/mastitis during the sleep training adjustment
- feel like you need support through the process
If you’d like a guide on your sleep training and breastfeeding journey, schedule a discovery call with me.
Or if you’ve got breastfeeding or sleep questions and could use some personalized insight at any stage, schedule an Ask Me Anything session.
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