Are you ready to sleep train your little one but are concerned it won’t work if you are also breastfeeding?

Let’s dispel those fears right away. As a sleep consultant, I’ve had many successful cases where mothers were able to continue breastfeeding while also implementing effective sleep training techniques. The key is to understand that sleep training and breastfeeding are not mutually exclusive, but rather, they can complement each other when done correctly. It’s all about finding the right balance that works for both you and your baby.

Last week was World Breast Feeding Week, and while I had full intentions of posting this new blog last week, life got busy and it did not happen. However, given how common I get asked this as a pediatric sleep coach, let’s explore sleep training and breastfeeding a little more.

No matter what your breastfeeding journey has looked like up until now, whether you are exclusively breastfeeding, breastfeeding and bottle feeding with expressed milk, breast and formula feeding, or feeding with expressed milk, concerns with milk supply and sleep training is a topic I get asked about a lot. As a former labor, delivery and postpartum nurse, a mama who breastfed 3 babies, and a sleep consultant, I want to assure you that it is possible to successfully sleep train and maintain your breastfeeding journey.

The first step in accomplishing both goals is find your support network.

Whether that is your partner, a mom group, or a sleep coach, find someone that understands your goals and who will continue to support your breastfeeding journey. If you are looking for professional help from a sleep coach, it’s important to note that not all sleep consultants specialize in supporting breastfeeding families, so do your research to find the one best suited for your needs. A sleep consultant can help you create a plan that is tailored specifically for your family, taking into consideration current feeding habits and desired outcomes. They will also be able to provide additional resources and support as needed. 

It’s also important to note that sleep training your baby must be done when it’s developmentally appropriate. As exhausted as you may be with your 8-week-old, sleep training your baby at this point is not appropriate due to nutritional demands and their current developmental status, nor will it be successful. Now, you can always start developing healthy sleep habits at an early age but any formal training needs to be held until 4 months of age or later.

The second step to continue to breastfeed and begin your sleep training journey is to follow an Eat-Play-Sleep schedule.

What this means is upon waking you will feed your baby, then move to play time and finally to sleep. If you feel that your baby needs a second feed prior to naptime, that’s ok! Just ensure that they are staying awake for the feed. By following the Eat-Play-Sleep schedule, you are avoiding nursing or feeding to sleep at bedtime or naptime as this is the most common sleep association that develops for infants. 

Lastly, if your baby is waking multiple times per night to feed consider if they are nursing for nutritive reasons or as a way to soothe.

If they are not actively feeding for a full nursing session and immediately fall asleep, limit the number of nighttime feeds and work really hard to keep them awake for their entire feed. If they are feeding every 1-2 hours, the likelihood of them getting a full feed are slim. So, these frequent night wakings are more likely caused by a sleep association with nursing to sleep rather than a hunger issue.

In conclusion, successfully managing both breastfeeding and sleep training is indeed possible with the right strategies and support. Stay patient and consistent, make use of resources such as sleep consultants, and remember to approach this journey with a developmentally appropriate mindset. Following an Eat-Play-Sleep schedule can make a significant difference, as can limiting the number of nightly feeds. But remember, every child is unique, and what works for one might not work for another. So, listen to your baby, trust your instincts as a parent, and remember that you’re doing an incredible job!

Bonus tip:

If you’re a breastfeeding mama, consider getting the help of a sleep consultant who specializes in helping both breastfed and formula-fed babies. A sleep consultant can develop a personalized plan that maximizes your unique situation and set both you and your baby up for success. Having an expert to support you through this journey can make all the difference!