Friday, January 29, 2010

No, he does not sleep through the night...

Today I was reading an article about breastmilk production and cue feeding, basically the idea that you feed your baby as much and as often as the baby requests, even if that happens to be in the middle of the night at 6 months old.
This article was exactly what I needed at this moment in my life as a mom....

I have been feeling so conflicted lately. Elijah was about 2 months old when he began to sleep for longer and longer periods which around 3 months even peaked at 11 hours straight. Most would consider this a parents dream and he must have needed it at the time. But shortly after that, the periods of sleep started to lessen and my child started to become more demanding about his needs at all hours of the day and night until at about 5.5 months when he began to wake up every hour and need the breast to put him back to sleep. In this last month, the sleep has increased a bit to every 2-3 hours waking during the night. I have been so wrought with guilt. What am I doing wrong? Doesn't my baby need more uninterrupted sleep? If he didn't eat so much at night, he would sleep better and eat more during the day, right?

But what were the options to get him on this plan... let him cry and refuse to feed him was the only one I could think of. That was not happening. I believe strongly in the signal of a babies cry and was not about to ignore him. I always tried other things first, lying with him, helping him find his thumb, sending daddy in, or even giving him my fingers to suck on. These work sometimes, but ultimately nothing puts him back to sleep like a warm breast full of milk.

So many people even so called experts and my own holistic pediatrician warn against feeding a baby this old at night, fearful of the habits it creates. It is hard to ignore that pressure and the questions that come with it. As a mother, I am always questioning whether what I am doing is providing the absolute best for my child.

This article talked about prolactin, a hormone that all mothers have until about 3-4 months postpartum that in addition to the baby sucking, helps produce milk. After 3-4 months, the prolactin goes away and the only thing keeping the milk supply up for this growing baby is the babies sucking.

Maybe this is why babies wake up? Maybe it is not because we are "spoiling" him? Maybe my son knows intuitively that he needs more milk.
I know so many people who say they had to stop nursing cause their milk dried up, that suddenly didn't seem to have enough milk for their babies. I wonder if there is a correlation between this and night nursing? I wonder if there is a correlation between this and moving a baby into their own crib in a room away from mom?

I also know that every baby/mother dyad is different and that many can continue to nurse exclusively just fine while sleeping through the night. I am sure that is why the idea that all babies should be able to exists. Maybe all babies can't do this.

The AAP recommends at least one year of breastfeeding, the WHO recommends at least two years. I want to make it to at least two years for Elijah's health. I believe it is the best thing I can do for his health. I also believe babies are designed to sleep with their mothers, in most other countries they do. I believe babies cry for a reason. So why all the internal conflict around nursing him at night? Ultimately I am sleeping fine, all I have to do is roll over. He and I barely wake up.

I don't have all the answers and I don't know how I feel about this when he is one or two, and maybe I am creating a bad habit.... but I do know I love my child and listening to what he is telling me is the only way to build a relationship of trust between us.

So once again, I am led me back to the conclusion that I need to trust my child, he will teach me. Cue feeding it is.


  1. Couldn't agree more Tracy! It's a very hard conflicted thing especially when the mom gets worn down.

    But I am always grateful for the closeness I have with Sophia that Breastfeeding has brought above all.

    Sophia slept wonderfully in the months 3-4 then crawling and separation anxiety set in and the night waking began.

    I always nursed Sophia to sleep. Now when we do our bedtime routine I nurse her then when she is ready to go to bed she rolls around and gets her self to sleep. She is still with us in the bed which is wonderful to continue nursing but can get a little cramped.

  2. Glad to read this. Niko was sleeping through the night at about two weeks. I felt great! But that at exactly 4 months that stopped and I felt like I failed somehow. He wakes ever 3-4 hours and I literally nurse for 5 minutes and he falls back asleep. I really don't mind, but I was worried I was making him a dependent sleeper.