How to Get Your Breastfed Baby to Sleep Without Breastfeeding

By Lisa Baker

If you're breastfeeding your baby, chances are your baby has tried to fall asleep at the breast. It may even be that your baby will only fall asleep at the breast. Nursing is a normal, natural way for babies to fall asleep. Sucking on a nipple is comforting for babies, and breast milk contains hormones that induce sleep. However, if your baby falls asleep at the breast, then he'll probably want to nurse again every time he wakes up--which may be as often as every 45 minutes, all night long. If you want to get your baby to sleep without nursing, it's possible--and it doesn't even have to be that painful.

Teach Your Baby to Fall Asleep Without Nursing

Institute a predictable sleep-time routine. Try different times until you figure out the best time for your baby to nap and go to bed, and include several activities that always lead up to sleep time. Use a shortened version of this routine for naps as well as at night. The routine should include "sleep cues" that your child will come to associate with sleep, such as special music, a sleep-time toy and reading a book or two.

Finish your routine with breastfeeding if that is how your child currently falls asleep. Nurse your child till he's sleepy and starting to fall asleep.

When your baby is sleepy but awake, gently take your nipple out of his mouth. If he wakes and cries, let him nurse a little longer. Then remove the nipple again.

Keep removing your nipple from the baby's mouth until he no longer protests. He should then fall asleep without having the nipple in his mouth.

Create New Sleep Associations

Once your baby is sleeping on a predictable routine, encourage her to fall asleep in different ways. Try rocking, driving in the car or lying her in her bed while you sit nearby.

Move your breastfeeding time earlier in your bedtime routine. If you were doing it last, do it just before you give your baby a massage or sing her a song.

Your baby should now be able to fall asleep at her usual bedtime, when you finish your bedtime routine, without breastfeeding.

About the Author

Lisa Baker has been a professional writer since 2001. She has published articles on parenting, environmental issues and religious topics in a variety of print and online venues, including "HomeLife Magazine" and "Pink & Green." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Sweet Briar College.