It is completely natural for newborns to fall asleep after feeding. The warmth of your breast, or the contentment of lying in your arms while nursing a bottle of formula, help to relax your newborn. However, experts have varying opinions on whether you should allow your infant to fall asleep after feeding. Whatever you choose, you will set the stage for her sleep patterns as she grows older, so it's essential to make a decision that best fits you and your family.
Disadvantages of Pre-Bedtime Feeding
The American Academy of Pediatrics, in an excerpt from its radio series "A Minute for Kids," recommends not allowing your baby to feed before bed because he might come to rely on it to fall asleep. In the early months, when baby wakes at night, this can become a demanding routine for you -- as you will need to be on call to feed or nurse baby back to sleep each time he wakes up. Also, if your newborn is feeding throughout the night, MedlinePlus reports that he may experience tooth decay between 3 and 12 months old.
Benefits of Pre-Bedtime Feeding
Ask Dr. Sears reports that if nursing or bottle-feeding your baby down to sleep each night works for you and your family, there is no need to change your routine -- just be prepared for your infant to require feeding every night at bedtime. If you breastfeed and share a bed with your baby, nursing her back to sleep at night may only be a minor inconvenience, as she will be right next to you.
In order for your newborn to learn how to fall asleep without feeding, the AAP suggests offering your newborn a pacifier or his own thumb to suckle to sleep as an alternative. Most children grow out of thumb-sucking by age 1, so you don't need to worry about creating a bad habit. Ask Dr. Sears suggests rocking, singing lullabies, providing white noise, wearing baby in a carrier or having dad cuddle baby to sleep. In some situations, driving baby around in the car can help, or placing baby in a mechanical swing. To gently discourage him from falling asleep at the bottle or breast, KidsHealth recommends you tickle his feet, change his diaper halfway through a feeding or burp him frequently.
Whether you choose to allow your baby to fall asleep after feeding depends on your lifestyle goals as a parent. Decide how you want your family life to look in a year, or in 2 years. If you are satisfied with bed sharing and want to breastfeed your baby for as long as possible, nursing your baby to sleep may be fine. However, if you want your baby to learn how to settle herself down to sleep on her own, it may be time to stop allowing her to fall asleep after eating.