All content of this blog is my own opinion only. It does not represent the views of any organisation or association I may work for, or be associated with. Nothing within this blog should be considered as medical advice and you should always consult your Doctor.

Deny The Super Power Of Your Breasts!

Breasts have super powers.  Honest, many who have breastfed for any length of time can vouch for it.  Tired baby? Got that covered - relaxing sleepy hormones are delivered.  Baby bumps or just feeling full of cold and grotty?  Yep got that too, breastfeeding is recognised as an analgesic by the British Medical Association.  Really under the weather and sick - the vast majority of the time an infant will continue to breastfeed little and often, reducing risks of dehydration and hospital admittance.  Teatime meltdowns from an over stimulated tot - no match for mama's milk.

Why is it then society seems so scared of this fix all, mothers are frequently warned against using this magic tool?
"I spoke to the health visitor today who said I need to not let him use me as a dummy or he will never learn to sleep alone!"
Er hello a nipple is baby's natural pacifier, a dummy is a replica - therefore baby is actually using the dummy as a breast.

Boots have released a "Napping dos & don’ts":
"It’s natural for babies to fall asleep after a feed. Nursing or bottle-feeding newborns to sleep is a great bonding experience, but over time it can become the only way they can fall asleep. Try to separate nursing from naps even by just a few minutes; read a story or change baby’s nappy in between."
That's right Boots it is natural and bonding - would it therefore make any sense then that if we partake in this natural bonding process, our infants will never be able to sleep without it?  Lordy I wonder what happened before there were such warning leaflets and people followed their instincts?  Did we have a nation full of non-sleepers who couldn't settle without a breast?  Thank goodness Boots can save this generation!

But forgive me for finding their information a little confusing, another slide reads:
"Don’t wake baby:
What if baby falls asleep in her car seat? Just carry her in the seat inside. She can finish the nap there. You don’t need to wake her or move her to a cot. If she starts to snooze in her baby swing, just keep an eye on her and don’t let her sleep there overnight."
Right so just to clarify - don't wake baby unless breasts are involved.  Car seats or swings are fine, just keep an eye on the baby; but breasts are a big no no, I mean good heavens we don't want these babies expecting human contact right?

Since Boots, the Health Visitor above and the vast majority of "experts" work from anecdotal data  - here's mine.  I must be raising a blooming child prodigy.

Whilst I bought the above with my first (for the record, it didn't work her sleep was awful despite following all the "rules"), I knew better by the second  - I had a fix all built in and I was going to use it; no way was I picking up and putting down at all hours when I knew the boob would work in minutes. I would deal with whatever panned out as we got there, because realistically it couldn't get any harder than the first time around.

I carried and cuddled him lots, nursed him to sleep, offered him the breast if he was grumpy, hurt, unwell or just because he wanted it.  We co-slept with a side car cot and he helped himself during the night, was that a Godsend sanity wise compared to the hours spent trailing room to room with my first.

Yet - he dropped his night feeds of his own accord, slept well following being fed to sleep, transitioned through sleep cycles just fine and dandy i.e. didn't need to rouse for breast every 40 minutes as some suggest! (Some babies do, but there are in my opinion other underlying reasons for this that get ignored in favour of the breastfeeding scapegoat and sleep training).  Dropped his day feeds gradually and finally self weaned; recognises when he's tired, asks to go to bed, sleeps 11 hours straight.

How?  I mean according to many he should be a walking recipe for sleep problems and inability to function without contact from a parent.

I wonder if these same people also expect to see an adult ape carrying and nursing their fully grown offspring, after all they're a carrying species (like humans) all - and they don't get a manual on how to train their young!

The reality is that ALL babies, just like other mammals will transition to independence without being pushed or forced - it's a developmental step like sitting, standing, walking or talking.

We can even accept that in these other areas babies can vary hugely.  Both walking and talking typically occur somewhere between 9-18 months, and other parents support each other with "(s)he will walk/talk when he's ready".  But when it comes to sleeping alone for long periods, it's totally different - they apparently must all develop this skill ASAP after birth, with lists galore of how to achieve this adult driven desire.

Imagine if a "gross motor skills Guru" (self proclaimed, no qualifications) decided all babies should stand by 8 months.  This wasn't an evidence based guideline (anymore than any of the sleep advice is) someone just decided it was so and put this in a book that sold well.  Furthermore they then recommended if baby wasn't standing by this designated age, the parents should teach their baby, in fact it was their responsibility as parents to ensure their child developed this skill ASAP.  Really they should have been introducing stretching and toning techniques from birth, and practicing standing frequently to prevent such reliance on parents having to reach things above infant height; if some can do it at 8 months they all can with the right training.  So the Guru introduced leaflets about how best to do this and even became an advisor for high street shops who agreed to disseminate this information to parents on their databases.

If baby had reached 8 months or was getting close and still hadn't shown signs they were meeting the  expectations, action was called for.  Parents were advised they should put something the infant really wanted and needed at a height that meant they had to stand for it, and to not give in even if the baby cried and cried (this was considered manipulation from baby who would surely quickly learn you would pass him stuff every time and never learn to stand if you gave in) instead the parents had to hold fast.  They could comfort their baby without eye contact for brief intervals at set times as decided by said Guru, but nothing more.  Who wants a baby dependent on things being passed for heavens sake?  As the trend really took hold people would ask each other, "is your baby good?" which was actually code for can they stand alone yet?  After all with books saying all babies should do it with training, how early your baby mastered it became seen as a mark of how good your parenting skills actually were.

This is the reality of mainstream sleep support.

Humans strive to learn, develop and grow and whilst some need more support in some areas than others, they all get there, in their own time.


  1. I love it! But could you please link to an article on the possible causes for babies not transitioning easily between sleep cycles?

  2. Fantastic! Such a great article and refreshing to read.

  3. Love this article. I'd be interested in the info on babies waking between every sleep cycle as well please

  4. Great job and I love the comparison to standing...hopefully this will help some people really "get it"!

  5. I totally agree. But I also know that as babies get older, some are still waking every 1-2hours and there are many moms who feel that they are becoming mentally ill. The advice to begin teaching the child to fall asleep a minute or two after the breast is a real lifesaver, and so much much more gentle than cry-it-out. My experience as a gentle sleep coach and in my community is that there can be a number as large as 25% of babies who between 6 months -18mo might many nights wake every 45minutes-2hours. My child had "central sleep apnea" but as it turns out, this is a natural condition of many babies to varying degrees as the central nervous system matures over time. Still, sleep association is a huge factor and many babies with light sleep cycles (a transition stage that comes all the way out of sleep instead of going to REM on its own) learn/feel that they must have a breast in their mouth in order to get back to sleep. I think the reason sleep coaches (most of them awful CIO!) exist is that there is actually that large number of babies who don't sleep well without help and parents really are desperate for sanity. I wish there was a way that those parents could get gentle help from professionals without sleep trainers making it seem like little ones are supposed to sleep through the night and also without making parents feel bad for trying to get help to stay free of mental illness. Most people should let their children gradually mature out of sleep trouble with healthy co-sleeping and breastfeeding- but there are also some who don't see progress for a very long time. What do you think?

  6. QUOTE till, sleep association is a huge factor and many babies with light sleep cycles (a transition stage that comes all the way out of sleep instead of going to REM on its own) learn/feel that they must have a breast in their mouth in order to get back to sleep.

    So I keep hearing but where is the evidence for this? My first had this issue and wasn't fed to sleep, my second and many others I've supported transition fine. I wish parents could get effective support to address WHY their child is waking (because I personally don't buy the association thing) because I do think they can be trained out of waking sometimes depending upon the nature of the child, without addressing the root cause that could potentially cause further problems down the line in a totally different area.

    1. I had a conversation the other day, in which I mentioned that for the first time ever, DD fell asleep ON HER OWN the other night. The people I was talking to said something like 'yes, our kids learned to do that at 6 months - we left them crying in the cot and they went to sleep'. I said that I wasn't prepared to do that and one of them then remembered that my DD had had a lot of sleep issues, including very frequent waking, resulting from her tongue tie, which was only spotted and cut at 9 months. 'Ah yes,' he said, 'but your daughter had a real problem, it would have been cruel to leave her crying.' 'Yes,' said I, 'but we didn't know she had a problem all the time she was waking up and crying. We just responded to her as best we could.'
      He didn't have an answer to that, but I hope it made him think.

    2. So what do you think the root causes are?? Telling people it's not the boob association isn't helpful without giving an idea of what it might be or what to do about it.

      Anon1 ;)

  7. AA as always you just talk sense. Thank you.

    (incidentally I think the fundamental problem is the taboo around co-sleeping. If it wasn't seen as weird/pathological/dangerous, then most babies would feed on demand at night and neither the parents nor the babies would notice or wake up. Ergo no sleep "problems" and no need for sleep "training". Mums wouldn't become mentally ill due to sleep deprivation. But this won't change till society becomes less obsessed with creating physical distance between ourselves and our children from the day they are born.)

  8. I think we are too busy trying to rush the sleep thing. My toddler is 2 years, 4 months old and feeds to sleep. She also wakes in the night for a feed. (or two, or more...I don't keep track)

    Several nights a week, she'll go to sleep without me. I lay next to her, sometimes holding her hand or touching her back, but she falls asleep without any "help".

    I can see from her behaviour that the time will come when she won't need me to relax and drift off at all. But there isn't a timetable and there isn't a way of knowing when it will happen. But my 5 year old still needs cuddles and hand-holding before drifting off, so why should I push my 2 year old?

    This is the longest I have ever nursed a child, and I'm excited to participate in this long-term breastfeeding relationship. I find it fascinating. My boobs truly are magical. :p

  9. Good point amusingly put, and brilliant timing for me - thank you! My little one is fast approaching 9 months and lately I've been getting LOTS of 'advice' from mums/health visitors/relations who can't believe I'm still feeding to sleep/co-sleeping/letting her comfort feed when she needs to at night; indeed I was considering just lying about it all when next asked! It doesn't bother me, and it's so reassuring to be reminded it needn't :)

  10. I agree with what you're saying, and I fed my son to sleep and am regularly doing the same with my baby, but I think a major problem is that most women (including myself) have to leave their babies at a year, or before, and if they're used to feeding to sleep it is hard for anyone else to get them to sleep. So my son would only fall asleep for the childminder when he was completely exhausted, meaning that he napped too late and went to bed too late. Now that I'm off work again I've stopped him napping usually, but this means he's constantly complaining of tiredness and we spend much of the afternoon trying to keep him awake! I'm not saying sleep training is the solution, but I don't know what is. Of course this is anecdotal, and I my find that my daughter transitions into falling asleep without feeding or slinging once she gets older.

  11. Hi Alice
    My DD used to have a real hard time falling asleep and would only crash when exhausted, and I didn't regularly feed her to sleep! - truth was that's just how she was (for various reasons we now understand better) super switched on like the Duracell Bunny Baby post.
    So perhaps sometimes rather than the feeding to sleep being the cause of the problem, bfing is just an amazing relaxant that works on even those who normally struggle to switch off and relax?
    My second was fed to sleep yet would settle for others without absolutely fine and the consensus on FB seems to be others find their groove - several said nursery/CM just put baby in to a cot and they slept, others that the CM found their own way ie a cuddle/pushchair etc - what many said was baby didn't expect milk from others and would settle in different ways for them, even if they wanted feeding to sleep from mum..
    Just ponderings...

  12. I hate that cosleeping is so taboo for our generation. Its so bad here that child protective services will investigate if a mother admits to co sleeping without a side car..smh
    I'm pretty sure back in the day they didnt build side cars for beds.. my daughter is 9 weeks old and has slept in my bed next to me every single night since she was born.. all 3 of us sleep better that way. She wakes up and needs a drink/snack she nustles into mommy's chest and helps herself. Mommy's have primal instincts built in that allow us to sleep deeply enough to get restful sleep but lightly enough to realize when baby has rolled herself somewhere she needn't be. Why does our generation think that somehow we are a different species than our ancestors with no survival skills? I seriously don't get it. I find it fascinating that I can keep my daughter alive and thriving with nothing more than my warm embrace loving touch and my breasts for nourishment. Why are we so weird? It seems from 1980 onward all people born were programmed to ignore nature and completely depend on western medicine. Our local health department even sends new moms home with onesies that read "this side up" on the front and then further states, to prevent sids place baby alone in a crib on its back with no covers bumpers toys pillows or tell me the last time you tried to sleep on a hard flat mattress without a pillow or blanket..

    I'm sorry maybe I'm a bad mother but I feel there are several ways to safely co sleep and still have a comfortable baby.

    And if we aren't allowed to soothe to sleep when is the right time? Or are we just supposed to emotionally scar our children and never show them any affection?
    Awesome 2012..good job

    1. I might add that suffocation and sids are two totally different things and guilting new moms into making decisions isn't right.. not at all