The good news is that sleep training and breastfeeding CAN go hand-in-hand!  In this episode of the My Sleeping Baby podcast, I’m going to delve into this question in more detail.
More specifically, I’ll be talking about:
– How you can continue to breastfeed your little one for as long as you both want, while getting full nights of sleep
– Why teaching your breastfed baby to take a bottle is NOT a requirement for sleeping through the night
– How to make sleep training and breastfeeding work together
– How to teach your little one to sleep without relying on milk
– Why introducing formula is not a magical solution to your sleep woes
– How to get your baby to sleep through the night without feeds, even if he’s waking up and REALLY eating (and no- it won’t involve starving him!)

Have a listen!


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(00:45)All right, welcome back to the show everyone. So today I wanna address a very common question that I get about sleep training and breastfeeding. And the question is something along the lines of Eva, do I need to give up breastfeeding if I want my baby to be sleeping through the night? Or is it a problem that my baby doesn’t take a bottle? Is that the reason that she is not sleeping through the night or sleeping longer than a few hours at a time? Or I don’t wanna give up breastfeeding and therefore I’m afraid of sleep training because I feel like I have to choose between one or the other. And I wanna take a little bit of time to first and foremost address this question with a very quick answer, and the answer is no. You do not need to give up breastfeeding in order to do proper sleep training, nor does your little one have to take a bottle in order to learn how to sleep like a champ either.

Now, before I address why this is the case where I think this myth and misunderstanding comes from. Now, before I delve in, I just wanna set the record straight that I am an avid proponent of the Fed is best philosophy, meaning if you wanna breastfeed, you can breastfeed. If you wanna bottle feed, you can bottle feeded. Both are greats. Both of them are wonderful, fantastic options that we have. And neither one of those needs to be in the way of getting your little ones sleeping like a champ. And you see, for the breastfeeding moms who love breastfeeding and who don’t want to give it up, or maybe breastfeeding was hard for you in that newborn stage and you’re finally getting the hang of it and you’re going, oh my gosh, I don’t want to mess around with the success that I’ve made. Everything is going so well, my milk supply is great, and baby is latching well, I don’t wanna sacrifice any of that and I don’t blame you and I wouldn’t want you to sacrifice something that is important to you and is valuable to you.

Now, here is where I think that this myth and misunderstanding around breastfeeding and sleep training, sort of, you know, there, there’s multiple parts to it. And so I wanna sort of address each part of this myth, um, one step at a time. So the first thing that I wanna make very, very clear is that breastfeeding and breastfeeding to sleep are two completely different things. And so when I say that you don’t need to give up breastfeeding, it means that you can breastfeed your little one for as long as you would like until they’re in kindergarten for all that, for all I care, you don’t need to be giving that up because the breastfeeding itself is likely not part of the problem. The problem is likely the fact that your little one is relying on breastfeeding to some degree to fall asleep initially. And so if breastfeeding to sleep is your little one’s sleep crutch, whether it’s something that they rely on at bedtime or for naptime or in the middle of the night to go back to sleep, the solution does not need to involve weeding them off of breastfeeding and replacing breastfeeding with a bottle.

Rather, it simply needs to involve moving that feeding away from bedtime away from naptime so that they are eating when they are not, when it’s not near bedtime, so that they are taking down a full feed near the beginning of that wind down routine so that this way you can break that association between feeding and sleeping and then teach them how to fall asleep by themselves. And for the record, the exact same thing applies to bottle fed babies. If a bottle fed baby is relying on a bottle to fall asleep, the solution does not need to involve getting rid of bottles. The solution rather would involve the same thing, moving that bottle away from sleep time so that this baby can learn to understand that food is food and sleep, is sleep, food feeding, breastfeeding, or bottle feeding, and that the two are no longer intertwined.

The second important point that I wanna make here is that if you are a breastfeeding mom and your little one is nursing to sleep and waking up throughout the night to nurse back to sleep, the solution is not getting your baby on a bottle. That is not going to impact anything. Bottles don’t have magical, sleepy potion that breast milk doesn’t have. And if you need any proof of that, I would tell you off the bat that half of the families that I work with have babies and toddlers and preschoolers that rely on bottles to fall asleep and are waking up at night once a night, multiple times a night for a bottle to go back to sleep. If anything, those moms might be more exhausted and more sleep deprived because they can’t just very quickly nurse the baby and go back to sleep. They have to actually get up and make the bottle.

And that is a whole big to-do, a much bigger to-do than simply nursing your baby throughout the night. By the way, I’m not trying to downplay the exhaustion that a breastfed mom, um, a breastfeeding mom might be experiencing. My point is that not only is introducing a bottle not necessarily going to be part of the solution, but you might just find yourself jumping from the fire into the frying pan here. The frying pan might actually end up being hotter than the fire because now you have to actually get up and make a bottle. And so remember the solution is not going to involve replacing breastfeeding to sleep with bottle feeding to sleep. The solution needs to involve moving the feeding away from the sleep so that you are breaking the association with the feeding and the sleep. That is what the solution needs to involve regardless of whether or not you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding.

Now of course it goes without saying that if you are breastfeeding and you want to introduce a bottle to your little one or you want to actually begin the weaning process, you can do that. Remember, fed is best here, but in the name of getting yourself a wickedly awesome sleeper, you just don’t want to be using the bottle as a means of getting your little one to sleep. You still want to make sure that that food sleep association, uh, is completely broken. I think this myth, that formula will somehow make your baby sleep longer, probably stems from the newborn stage where temporarily, especially in those first six weeks of life, there might be some truth to that. And the reason is because yes, it is a known fact that breast milk is digested a little bit more quickly than formula is. Um, and it’s also a known fact that in that newborn stage, as your baby is going through multiple growth spurts, it can take a breastfeeding mom’s body 12 to 48 hours to catch up to their baby’s new demand, higher demand for more milk.

Whereas when a bottle fed baby is going through a gross spurt, you simply just fill that bottle up with more milk and then it’s problem, the problem is solved. So during those first six weeks that breastfeeding mom might be getting less sleep than the bottle feeding mom simply because of everything that I just mentioned, milk supply having to catch up over a one to two day period to baby’s new demand, as well as the fact that the breast milk can be, uh, digested more quickly. On top of that, it is also a known fact that bottle-fed babies tend to be able to take down more milk in one sitting than a breastfeeding mom can. And so I think when you put all these factors together, it’s assumed that when you have a four month old or a six month old or a one year old for that matter, that getting them onto a bottle of formula is some somehow going to fix the problem.

And let me explain why that’s not the case. First of all, if you are breastfeeding, it doesn’t mean that your baby can’t take down the same amount of calories that a bottle fed baby can. It just means that they need to be eating more frequently during the day because the amount of milk that they drink in one sitting is probably not going to be as much as if they were drinking a bottle because drinking a bottle is less work. So the solution isn’t to, you know, feed the baby tons more at night if that’s not what you want. The solution can simply be to just make sure that that baby is eating more frequently during the day. That’s all. And then when all is said and done, the breastfeeding baby and the bottle feeding baby can absolutely be taking down the same amount of calories.

Plus, as your baby graduates that newborn stage and becomes a, a smaller infant and older infant for that matter and their stomach size grows, it means that they’re able to take down way more calories during the daytime hours than they could when they were a newborn. So the fact that formula might be digested a little bit more slowly than breast milk really becomes irrelevant by that stage because their stomachs are so much bigger and they can hold so much more food than when they were a newborn. That that little tiny extra advantage that formula might have when it comes to sleep really is just not relevant when you have a baby that is past that six to even 10 week mark of life for sure, by the time they get to that three to four a month mark, the the benefit of formula being digested more slowly and filling you up for longer really is just not the case.

Now I wanna quickly address one more point about this particular topic because I get this question all the time and I think that it’s a really, really important one for me to address. And the question is, Eva, my baby is waking up and not just pacifying back to sleep. She is waking up and legitimately eating multiple times at night. She must be hungry. How am I possibly going to be able to, you know, get her to sleep through the night or sleep eight hours straight when she’s clearly really, really hungry? And then on top of that, isn’t that gonna affect my milk supplier? So let me sort of address this with like a two-pronged here, which again, ultimately will just take us right back to that original conclusion that breastfeeding does not need to get in the way of sleep training, of your little one. Learning how to sleep like a champ that rather you can do sleep training while maintaining that breastfeeding relationship for as long as the two of you would like.

So when you have a baby who reaches that four to five month mark, developmentally and nutri, assuming they are healthy and meeting their growth curve and everything is otherwise totally fine, that baby typically does not need to be eating more than once a night to eat, uh, once a night in that 12 hour period. Um, and then in my experience, by the time that baby reaches that seven to eight month mark, as long as everything is good to go in, in that same department in terms of meeting those milestones, following their growth curve, no issues in that department as well. We can usually wean them off of all of their night feeds, but I get that there can be some hesitation there. Eva, my baby is waking up and clearly starving. I have tried to not feed her. And then when I finally do feed her, she gulps down as if she hasn’t seen food either, uh, hasn’t seen food ever.

I believe you. And I’ll tell you that there is actually a term for what you are describing and the term is called reverse cycling. Reverse cycling basically describes a reverse eating cycle to some degree where you have a baby who is eating more at night and then as a result not eating as much during the day. And then as a result, eating more at night to compensate and then as a result, not eating as much during the day. And then the cycle continues. And so you take your baby to the doctor, doctor weighs the baby and says, oh, beautiful, he gained two pounds, three pounds following his growth curve perfectly. And so medically speaking, there’s no problem here. But from a sleep standpoint, you’re losing your mind. And so the solution does not involve just getting rid of those feeds cold Turkey because clearly your baby needs those calories and clearly your baby is waking up hungry.

Rather, the solution is to gradually decrease the amount that your baby is being offered at night so that he can subsequently begin eating more during the day so that when the next night begins, he’s hungry, but not as hungry as he used to be because he ate more during the day. And then you can offer him a little bit less and then guess what? The following day he’s gonna eat even more to compensate for that. So the solution does not involve just getting rid of those feeds and having your baby, you know, hungry babies screaming they’re brains off. We don’t want that because not only is your baby gonna be hungry, but if you are breastfeeding, like you’re gonna get engorged, you could get mastitis, god forbid, with, uh, that type of approach. And so we don’t wanna be taking that type of, we don’t wanna go down that kind of route.

Instead, what we are doing here is we are offering your baby more during the day, but only after we begin offering them less at night. And then that’s when they’ll begin eating more during the day. And then, you know what will happen to your milk supply, it’s gonna stay the exact same, but rather your body will just simply get used to eating more during the day and then we’ll get used to producing less at night, and then we’ll just continue producing more and more during the day to account for when the demand is. So this is of course, assuming that there are no low milk supply issues here at all. Um, if there is legitimately low milk supply, you’ve had a diagnosis and whatnot, then maybe we’re not going to aim to get your five month old sleeping eight hour stretches. Maybe we would aim to get him sleeping four hour stretches and get in, you know, two very quick night feeds here instead, which I can tell you for a fact is still a heck of a difference in terms of your quality of life from waking up, let’s say five or six times.

So in summary to, you know, sum up everything that we talked about here today, breastfeeding and sleep training can absolutely go hand in hand. If you are a breastfeeding mom and you want your little one to be sleeping like a champ, it does not need to involve weaning your baby off of breastfeeding. It does not need to involve giving your baby a bottle if your baby is not taking bottles. And if you don’t want to introduce a bottle, there is good reason as to where this myth and misunderstanding comes from. But the reality is that a bottle does not contain sleepy potion here. Breastfeeding to sleep and bottle feeding to sleep can create the exact same problem. And that for both of these problems, the solution is to simply remove the feeding from the sleep completely and begin sleep training not removing breastfeeding completely. You can breastfeed your little one for as long as you would like while teaching your little one healthy sleep habits and how to sleep through the night like a champ.

Now, if you want more information on how you can get started gradually or not, you gradually weaning your little one from night feeds that you know are just not necessary, I am going to link a free night weaning guide that I’ve got for moms that are both breastfeeding and bottle feeding. That can take you through exactly what you need to do to get your little one either sleeping through the night or sleeping nice big chunks of sleep so that you can feel like a normal functioning human again. So check out that link in the show notes. That is about it for today, everyone. I hope you all have a great day. Take care.

Thank you everyone for listening, and I hope you all have a wonderful day. Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, leave a review and share this episode with a friend who can benefit from it. I also love hearing from my listener, so feel free to DM me on Instagram at my sleeping baby or send me an email at Until next time, have a wonderful restful nights.

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