Sleep training WITH night feeds. I know this seems like an oxymoron. I mean, isn’t the purpose of sleep training to get your baby to sleep ALL night long? So that YOU AND your BABY can get a good night’s sleep. Isn’t that the dream of every parent on planet earth??
Well actually… it isn’t. There is a population of parents that don’t mind getting up at night to do a feed or two, they just want their baby to sleep well IN BETWEEN those feeds. If this is YOU, then read on!
Sleep Training WITH Night Feeds
Right now your baby may be waking every 1-3 hours all night long and needing a feed or soothing to go back down. If this is you, then the idea of keeping only ONE or TWO night feeds and having a baby that sleeps in longer stretches IN BETWEEN those feeds probably sounds like a DREAM! So let’s talk about who this works for and how to accomplish it.
This is for the parent with a baby that still NEEDS a night feed, but mom is tired of being up ALL NIGHT with a baby who is unable to go back to sleep on his own without a LOT of help from her OR a feed. Feeding all night for soothing purposes brings with it debilitating sleep deprivation that becomes unsustainable and unhealthy over the long term. This is also for the older baby who doesn’t necessarily NEED the feed but IS still waking for it and mom isn’t quite ready to implement a formal plan to drop that feed.
Ok, so now let’s talk about HOW to accomplish better sleep in general. First off, anytime you’re trying to naturally elongate sleep you are going to have to start working towards your baby learning to do MORE of the putting themselves to sleep while you do LESS. This can be done very slowly or more quickly depending on a variety of factors. The main one being how mom is currently coping and what the reasons are for her wanting her baby to sleep in longer stretches. Is she going back to work or does she simply need more sleep for her own physical and mental wellbeing? Both are valid reasons for needing more sleep and needing her baby to sleep better 🙂
There are many moving parts to sleep training and lots to consider. If baby has been bedsharing then I generally recommend moving mom and baby into the nursery onto a floor mattress to get baby out of the parent’s room and into their own room. Continuing to share the mattress will help make this transition easier as baby moves to a new sleep space.
From there we “baby step” towards more and more space between mom and baby (mom may feed on the mattress but then move to the floor or the other side of the bed once baby is fed) while we work on sleep hygiene, daytime routine, full feeds, along with separating feeding from sleep during the day and for bedtime. Again, this can be done very slowly or more quickly depending on your baby’s temperament and mom’s comfort level or level of desperation for sleep.
As mom is working on weaning baby off of feeding to sleep and baby begins to become accustomed to falling asleep other ways ( In crib or holding, patting, shushing, singing, etc.) mom may see that night wakings naturally lessen and the need to feed for soothing purposes at every wake up also lessens or completely stops.
Many times formal sleep training isn’t even needed at this point. Simply changing the routines and sleep hygiene practices will go a long way in helping to shape a baby’s sleep patterns in a way that naturally elongates sleep. Then we can see where baby lands, and if that feels sustainable to the parents. If not, then doing a gentle sleep teaching method is the next step to help optimize baby’s sleep.
If it DOES feel sustainable, then as long as mom stays on top of maintaining good sleep hygiene, and making sure she understands her baby’s wake windows so she can avoid overtiredness, she should be good to go for a while! She should then see that her baby just naturally progresses towards sleeping all night on his own. If she sees things start to REGRESS, or baby does not move forward as he gets older, reaching out to schedule a call with me is going to be the best bet to avoid slipping further backward or simply staying stuck when your baby IS developmentally capable of moving forward.
I hope this brought hope to some tired mamas out there and you now have a better understanding of how you can Sleep Train while KEEPING feeds if needed. If you want more info on how this would work for your specific baby and family dynamic, please reach out to schedule a call with me. I am here to educate and empower you so you can achieve the rest you need to be your very best!