Frequent night waking and feeding to sleep
Once your baby is over 4 months and he falls asleep breastfeeding at bedtime you are likely to experience frequent night waking. It’s all to do with the 4 month wonder week and the 4-month sleep regression has hit. Babies need to always be put down for a sleep in the day and at bedtime FULLY AWAKE with their eyes WIDE OPEN.
Baby falls asleep breastfeeding
A baby who feeds to sleep on the breast (or bottle) has the sleeping association of being fed to sleep. Once the sleep cycle comes around again in 40 minutes the same situation needs to be present in order for the baby to fall asleep again.
The science – sleep-inducing tryptophan and nucleotides
Breast milk is really high in tryptophan, the amino acid that helps produce melatonin, the neuro-transmitter helping babies get to sleep and stay asleep.
Melatonin and tryptophan aren’t the only sleep-associated substances in breast milk. Cristina Sanchez and her colleagues note that several nucleotides—like 5’UMP, 5’AMP, and 5’GMP— induce sleepiness or help regulate circadian rhythms (Sanchez et al 2009). The researchers asked 30 women to express their breast milk at several different times of the day. The breast milk was analyzed and nucleotide concentrations in breast milk changed over a 24-hour period. The nucleotide 5’UMP–which has a calming effect–peaked in the middle of the night. And 5’AMP, which makes people feel drowsy, was highest in breast milk expressed in the early night-time.
Suggests kids who consume more tryptophan at breakfast have better sleep rhythms (Harada et al 2007).
Melatonin is found in breast milk in significant amounts in the evening and night hours whereas daytime levels in breast milk are undetectable. This could explain why a breastfed baby would calm down later in the evening and fall asleep at the breast when mum’s melatonin production kicks in.
Stop breastfeeding to sleep
Mums instinctively feed their babies to sleep. They want those little tummies as full as possible to increase the chance of a good nights sleep. Right? Unfortunately no it’s wrong! Babies will suckle forever at the breast and how comforting for a baby to feed and feed some more and fall asleep into milk drunk dreamland. Mums need to take the baby off the breast once their eyes start getting drowsy and closing and the breathing starts to change. EVEN IF YOU THINK BABY HASN’T HAD A FULL FEED. Really! The key thing is baby needs to go down fully awake in the cot.
Feed baby in a dimly lit room at bedtime using a bedside lamp to observe the eyes and breathing. Doing a story, breastfeed, a story can separate feeding and sleeping. Put baby into their sleep suit/sleeping bag after their breastfeed. You want your baby to be awake on going down to sleep and this will help.
During the night
It doesn’t matter so much whether the baby is going down awake or asleep after feeds in the middle of the night. As I mentioned before it’s the bedtime feed and day feeds where the baby must go down fully awake for all naps.