I want to clear up a myth for you, mama. I’m sure you’ve heard it a thousand times before: “Don’t feed that baby to sleep” or “If you keep feeding her to sleep, she’ll wake up all night”. There’s no doubt that there is some truth to that, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t use feeding as a tool to help your babe sleep, particularly in the earlier stages of sleep training.

baby being breastfed

First things first, what is the ” “Feed to Sleep Association” and why is it bad?

When we talk about the Feed To Sleep Association, we are generally referring to feeding your baby to completely asleep before moving them to the crib. Feeding to sleep, whether it’s nursing or bottle feeding, is a very useful tool for calming a fussy newborn. As time goes on however, and your baby passes beyond the four month mark, they tend to be more aware of their environment which results in an association that can actually cause more problems than solutions.

The reason that feeding to sleep can be problematic, is that as your little one begins to become more aware of their environment they begin to realize that you are no longer there as the transfer between sleep cycles. This in turn causes your baby to rouse, further seeking the comfort of the way they fell asleep.

Often this causes a pattern of mom or dad running in and feeding to sleep over and over through the night, which causes frustration and sleep deprivation, and often leads to pulling baby into the bed to cosleep. Have you been here? Not all is lost. Get in touch today to talk about how to reduce night wakings for your bub! I’d love to help.

Rather than feed to babies to sleep, we want to feed her to drowsy, using feeding as a tool to soothe and relax as part of a pre bed routine. We know that hungry babies don’t settle, and hungry babies don’t sleep well, so ensuring your baby is full prior to placing them down to sleep means that you are giving them the best shot to sleep (and to sleep longer!).

The difference of feeding to sleep and feeding to drowsy

When it comes to helping your babe find their way to a restful sleep, feeding can be a great tool. In fact, it’s often an integral part of bed time routines all the way up until your child is one (or longer). When we use feeding as a tool, instead of feeding all the way to sleep, we feed until almost asleep, being sure to place your baby into the crib drowsy but awake. It doesn’t matter if feeding for you is nursing, bottle feeding breastmilk or bottle feeding formula. The only thing that matters? Routine.

Bed time routines are the single most important aspect of sleep foundations, outside of waking your baby at the same time everyday. Babies thrive on routine and are constantly seeking out patterns in their everyday life. Providing a strong and consistent bedtime routine each and every time you go to place your child down for bed provides strong and meaningful cues on what’s to come.

A strong bed time routine might look something like this:

5:30pm: Optional snack feed
6:00pm: Bath
6:20pm: Dry off, tummy massage, change and jammies
6:30pm: Stories, dim lights, songs
6:45pm: Full feeding
7pm: Into crib, drowsy but awake

As your baby grows, you can start to put some distance between the bottle and placement into the crib, moving stories and eventually even the bath between the bottle and bed. However, when your baby is very young, using the feeding as a tool to prepare your child for bed works really well.

So what is Drowsy but Awake

Oh, the age old saying “Drowsy but Awake”. You’ve heard it 100 times, but what does it actually mean. Drowsy but awake means that your baby is just on the verge of falling asleep, but isn’t quite there yet. It means that instead of allowing your baby to fall asleep while feeding and then moving them to the crib asleep, we are going to keep your little one awake by tickling their toes and rubbing their back, making sure their eyes are open going into the crib.

Drowsy but awake isn’t putting a full alert unprepared baby in a crib and saying goodnight, hoping they just “figure it out”. Drowsy but awake isn’t putting baby into the crib with their eyes closed, hoping they are awake.

When it comes to getting your baby sleep, it can feel so overwhelming. The more tools you have in your belt, the more prepared you are going to be to help your little one drift off to peaceful and restful sleep. There is nothing wrong with feeding your child before bed. In fact, ensuring your child is well fed before they go to sleep promotes deeper and longer sleep – provided they are drowsy but awake when you place them down for the night.

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