Feeding to Sleep Cycle

{Breaking the Feeding to Sleep cycle. A request from “exhausted mumma”}

My son is 11 months next week and I want to start weaning him. We are down to about 3-4 feeds a day currently (and these are to help him sleep). He is on solids and happily eating and he is more than happy to drink water from a cup or sipper (refuses the bottle). He won’t take milk or liquid of any other description, including EBM. My husband is feeling a lack of confidence in putting our son down for the night as he ‘needs’ the feeding to sleep.

How can I break the ‘feeding to sleep’ cycle?

~~~  These are the suggestions from other mums ~~~  Please note that most of these replies are applicable for babies that are older than 6 months.

We are trying the same thing with our 16month… we had a couple of cranial massages which I think helped. we are now down to ONE feed at night before bed where she feeds to sleep and then I let her cry for day time sleep (about 5 mins) without a feed.. Its all about tough love – found it really hard to stop the in-the-night feeds but we got there in the end. I don’t mind the one feed for now but hoping to cut it out shortly.

Don’t give up too easily. Your little man is just learning the new “rules”. I’d say Dad putting him down is good, as he doesn’t have the “equipment” that bub wants so he should learn very quickly that feeding to sleep isn’t happening in the house no more! Maybe you could go for a walk at bedtime, and leave him in Dads capable hands. A 5 or 10 minute squeak of protest will soon become a 2 min, then 1 min squeak and he’ll get the message. Good Luck 🙂

I had to let my son cry himself to sleep, the Plunket nurse told me it’d take 3 days (I didn’t believe it) but it actually worked, as long as you know they’re not hungry, not wet/soiled and are safe then eventually he’ll get it, stay strong and good luck,

I had the same problem. When my daughter was 8 months I had enough and used the verbal reassurance technique (controlled crying) worked amazing and she has slept through ever since. It’s a tough few days to begin with but if u stick to it def works. My friends who have used and stuck to works amazing to. Good luck! 🙂

I changed the bedtime routine, so if he needs a feed give it to him in a different room after tea and before bed so you feel confident his tum is full. I used to read my man stories in a chair then feed him to sleep so to break the routine (he was older though) I fed him in the lounge after his bath, then sat on the floor facing him to read him his stories then firmly put him to bed. Then used sleep training methods to teach him to go to sleep on his own. And of course if anyone else puts him to sleep e.g. daycare, nana, neighbour he always always behaved and went to sleep, it’s only for Mum that he acts up because he knows he can pull at my heartstrings to get what he wants.

I loved feeding my boys to sleep, DD doesn’t always want to which is a little sad. When we decided it was time for us to stop feeding to sleep we used Elizabeth Pantley (http://www.pantley.com/elizabeth/index.html) and Pinky Mckay’s (http://www.pinky-mychild.com/) gentle techniques to change their sleep association from feeding to something else, I found rocking to be the easiest transition. As Jess said there is nothing wrong with feeding to sleep if it works for your family, it is a sleep association just like dummies, music, massage, cuddles etc.

Hi, there sounds like2 issues here – feeding and sleeping and it may be better (and gentler) to focus on one issue at a time (e.g. feeding habits during the day) before trying to tackle both together – especially at the time of night when your 11 month old is tired and not likely to be receptive to change. Consider what you would like to happen at night and try introducing this during the day when a) bub is more settled (versus tired) and b) you have more time and more patience.

If you want to change the routine I would say at 11months old you might want to try BF around meal times instead of naptimes. With a full tummy not needing BF and then try you replacement cue (e.g.: rocking, cuddle, song) before the BF for a couple of weeks, then drop the BF once the other association is made.

My DD was fed to sleep until she was 12 months old when she suddenly decided to wean herself. For a couple of months I had been stressing over how I would stop feeding her to sleep and had lots of comments etc, from the well meaning about how hard it would be. It wasn’t! She was also a bub who never took a dummy or bottle & wasn’t a big milk drinker from a cup. I started to tell that she wasn’t really interested in her before bed feed because they got shorter and shorter so one day I decided to bite the bullet & put her to sleep without it & she was fine. Well that is my story, hope it works out for you 🙂

Elizabeth Pantley’s book is fab we used it as we had the same problem….what worked for us at the beginning no longer worked at 1 1/2……it’s a gentle process and works slower but the outcome is worth it, best of luck.

Sadly tough love is the only way, it sucks but is totally worth it in the end! Good luck!

My daughter is 5 months old – I read about not feeding to sleep and decided RIGHT I am NOT going to do this with my daughter.  I’m going to put her to bed awake so she doesn’t end up feeding herself to sleep until she is a toddler or so…..yea that didn’t work when reality came of having baby here! However having said that since starting up on solids 2 months ago, things have changed, infact the past month in particular my daughter no longer feeds herself to sleep. Only rarely she does feed herself to sleep. I now put her to bed awake and let her either cry it out or she usually just nods off on her on accord. Admittedly I use music to play to her at the moment especially at night time.    Mind you my daughter also is happy to take a bottle of EBM or formula, as she stays over night with her father sometimes, and with my working likewise when I’m not at home.   It takes time to get a new routine into place, my advice is to try and put your child to bed awake with a clean dry bottom, and a full tummy (I instantly give breast after a solid feed), if need be with a nightlight on and pull the door too and if they cry its ok, you can check on them after 10-15 mins or so…. It’s hard at first (I have friends who do the cry to sleep thing, and I hated it at first but its slowly working now). But I’ve heard that your first child is your big learning curve especially if you haven’t really been involved with other babies (i.e., Nieces, nephews, younger siblings etc). And you find with children you may have afterwards your parenting style changes. It’s sad but true.

You just read my mind!!! Am in exactly the same boat! And my son is the same age. He was up 4 times last night with the boobs being the only way he goes back to sleep, I have a 3 yr old girl and also have had to start a part time evening job….beyond tired :o( good luck hun, hope you get your nights back soon.

My daughter is the same age and having same number of feedings. Bedtime routine was changed so that she puts herself to sleep and sleeps through the night now it’s feed, bath, stories, and bed. I give here dummy while reading books and then I turn light out, here head nestles in my neck for a good night hug and rock for maybe a minute then straight into her crib. It’s all about getting them full first then the rest of the routine. It took her 2 days to get the idea and it’s the best advice my paediatrician has ever given us. This is my second so the first was cry it out but this way was great.

We fed to sleep until 7 or 8 months with our first then did sleep school (comforted or half arsed cc) as we had major issues (both of us) it’s not for everyone but it was for us in our circumstances.. With number two I have not “learned” lol because we feed to sleep also. I’d love to hear how other mums have changed this without cc also. I almost feel trapped as I don’t want bub to wake the whole house at night so feed. It’s not a major problem for us but sometimes I wish hubby could give me a night off… Realistically though I am resigned that my kids get to have all of me (exhausted or not) until they decide they don’t need me so much. Tough gig but ♥ being a mum… I hope the op can find a solution that is right for her xx

It can be a hard road, but there are ways to make it easier. If you’re feeding to sleep for his naps as well, that’s a good place to start – especially if he’s a good napper. Choose his best/easiest sleep and start with that one. Give him his usual feed, but in a different bright & interesting place, wake him gently if he’s nodding off, and put him to bed sleepy, but not asleep. Once he’s got the hang of that, do the same with nights. Once you choose a method (and there are plenty here to choose from!) stick with it for a good 3-4 days to give him a chance to come round to it. It will only get easier! Consistency is the key, and they’re a lot more flexible than we give them credit for 🙂

We gave the last feed a bit earlier to have about 10mins of play/reading etc and then bed, it was a really gentle way to move the food away from sleep and then when u put him to sleep u have to find yourself a programme that u both feel comfortable with 🙂

Well done on getting this far, you must have wonderful patience, your little one is lucky to have such a loving mother. Good luck to you no matter what you try, it’s not going to be easy whatever you do so best of luck 🙂

To anyone who uses a cry it out method, have you researched why it works? It is never recommended before 6months, and only by some after that, LOTS of sleep experts have concluded it does too much harm to a developing brain to ever be used

I have had 2 little babies and when my son was a day old and screaming and I was full of hormones I was told I was starving him so I always fed my babies when they demanded. My now 9 month old (2nd baby) wakes several times through the night and I am guilty of feeding her back to sleep. For me I am so tired that it is easiest to do that then I know once she is asleep I can get another couple of hours. Sleep is so precious I can’t lie there and listen to her. My son grew out of it eventually. This is just me and my advice is take what everyone else has said on board but go with what feels right to you- if it isn’t feeling right or natural then it causes you more stress and bubs picks up on this. Other thing- make sure you and your partner agree on what you will do!

‘Tough love’ is not the only way – there is a reason why babies cry, simply because they need us. There is so much research out there about the DETRIMENTAL effects of ‘controlled crying’ – you can wrap it up as pretty as you like, it’s still letting your child scream for YOUR convenience! Sorry, but letting your baby cry for any reason is not ok. I know I’ll get bashed for this, but in my line of work, I personally look at the effects of controlled crying on children, and subsequently as adults. Think of it like this: if you were disabled or elderly (read: helpless adult), and were sick, hungry, dirty, and everyone just ignored you, put you into bed, turned the lights off, and left you until you’d cried yourself to sleep, everyone would think that was completely inappropriate, and you would find yourself in a lot of trouble. Babies/children are just little people, and therefore should have the same emotional rights as we as adults believe that we should have. For OP – what worked for me, when he asked for milk, I’d just rub his back, and sing songs, which really helped me. I’d gradually lengthen the time from ‘bedtime’ to ‘feed time’ – for example, not feed as soon as we go to bed, but read books etc, so keep him distracted. The second he cried for milk, he would be fed, but the time he spent feeding to sleep lessened. He’s 27 months, and still sometimes feeds to sleep 🙂

Me and my partner have only just gone through this. I got told to use the crying technique but the first time was way to hard ending in tears for me. Then we went through different ways of doing it we put him in a different room and did it. And it felt so extreme and did it for two nights. Couldn’t handle feeling horrible so didn’t do it, but the third night he didn’t need me any more. but one little tip that helped so much was, feeding him until he fell asleep in the lounge, then picking him up and putting him over my shoulder and gently stirring him so by the time I put him down in bed he looked around knew he was in bed and feel asleep again

I also used the “Pantley Pull Off” method, worked a treat. From the book “The no-cry sleep solution” but pretty sure you can Google it and it explains it on the website. My twins were a similar age when I tried this too.

I feed to sleep also AND I co sleep because my daughter screams when I put her in her cot. She never used to, but started two months ago at 6 months. I’d like to get her back to bed but everything we’ve tried seems too harsh. She gets very upset when I leave the room, too, so I’m hoping she’ll grow out of it. Is that reasonable or will I definitely need to do some sleep training? Sorry to hijack this thread!

Yes she will grow out of it; if you are ok with co sleeping then I would continue doing what you’re doing. No sense causing stress trying to change things if everyone involved is happy.

If this was me I would address the feeds during the day first, don’t worry about the night feed just yet because that will fall into place.  Try inducing the feed, play, sleep method once a day and carry on with your normal routine then do it twice a day in two weeks.  Babies and toddlers change constantly and you will have to change your routine to their growing body and mind.  I hope this helps and good on you for BF for so long.

I just want say its really reassuring knowing other mums feed to sleep and that it’s normal! Lately I’ve started feeling extremely guilty about the fact my 9month old has to feed to sleep and felt I was doing something wrong since no one seemed to be doing the same and it was something not spoken about. Feeling much better about things now. I wish you the best of luck to breaking the cycle 🙂

My 1st DD was a complete boob girl. I fed her to sleep a lot, and she slept on me a lot when she was little. She won’t drink anything other than water either, so I’ve always made sure she has cereal with milk & yoghurt for breakfast, as well as cheese, since weaning. I think the advice of working on day sleeps first is good. Or feeding him and putting him down sleepy rather than asleep. I did get a bit worried about the feeding to sleep thing, because advice was that it was a bad habit. But it worked for me, and I’m doing it with my newborn because it works!

Just do what is right for you guys. Mine had reflux and fed constantly and would often find myself so tired that bubs fell asleep on me. Often hubby ended up (and still does with number 2 being the same) in another bed. For me that was how I was going to get some sleep!

A recent study showed there were no adverse effects of controlled crying on children but it did result in less cases of depression in parents.

It certainly transformed our lives when bub no 1 was 10 months old, but I think you have to be sure it’s what you really want to do before you start. If not, try one of the other suggestions. There is no right or wrong way! Bub no 2 is 6 weeks old so we have all this to look forward to again.

I think there are about as many opinions as there are parents. My two cents worth is to work out what kind of strategy you want to use (softly softly vs crying for a few nights doesn’t hurt in the long term – often dictated by just how exhausted you are) and then pick a “method” and stick to it – write it down on a piece of paper on the fridge if you have to.

In the end I think as Mum you must do what is right for you, because your health is the crucial for your family’s well being. Sometimes the short, hard road is less painful for everyone than the long controlled one. I think it is just dependent on how totally desperate for a good nights sleep or bit of alone time. I have been really desperate… Good luck. Kia kaha.

I’ve had 3 and had to find a different method each time round. Mum can approach her Plunket nurse to get advise on how to wean, there is a wide variety of great advise that has been offered in other posts here (all work and I’ve probably tried most of them) and there are many other sources to get weaning information from out there If I have learnt anything, it’s this: the method that works best is the one that Mum is MOST comfortable with doing. The first 2 weeks are always the hardest so it’s important to feel comfortable with the method you want to try and also try and find one that is most practical for you and your partner to stick with. Give your chosen method a go for at least 4 days before moving onto the next one if it doesn’t seem to be working (Takes a good few days for bubs to get the idea of the ‘new’ method). And most importantly, hang in there!

The baby whisperer, Sharlene Poole has a great technique for settling babies and I used it on an older baby – she was 14 months old and was still waking at night for a bottle. Having something to replace the feed and keep me calm was the key – it is a great method for those who don’t like to hear bubs cry!

I fed on demand (was lucky that bubs rarely woke at night for feeds) and she fed 4x a day till she was about 13 months-then one day other things were far more interesting and it was only the bedtime feed she wanted. soon she was saying ‘no’ to boobie altogether so not making a fuss about it I started putting her to bed no feed.  First week I got a fair cry, 4months on I MIGHT get a wee cry which has stopped by the time I leave room.  If you’re able to-just go with the flow and don’t stress about it, they know when u do 🙂

My baby boy is 1yo, I have always fed him to sleep despite people telling me it a bad habit… I am now struggling to get him to sleep more than 4hrs at nights (if I’m lucky) coz he just wants Mum. I don’t co-sleep because I find I get even less sleep worrying if I’m going to squish him. I have been trying some of the above mentioned methods… Getting a routine set is working brilliantly… for the first initial bed time. But once he wakes that’s it!!! Last night he slept just over 3hrs after I put him to bed and I just got to bed when he decided to wake… an hour later without boob I finally cuddled him to sleep only to be woken 2hrs later and he wouldn’t go back to sleep til3AM!!! I am exhausted and have been for some time. My daughter was a 7-7 sleeper from 4months old but was bottle fed. It’s tiring and frustrating; I admire all people who cope with this… I’m screaming inside.