Most breastfeeding mothers soon discover the magical sleep-inducing power of breastmilk.
As your baby sleepily dozes off at your chest, you may begin to wonder if you’re creating a bad habit by nursing your baby to sleep. You may even hear that nursing to sleep should be avoided by relatives, baby trainers and other people offering you advice. With all of this conflicting information, should you feel guilty about nursing your baby to sleep?
Why Babies Nurse to Sleep
There are some interesting scientific reasons why your baby falls asleep while nursing. A study published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience examined three different nucleotides found in breastmilk, and the findings were surprising. The milk you offer your baby changes throughout the day to offer different levels of certain components. This means that in the morning, your baby may receive milk that contains compounds that stimulate activity. At night, your baby will be receiving compounds that induce sleep.
Babies also fall asleep while nursing because breastfeeding offers a safe, warm source of comfort. A baby’s need to suckle is very instinctual and helps your baby deal with stressful or overly stimulating situations.
Is it Bad to Nurse to Sleep?
There’s no evidence that babies who nurse to sleep will not learn to fall asleep on their own. There’s a lot of focus on the issue of “self-soothing”, especially when it comes to nursing to sleep. Basically, it comes down to what you’re comfortable with as a mother. Babies who nurse to sleep will eventually learn to fall asleep on their own. Having the desire to fall asleep without nursing is a developmental milestone that all babies will reach when they’re ready.
However, if nursing to sleep is making you resentful or uncomfortable, it’s okay to work on changing it. Don’t feel pressured to stop nursing to sleep because people tell you it’s a bad habit – instead, pay attention to your baby’s cues and decide if it’s still a comfortable behaviour for your parenting style.
Some great info about comfort nursing and nursing to sleep can be found over at KellyMom.
An aspect of healthy living that many people neglect is the importance of receiving enough sleep. It’s estimated that approximately three out of every four people experience difficulty sleeping on a regular basis, while over forty million people in the United States currently suffer from diagnosed sleep disorders. Getting enough sleep can affect nearly every aspect of our lives, from nutrition to concentration, to general mental health.
Problems a Lack of Sleep Can Cause
There are many health problems that can develop from a chronic lack of proper sleep. Though not necessarily life-threatening, these health problems can have a distinctly negative effect on your overall quality of life. Here are some of the most common conditions that can arise from a regular lack of sleep.
Recently, the associations between lack of sleep and weight gain have been recognized. It’s speculated that not getting enough sleep can disrupt specific hormones that control a person’s appetite. This can cause overeating, excessive hunger, and eventual weight gain. In a recent study, it was noted that people who sleep less than seven hours per night are much more likely to be classified as obese.
Increased Risk of Cancer
Though the associations between development of cancer and a lack of sleep are still subject to debate, a recent study has provided some interesting information. In the Nurses’ Health Study (run by Harvard), it was noted that people who are not sleeping a sufficient amount of hours, or who had irregular sleep patterns were at a much higher risk for developing breast cancer and colon cancer. It’s speculated that this is because disruption of sleep patterns can affect certain types of hormones that contribute to the development of some cancers.
Lack of Concentration
If your body is not receiving a sufficient amount of sleep, this is a major factor in reducing your ability to concentrate on daily tasks. This is the main reason that it’s strongly discouraged for you to operate a motor vehicle when you are suffering from extreme fatigue, as this is one of the major contributing factors in vehicle accidents. A loss of concentration also has many negative effects on your daily productivity, which may affect your performance at work.
How to Get Enough Sleep
The best way to get used to a sleeping routine is to set a specific time each night that you will go to bed. For the first few weeks, you should not compromise this set time for any reason, since you risk disrupting your new sleeping schedule. If you are having problems falling asleep, you can try using natural sleep aids (such as Valerian or Chamomile tea) in order to help you relax. If your sleep problems are derivative from an anxiety disorder, you may have to ask your doctor about being prescribed a low-intensity, non-habit-forming sleep medication. These medications should be used with extreme caution, as it is best if you train your body to fall asleep without additional aid. To help you fall asleep, you may also try using relaxing essential oil sprays to add a light aroma to your bed, pillow and sheets.