Comfort sucking and feeding to sleep

I am being told by breastfeeding counsellors that it is normal and healthy that my baby needs a breast to sleep and sucks for comfort as well as hunger. This may be true but she is 7 months and it's not working for us. I feel at breaking point. She is inconsolable when she's tired and my breast isn't immediately available. She wakes many many times a night and can only get back to sleep with my breast. I can't do anything without the sound of crying in the background the whole time and it has really started to affect my mental health. Think separation anxiety for baby has made this worse. Tried dummies, and many many other ways to soothe her, with no luck. Please does anybody have any advice? X

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16 Replies

  • You're doing a fab job and being a great mummy. Do you do lying down feeding? If not look it up, it really helps with night feeds. Does she take a bottle? Could you give her a bottle of formula before bed? Formula fills them up more, so if you're not coping with what sounds like continuous waking for breast milk and comfort (which I couldn't cope with that's for sure), it might be worth a try. My lg, now nearly 3, always had a bottle before bed, but breastfed the rest of the day. My lb, 11 months, is ebf and he was waking twice in the night from around 6 months and it became a habit, which I had to break just recently because it was exhausting me. He would refuse to sleep in his cot, wake and scream at me until I fed him, I would try to console him and my husband would say "just feed him" anyway to be cruel to be kind, we were all ill with a horrible cold and my husband moved into our spare room. While he was there I did one feed at a time, when he woke for the first one at 12:30 I tried to console him and talk to him that I was there but he wasn't going to get any milk, he screamed at me, so I put him in his cot and left him for about a minute (the longest minute of my life), he screamed and screamed, I picked him up and offered reassurance and cuddles and told him he could have mummy cuddles in mummy's bed if he snuggled in and went to sleep. He screamed, so I put him back in the cot, this time for two minutes, I did the same thing a couple more times and then he snuggled in bed with me and went back to sleep. I repeated the process with the 4:30 wake up, it took two or three nights for each one. I hate hearing my baby cry so it hurt me, but he now sleeps in his cot and some nights through the night without waking at all!

    I don't know if that would work for you, but it was the only way I could carry on being a good mum the rest of the day, especially looking after a preschooler as well. He worked out that he preferred a cuddle to nothing and that was all he was going to get.

    Is she teething? Does she nap well during the day? Keep going, you're doing great.

  • Hi Winnie, thank you for your thoughtful and detailed reply. I do feed lying down, to be honest if I could just co-sleep the whole time, this would enable us all to be more refreshed. The problem is that , she is a TALL/LONG girl ... wearing 12-18 or 18-24 month clothes even though only just 7 months. So our bed just isn't big enough for the three of us!! I often fall asleep when feeding her lying down, but this means me and my partner wake with a bad back, she wacks him in the face with her gangly arms, etc etc. So when I wake up an hour or so after taking her in the bed, I try to put her in her cot. But she was cosy in our bed and kicks up a real stink. Sometimes I can shush her back by stroking her head but she's awake 30 minutes later for more cuddles and boobies. The same goes for the little bit of controlled crying that I have tried ... or giving her water and things like this. She gets so upset that my partner gets no sleep and he moans and I feel under pressure to 'just feed her' as you say. So this undoes all my hard work and all of her tears have been for nothing as I feel forced to give in. Maybe the answer is that I need to put a mattress in the living room for my other half to sleep?? Then I can get on with trialling all these methods to help her sleep. I do also think that teething often plays a part. She is much more easily woken than usual. She also had a cold 2 weeks ago but has been left with a really mucusy cough and bubbly snot at the back of her nose ... this seems to wake her also. But if she is in the bed with us, the snottyness doesn't bother her as much, she just grabs my boob and goes back off to sleep ...

  • It is normal behaviour for a strong willed breastfed baby but it's exhausting. If she is eating solids try yoghurt before bed time or a cereal (or anything she will take!) of some type to fill her tummy to eliminate hunger. She may be having a growth spurt so this may help. However I suspect it's become a habit and when my first did the same I co-slept with them just so I could get the extra sleep and they had full time access to the breast as it was driving me nuts. After a few weeks when I felt ready for battle I then just shortened every feed and kept a beaker of water with me which I then alternatively offered (one time breast milk then next only beaker). I had a very angry baby at water time but she eventually stopped waking up frequently, just once at around 12.30 which I could cope with. She's 12 now and still a strong willed little madam! When my others did it (I have four) I sent dad up as I knew I would give in and he has nothing to give and no milk smell. He didn't enjoy it but babies soon realised the was nothing on offer and this stage passed quicker than with the first. You are doing very well and don't worry about what counsellors say, you do what feels right and best for you even the unthinkable, spend a night away, catch up on sleep. Little one will be cross but fine and you will be mentally far better and will enjoy baby more. When crying got real bad for me I used to put on the T.V. With subtitles and watched a favoutite show, only way I could tune it out. Hope this helps and you both feel better and work it out.

  • Thank you for your advice here. We are going away to Australia to see my dad, when I get back perhaps I will feel ready for the battle if partner is willing to sleep downstairs. Tv with subtitles is a great idea. Something to take my mind off of the crying while she inevitably protests about the lack of boob. A night away would be heaven, but it wouldn't be fair on whoever had her ... the inconsolable tears are truly inconsolable. I left her with grandma for 2 hours a few weeks ago and was asked to leave the meal immediately because she was in a real state of distress!! Funny thing is that during the day I can often get her to sleep by rocking her in her chair. Sometimes she self-settles in the day. At night anther story!!

  • With my oldest we were advised from the health visitor that there is no nutritional benefit to night Feds from 6 months and to offer water for a drink. It didn't work very well tho and in the end resorted to controlled crying. It was tough going but worked for us. Only took a few days and he wd sleep through and get him self to sleep. It was hard but worth it for my own sanity. There are various techniques you can try, have a chat with your health visitor or look on google to see what works best for you

  • Thank you Steffi. It is reassuring to know that health-wise she will be fine without milk in the night. Sometimes I feel doubtful an think 'maybe she really does need this feed?!'. So thank you for this xx

  • Health visitor often say this but actually many babies do need a drink in the night in the way that an adult might and there is no way that I would deny that to my child. Unfortunately all HV are not always well trained in bf either. Babies often just need a quick feed to get back to sleep It sounds like co-sleeping is your best bet until she starts to go longer in between feeds. They might not starve but it doesnt mean emotionally they dont need it or they are just a bit thirsty in the way we may be.

    I recommend the elizabeth pantley no cry sleep solution book for helping breast fed babies go back to sleep without resorting to tears which will be less stressful for you too.

  • I have this book, I don't know about 'No Cry' but certainly was a gentle option when compared to other techniques (I think I have done them all now to sleep coach!) x

  • Hi Hun, I can relate to this and I had to sleep train/coach and gently wean Archie to settle without the breast one feed at a time and used a gentle withdrawl approach and I have prob tried all sleep coaching techniques too so when you back from Oz am happy to talk to you about it xx

  • Dear Claire and CheekyMonkey. thank you for your thoughts on the (nearly) no-cry approach. I may purchase this book and give it a go. I have no problem if little one needs a feed/drink from me once or twice a night. However when she is waking so many times even she is not refreshed in the morning, so I would like to help her learn to only ask for milk if she needs it, or to soothe herself SOMETIMES even if when she is upset she still needs her mumma. Anything is better than where we are at now. xx

  • How does she settle to sleep at night? Or naps?? X

  • hmm in the daytime, she has this little vibrating chair. Usually I can feed her up until she's sleepy, transfer her to the chair and put the vibrations on ... rock that with my feet for 5 or ten minutes and she goes off. Or out in the buggy or the car - if it's timed right she has no trouble falling asleep in those. At night, we have a little routine of bath, pyjamas (whilst singing 10 speckled frogs), booby in bed lying down. Usually I have to let her fall completely asleep on the breast and then transfer her to the cot - she will wwake up slightly when I transfer her but usually if it's a good day I just shush her back for 30 seconds. Sometimes she finishes feeding then looks at her hands for 5 minutes before falling asleep next to me. I tried transferring her to the cot at this sleepy stage a few times but resulted in too many tears. In the middle of the night if she wakes, I will feed her and then she will often go back in her cot no problem only to wke again 30 minutes later ... sometimes I can rock her back if this happens but often only booby works. Come 3am on many nights she is waking every 30 minutes or so until I give in and take her into co-sleep. xx

  • I should add that daytime naps at home always require a booby to get her sleepy, even when I know she's already completely full up on milk. Or some very rigorous and extensive rocking used to work but has stopped working recently. So like my mum had her for an afternoon because I had to go into work for a few hours - she doesn't know how to get sleepy without a booby so she just howled the whole time despite rubbing her eyes for sleep. At night, usually I get hr down completely by 8:30 -She ALWAYS wants feeding an hour or so later as I think she needs to fill up a bit more maybe? Then goes back down no problem. Again 2.5 hours after that - back down no problem. But it's after the 3am mark that I cannot get her back down in the cot aftr her feed - just constantly waking up every few minutes until I take her into bed with us!!

  • Booby and you are def her sleep associations and as she is of an age now where you can put in gentle withdrawl methods to start to sleep coach I would start to think about what how and when you want to do it. Elizabeth Pantley does talk about de latching before the child falls asleep, at first of course they reroot but you just keep at it, you should get to point where she might let go herself, I remember Archie did, then you start to have the opportunity to lay her down drowsy awake then think about how you will tackle sleep, maybe gradual retreat is a good place for you to start as she gets so upset. This worked for me but like with everything I have done with him, we have illness or teething and it's 1 step forward 2 steps back....I have also done Controlled Timed Crying but he was nearer a year when I did this, I was in such a sleep deprived state and returning to work I needed things to change.

    I still have bad nights 18 months on but have many tricks up my sleeve now and use the best one for any given situation.

    There is no quick fix, it is going to be tough making changes, I am still BF just the 6.30am one but have come from where you are now and we all feel a little more refreshed most days.

    Happy to talk about my experiences with you more, just give me a shout.

    Kerrie X

  • My bubba is 5 months and won't go to sleep without booby. He has to be asleep before I can lie him down or he will scream and the only thing that will send him to sleep is booby. I don't know how to break this cycle as he will literally scream the house down. X

  • Hi Kate, this is a common problem I have learnt. My girl is 8 months and is now showing promising signs that she's growing out of it slowly, slowly. Personally I have decided to continue to make her feel as safe and secure as possible, so if she really is needing boob to sleep then I am still giving it to her, but I am trying her with a dummy now and then, seeing what happens if I put her down half awake, etc. no real breakthroughs yet but I will keep trying. Hope you have some success also. Xx

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