Feeding to Sleep?

I’ve gotten into the habit of feeding to put my baby to sleep. I hear that it’s not recommended, but would love to understand why. Thank you!

Answers

  • I guess it depends on how old your LO is? I’m not an expert by any means but if they’re a newborn, I wouldn’t be so worried. When LO gets older the recommendation is to stay away from nursing to sleep to avoid it becoming a habit. I think the concern is that over time they would associate waking up in the night and want to be fed back to sleep.

    This would be helpful when you’re ready to sleep train! In our case, we started to wean our LO at 4 months off of 2 middle of the night feeds to 1! When he started to roll at 5 months, we took the plunge and did the cry it out method and got very lucky. He now sleeps about 11 hours and suffice to say we’re all sleeping better!

    Every baby is different and I’m sure you’ll get into a routine that works for you and the LO.

  • DrMonicaOrdway
    DrMonicaOrdway Member, Expert

    @Astone This is a very common question that comes from the love parents feel for their babies. There are two reasons why it is recommended that babies do not fall asleep while eating.

    The first concern is related to tooth decay. When breastmilk or formula sits on the gums or teeth at night then there is an increased risk of dental caries. It is recommended to wipe down babies' gums before putting them down to sleep.

    The second concern is the increased likelihood that babies who fall asleep feeding will develop a sleep-association to feeding in order to fall asleep. Babies switch from 2 to 4 stages of sleep around 3-4 months of age and if they learn to fall asleep while feeding then the normal 6-10 microarousals that all babies have as they complete each 4-stage cycle of sleep can often become full arousals related to their expectation for feeding (or any other form of parental presence that was their when they fell asleep) in order to fall back to sleep. Notably, this applies to children and adults alike. Have you ever woken up on a couch and woke up acutely aware that you are not in your bed then briefly consider whether to go back to sleep or go to your bed? This is an example of a normal arousal that we all have each night but the microarousal becomes a full arousal when we are in an unfamiliar environment.

    All this said, feeding right before bedtime is not a bad thing, it is recommended that you briefly wake your sleeping baby to wipe down their gums and place them in their crib awake, but drowsy so that they experience their sleep environment in the same way they will experience it when they wake up naturally during the night.