Guest Author - Nicki Heskin
Even among breastfeeding advocates, there is always some debate over whether or not it is a good idea to nurse children to sleep, especially for naps. Personally, I am a fan of nursing for naps – for the technical reasons why see my article on Breastfeeding and Naps . Many parents worry about setting bad sleep habits if they nurse babies and toddlers down for naps.
In my personal experience that nap habits and sleep habits can be totally different – the reality is that kids know the difference. Nursing a child down for nap does *not* generally mean you will also need to nurse them down for bed, or vice versa.
For myself, I weaned my first child from her naptime feed around 14 months, because my husband was available for two weeks over holiday break to put her down for nap instead of me, which seemed a good way to do it (I do *not* subscribe to leaving a child to cry in a crib, so what little weaning my daughter did not do on her own, we did by "sending in dad."). We did it because we thought we *should* -- but then I spent the next two years often arguing her down for her much-needed nap, a largely miserable experience.
With my second daughter, I nursed her down for her nap until she stopped napping between 2 ½ and 3 years. When it became difficult to transfer her from falling asleep on my lap into her crib without waking her, I altered the routine to laying down in my bed and nursing there and then slipping away once she is asleep (note that she was old enough by that point to safely sleep in my bed.. for a younger baby, this could be accomplished by placing a mattress, mat or pad on the floor). For bed, she nurses in the family room and then goes back to brush teeth, read a book, and then go in her crib for a song before falling asleep there.
I am not concerned about creating a "bad habit" with nap, because nap will eventually go away. And I am spared the daily battle over going to sleep. Occasionally she resists, but can be redirected by fetching her baby or blanket from her crib to bring to my bed. And she looks forward to our special nursing time enough to make the nap "worth it" to her. All and all, I wish I had done it that way the first time.
This is not to say that my way is the *answer* for napping. Each child is different and even more exasperating, what works seems to change over time. But my advice would be to not discount long-term nursing at naptime as a viable solution (incidentally, when I am not home, my husband is able to get her down using the sleep routine… it just takes a little longer).
Naps are important, and one of the somewhat rare times, I believe when moms have the freedom to truly use "whatever works" because naps are not a permanent issue. If desired, breastfeeding can be an excellent tool for this purpose.
Looking for good books on baby sleep? Here's two of my favorites:
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