Can You Sleep Train While Breastfeeding?

Can Sleep Training and Lactation Consultants Coexist? 
by Lorna C. Aliperti, APRN, IBCLC
 Lactation consultants often worry that sleep training can compromise breastfeeding by
reducing the number of feedings and compromising the mother's milk supply.
However, using the principles of sleep hygiene can help lactation consultants address
problems which are related to sleep, not feeding method. It is very possible to modify
a baby's sleep routine while breastfeeding. Many breastfeeding moms have
successfully used sleep consultants to help their baby with good outcomes-both on
family stress and maintaining their nursing relationship. Moms have reported that
babies are happier and some feel they have made developmental gains because they
are better rested. Our job is to help all women breastfeed, not just mothers who are
available at frequent intervals day and night throughout the time they nurse.

Modern sleep consultants are not advocates of "cry it out". They learn the biology of
sleep, proper sleep hygiene and developmental stages when appropriate interventions
can help babies sleep more consistently so that mom and baby are better rested.
Rather than sabotaging breastfeeding, they try to work with the lactation consultant to insure that the mothers' supply and the baby's intake are protected. If the lactation consultant and the sleep consultant work together, everyone benefits.

The more accessible breastfeeding is to mothers, the more mothers will breastfeed and the more babies will get their mother's milk. Research shows that although most mothers feel breastfeeding is best, they often reach for formula when they perceive that their lives would be more manageable and their baby happier with formula.
Unless this is tied to true inadequate milk supply including low weight gain, the mother usually judges the need for formula by how often the baby feeds-in particular, at night. Removing barriers to breastfeeding helps mothers continue to nurse their babies.
If we are to achieve the goal of a majority of babies being breastfed, lactation consultants have to be capable of helping women with different family circumstances and with varying breastfeeding goals. We need to distinguish between parenting style and feeding method, and use our knowledge of lactation to help parents succeed in all
circumstances. Breastfeeding doesn't require a parenting style that includes unrestricted access to mom for as long as she breastfeeds. Just as breast pumps and bottles have become commonplace items in the nursery of the breastfeeding mother, schedules for sleep can also have a place. Separation is a fact of life for mothers and
babies to one degree or another as they grow. It is the mother's (and baby's) decision when this will occur and under what conditions.

Breastfeeding is a robust physiological process. Women have been able to nurse their babies through periods of famine, despite separation, when multiple babies and subsequent children are involved. The role of the lactation consultant needs to be that of a nonjudgmental advisor-helping a mother protect her milk supply while working
toward her parenting, career goals and through many phases of her family and life cycle.

Lorna C. Aliperti is a Nurse Practitioner and Board Certified Lactation Consultant who provides home visits to new mothers and babies with breastfeeding problems. She has been a clinical instructor in the Columbia University Women's Health Nurse Practitioner Program, and taught obstetrics and infant assessment there and at Fairfield University. She is the author of an ARCO test preparation book for practical nurses taking their NCLEX certification exam (in press since 2001), and published research on hospital breastfeeding management in the Journal of Perinatal Education. She has also written articles for several parenting publications. Lorna has four children and two grandchildren.

Well Rested Baby is a team of Family Sleep Institute certified sleep consultants that helps families like yours identify, address, and correct their children’s sleep issues. WRB works with moms and dad’s to create customized sleep plans that reflect a family’s comfort level and philosophies. When paired with WRB’s 360-approach, the entire family is set up for sleep success. WRB offers a variety of support packages.ContactWRB today to schedule a consultation or learn more about how we can help you and yours get the sleep you need and deserve.