As a parent, the question of whether it’s wrong to nurse your baby to sleep may have crossed your mind. In this blog post, I dive into the biological aspects that make nursing to sleep a natural and beneficial practice for both you and your baby.
Sleep-Inducing Hormones in Breast Milk
Evening breast milk contains higher levels of sleep-inducing hormones like tryptophan, serotonin, and melatonin. Tryptophan is crucial for brain development, while serotonin regulates circadian rhythms. Melatonin, which helps regulate sleep-wake cycles, isn’t produced by babies until around twelve to sixteen weeks after birth. Nursing to sleep and during the night exposes your baby to these hormones, promoting comfort and potentially alleviating symptoms of colic.
Proprioceptive Stimulation and Calming Effect To Nurse Your Baby To Sleep
The sucking action during breastfeeding provides proprioceptive stimulation through the muscles of the tongue, cheeks, lips, and jaw. This activates the vagus nerve, inducing a calming effect. Additionally, the sucking action releases sleep-inducing hormones such as cholecystokinin (CCK), contributing to relaxation and sleepiness for both baby and mother.
Nighttime Prolactin Production
Prolactin, essential for milk supply, follows a circadian rhythm. Nighttime breast milk, especially in the early hours of the morning, contains higher levels of prolactin. Taking advantage of this natural occurrence can make nursing your baby to sleep a beneficial and biologically normal practice.
Potential Protection Against SIDS
Breastfeeding at night might offer protection against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The theory suggests that breastfed infants wake more frequently, spending more time in lighter stages of sleep, which could be a protective factor against SIDS.
Sleep Benefits for Breastfeeding Mothers
Contrary to the assumption that nursing your baby throughout the night leads to less sleep, research indicates that exclusively breastfeeding mothers report more hours of sleep, better physical health, more energy, and lower rates of depression. While they may wake more frequently, the nature of their sleep is often lighter, and they tend to fall back asleep faster.
So, as I end this blog, have you answered your question? Are you still asking yourself: Is it wrong to nurse my baby to sleep? In light of these biological reasons, you can now understand why nursing your baby to sleep is not wrong or somehow a bad habit.
Instead, it aligns with the natural rhythms of both baby and mother. If this practice is working well for you and your baby, there’s no need to feel pressured to change it. However, if you find that either you don’t enjoy it anymore or it is no longer working for your baby, then it’s time to make changes. Stay tuned for our next blog, where I’ll explore how to gently transition away from nursing to sleep.
Thank you for reading today’s blog! If you prefer to watch, here’s a video discussing if It Is Okay To Nurse Your Baby To Sleep. In this video, I debunk this question once and for all and walk you through 4 reasons why nursing to sleep is biologically normal.
Make sure to check out my FREE Sleepy-Time Success Checklist to help you optimize your day, so that you can optimize your baby’s sleep at night! It’s a great way to get started in improving your baby’s sleep in a nurturing and understanding way.
You can also join a group of other Mamas just like you in my free group Sleep Deprived Mama’s Holistic + Heart Centered Support and let’s make a difference together!