Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sleep & Weaning

Gradually over the past few months, Sprout has stopped falling asleep while nursing. It used to be the fail proof way to get him down, but these days, unless he's really exhausted, it calms but doesn't knock him out. For a while this meant putting him in his crib awake, where he would alternate playing, babbling & crying for up to two hours. We'd take turns going in to calm him down several times before he finally succumbed to sleep.

Bit by bit the time needed to get Sprout to sleep has decreased. Most nights lately he has been wide awake when I lay him in his crib, but he he's gone to sleep in about 15 minutes with hardly a peep & no crying. Thankfully, his naps have evolved in a similar way, though it usually takes a little longer for him to fall asleep during the day than at night.

I guess this is just one more step in baby led weaning. Though weaning is commonly talked about like it's just about breast or bottle feeding, it's so intimately connected with sleep & eating food that you can't really separate them. The first big one for us was night weaning, sleeping six to eight hours without nursing. I think we were there when he was four months or so. Then the introduction of solids to his diet at six months. He's wavered between three & maybe six feedings a day since then, depending on how much I'm away from him, if he's sick or teething or having a growth spurt.

This is all very satisfying for me that he's just naturally grown out of needing to be breastfed to sleep, whether it was for naps or night time. More than satisfying, it's vindicating: I read a lot about attachment parenting & decided long ago that this would be the way I'd do things: give him what he asks for--be it breastfeeding, sleeping with us some nights, being held more some days--until he decides he doesn't need it anymore.

The sort of 'bottom up' concept that a baby knows what s/he needs & the parent should listen, rather than the other way around is a relatively new idea to the mainstream, I think. My generation was raised by mothers who read Dr. Spock, which was all about the parents & doctors deciding what was best for the child & training the child to act accordingly. This perspective is prevalent enough out there & I have to admit, I sometimes wondered if the way I've chosen to do things might somehow backfire. Part of me was worried Sprout would still need the boob to sleep well into toddlerhood & we'd have to go through an enforced weaning in the end anyway.


  1. Dr. Spock encouraged parents to trust their own instincts when it came to caring for their children.

    1. It's true that Dr. Spock was a progressive voice for his time, but he did still advocate strongly for sleep training & allowing infants to cry it out. Though not so much related to sleep & weaning, but more the concept of parent-driven rather than child-led choices, he was also a proponent of infant circumcision until the 80s.


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