I’m often contacted by parents who are worried how their baby will settle when the mother is breastfeeding and can’t be around at sleep time (when the baby usually only settles to sleep on the breast). The following 5 tips can help:
1. Try to prepare in advance. Every time mum feeds to sleep play the same piece of white noise or alpha music (see mine HERE) and snuggle a lovey up to your baby. Also try a couple of drops of baby safe diluted aromatherapy oil on mum’s neck or collar for over 3mth olds. Hopefully your baby will link this music, scent & comfort object with mum and when they are used by dad/other carer the baby will be comforted by the sensory cues.
2. Don’t fixate on giving a bottle to sleep. Just because baby usually breastfeeds to sleep it doesn’t mean they actually need the milk itself to sleep. Often it is about connection. Giving a bottle before the bedtime or naptime routine and *not* expecting the baby to go to sleep with the feed takes the pressure off. Also, many babies will do better with open top ‘sippy’ style cups that they can lap milk from, than a bottle.
3. Have a nap/bedtime routine. Again, one that is practiced lots before the separation. Dad/carer should try to copy the routine as much as possible, doing the same things in the same order – e.g: bath, then massage, then read a certain story book etc..
4. Don’t be afraid to do your own thing. Contradicting myself on point 3! – don’t be worried if this routine doesn’t work when mum is not around. Instead, get creative and find something that works for you. It could be a car ride, a walk outside with the baby, dancing to music with a strong beat, cuddles skin to skin etc. Often dads/other carers find magic ways to get babies to sleep that mums can never copy!
5. Stay calm and nurturing through any tears and reset expectations. It’s unlikely naptime or bedtime will be as calm and easy as it is for mum and that’s OK. Expect tears. That doesn’t mean dad/carer is doing anything wrong, it just means that they’re not mum. It won’t always be like this. Until things change, it’s all about staying calm, deep breaths and holding and comforting the baby through their tears and upset. It is much better for your baby to cry while being held by a loving caregiver, than crying alone in a crib etc.
The NEWLY UPDATED Gentle Sleep Book – out now! If you would like to understand and learn how to improve your baby, toddler, or pre-schooler’s sleep WITHOUT cry-based conventional sleep training, this is the book for you!
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