Why Nursing Your Baby To Sleep Is Normal

By: Sabrina Granniss, IBCLC


6 min

Have you been told that nursing your baby to sleep will spoil your baby? Maybe someone suggested it would create a bad habit and encouraged you to try to get your baby to fall asleep another way. There are many products and services on the market, with new ones popping up all the time aimed at being attractive to parents, promising more sleep for you and longer stretches of sleep for your baby. Many myths are circulated about infant sleep. Nursing your baby to sleep is normal, so let's bust some myths and reveal the facts about nursing your baby to sleep.

Truthful Tip: A 5 hour stretch of sleep is considered sleeping through the night for your baby. Babies naturally wake to feed during the night until around age 2 years old. They may not wake completely, but rather roll over and nurse and roll back over all while mostly still asleep. It is sometimes called a Dreamfeed.

The truth is breastfeeding your little one to sleep is one of the easiest ways to help your baby fall asleep. You may even find it helps you fall asleep thanks to hormones released when you nurse your baby. Nighttime nursing and breastfeeding your baby to sleep has many advantages. Sure, it can sometimes be tiring, no pun intended, but it is natural for babies to breastfeed to fall asleep, full on your milk, and comforted to sleep.


They will start to depend on sucking to sleep and won’t be able to fall asleep any other way.


The action of sucking and its rhythmic pattern helps calm a baby’s nervous system helping them get ready for sleep. There are hormones in your milk that help your baby fall asleep. Babies do not have their internal clock working quite yet. Breastfeeding to sleep helps develop their internal clock. Melatonin increases in your milk when it becomes dark outside. (1) Not only does it help your baby fall asleep when they wake to feed in the middle of the night, it helps them fall back asleep faster and stay asleep for longer. Your baby’s internal clock develops over time. They produce very little of their own melatonin during the first 3 months of life. It begins to increase and peak around age 3 years old. (2)


Breastfeeding your baby to sleep is a bad habit and can lead to dependency on you to fall asleep. 


Babies rely on you for comfort. They cannot regulate their emotional states on their own or be independent. Self-regulation development begins around 3 - 4 months old but does not fully develop until 3 years old. (3)

Breastfeeding delivers the comfort your baby needs to feel safe and secure to fall asleep. Babies sleep differently than adults. Babies do not fall into as deep of sleep and, therefore, wake more often than we do. This protects the mom’s milk supply and helps your baby gain weight. Prolactin levels are highest during the middle of the night, and your baby’s sleep cycle matches that natural circadian rhythm. Milk removal when prolactin levels are naturally highest helps determine your overall supply. This is super helpful as your baby gets older and is more distracted during the day and nursing for shorter periods of time. They make up for the missed feeds during the night, and milk removals in the middle of the night create your daytime milk production.

Just like your baby will outgrow diapers and grow out of crawling someday, they will also grow out of needing to fall asleep while breastfeeding and eventually grow out of breastfeeding.


Breastfeeding my baby doesn’t allow anyone else to feed the baby, making it harder for them to bond with the baby.


Feeding is not the only activity to be able to bond with the baby. While it is true another person may not be able to feed the baby when the mother is exclusively breastfeeding, there are other nurturing ways to bond with the baby. Infant massage is one way to spend time with a baby, helping them relax, communicate with lots of eye contact, and create a strong bond. While the other person is spending time with the baby, it gives the mom a little break and time to rest and restore. More ways to spend quality time with the baby are wearing the baby in a sling, taking a bath together, playing, singing to the baby, going for a walk outside, or lying down next to mom and baby while breastfeeding.


The baby is using me as a pacifier to fall asleep.


Breastfeeding is not just about calories. Babies are hardwired to connect and attach to their mothers not only for food but for comfort and protection. Each time they get milk, even if it is just a small amount, it helps keep your supply robust and delivers calming hormones to your baby to help comfort and calm them. 

A pacifier can actually interfere with breastfeeding. Babies have a high need for sucking. If given a pacifier in place of breastfeeding, they may miss out on calories they would be getting if allowed to pacify at the breast. Over 24 hours, when pacifiers are given, it can reduce the number of times your baby nurses, which can impact your milk supply and lead to less weight gain. (4)

Sucking on a pacifier shapes the baby’s mouth differently than breastfeeding does. During breastfeeding, the baby’s mouth is filled with breast tissue that presses into the roof of the mouth. The palate spreads, grows wide, and is drawn down away from the nasal cavity. This is essential preparation for when their teeth come in. There will be plenty of space with their wide jawline for teeth to not be crowded. With regular pacifier use, their palate is more likely to remain high because the nipple is more narrow and doesn’t fill the mouth or offer the same on the palate as the breast.


Breastfeeding to sleep spoils the baby.


It is impossible to spoil your baby. Their brains are not fully developed, and they cannot manipulate or trick you. They can only try to express themselves to meet their biological needs for food, comfort, and protection. If they ask to nurse more often, it is likely due to a need for extra comfort, which is common when they are about to have a physical or emotional growth spurt, or maybe they are teething or not feeling great, so they need extra snuggles and breastfeeding time. Being able to lay down next to mom and breastfeed is just what they need to help regulate their nervous system and get back in balance.


Breastfeeding the baby to sleep has a high emotional toll on the mother.


Most mothers feel amazing to be able to provide milk from their bodies to sustain their baby’s life and see their baby thrive. When the mother does not feel supported, it makes her mothering even harder. She may begin to view breastfeeding as harder. When a mother feels supported, breastfeeding continues longer than when she feels less support. When we care for the mother, she is empowered and better able to care for her baby. 

Mothers who breastfeed their babies for comfort see their bodies as powerful and amazing, a perfect place for their babies to get the comfort, attention, and food needed to fall asleep peacefully and grow well. Laying down to nurse your baby to sleep can be a moment for you to simply enjoy your baby and get a little extra rest yourself. You deserve it because the job of parenting and breastfeeding is a 24-hour-a-day, 7 days a week tiring yet incredibly gratifying job.

Nursing your baby to sleep is normal and beneficial for you and your baby. Contrary to myths, breastfeeding to sleep does not create bad habits or dependency issues. It helps your baby develop healthy sleep patterns, provides comfort and security, and strengthens the bond between you and your baby. Embrace breastfeeding as a beautiful and natural way to nurture your baby to sleep. 


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I love this!
Legendairy Milk replied:
❤️ 🙌


Although I’ve heard of most of these facts and myths, I never knew about the 5 hours = sleeping through the night! My babe is almost 17mo and I’m already getting the “aren’t you going to wean her?” questions. This email will help me prepare some insightful answers, thank you!
Legendairy Milk replied:
We’re so glad this information will help you educate those around you! ❤️ You’ve got this!

Kassandra M.

I think it’s fine if you don’t nurse your baby down. When I nurse my six month old down he only sleeps for a few minutes and wakes back up. Either that or I have to hold him for him to stay asleep. It’s exhausting for me. I sleep trained him and wake him twice a night for feedings. EVERYONE in our home is sleeping so much better. Do what works for your family.
Legendairy Milk replied:
❤️❤️ We’re so glad to hear you have found what works best for you!


I’ve been feeling guilty about breastfeeding my baby to sleep because of what others have said, things I’ve read, etc. This article validated and reassured me in so many ways. Thank you!


I’m so happy to see this article. I’m always so happy to get home from working a 12 hour shift that I almost feel guilty sleeping with my baby on me all night long because I know the recommendations for babies to sleep alone on their back in a crib. But after 14 hours away from my little guy, I just want to hold him and nurse him and make sure he knows his mommy is there for him.

Catherine Donosa
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