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Are breastfed babies 'normally' bad sleepers?

Discussion in 'Parenting' started by wormburger, Jul 1, 2011.

  1. Apologies for the contentious title, hopefully it grabbed your attention and you can help me!
    I have breastfed my LO exclusively for nearly 10 months. Partly because I have found it easy and also because when we tried with bottles (admitedly not that forcefully!) she wouldn't go for them. Basically, what I'm saying is it wasn't really a conscious decision, or something I felt particularly strongly about.
    However, LO has never been a good sleeper. She has had the occasional bout of sleeping through for a week or so, at 5 months, 6 months and 8 months - but that last time was only because we tried controlled crying on the advice of a health visitor. Each time, something has happened to disrupt sleep again - holidays, colds, chicken pox, ear infections - and we've ended up back to square one with her waking several times a night and me feeding her back to sleep.
    We are at our wits end, and I found myself in tears this evening when my OH suggested that maybe she was waking up because my milk was rubbish and wouldn't sustain her through the night! Those weren't his actual words, but that was the basic message I took. I think my MIL has been on to him that LO won't sleep until she's on formula, but as she's so near a year old, I don't think there's any point trying out different formulas and bottles until we find one she goes for. My intention is for her to have cows milk from a beaker when she is one. In my opinion, she is waking out of habit and feeding as it's the only way she knows to get back to sleep.
    Apologies for those of you who have read my rants on this before, but is there any truth in the idea that the quality of milk declines the longer you feed? And are there any breastfed babies out there that sleep through?!
  2. Chica77

    Chica77 New commenter

    Hahaha! Wish someone had told my son that. He was mix fed for 10 weeks then just on formula and he has never been a good sleeper! He is 2 now and still occasionally wakes in the night for milk. He doesn't eat much though, so that could be something to do with it.
    My daughter is 7 weeks old and is also mix fed, at first i BF her loads but now not so much, and she sleeps pretty well already (although i've no idea if that will last).
    I think all babies are different no matter how you feed them, and some are good sleepers and some aren't and there isn't much you can do about it.
    I assume she eats food now? Could you give her a late snack that will fill her up? That's what i'd have tried with my son but he wouldn't really eat!
  3. I'd say it was probably more the fact that she has been so poorly and her routine has been disrupted so now she wants milk in the night out of habit. Cuddle to comfort and try not to offer milk- maybe offer water in a cup or ask OH to step in to settle her in the night as he won't smell of your milk. Do make sure she's eating enough yoghurt/cheese sauce etc in the daytime but you definiteley can sustain babies on breastmilk as well as food by this age! Like Chica says, some babies sleep well and others don't- mine (touch wood) sleeps like an angel most of the time and she was mainly bf. Don't give up if you don't want to because you feel you're not giving her enough sustenance. I stopped at 10 and a half months (was only doing one feed per day at that point though, and two bottles) because I had just had enough but I agree that there's little point trying to introduce a bottle now- we're thinking about how to wean ours off the bottle now at 17 months, haha! You wouldn't have that problem if you went straight from breast to cup. Don't be despondent!
  4. princessmelody

    princessmelody New commenter

    IMO when babies are really tiny ff ones sleep longer (as in 5 hrs rather than 3) as the formula fills them for longer. However, my LO (6 months) has slept through (at first 9-5, now 7-7 ish) with no wake ups since 11.5 weeks. Had the odd night where he's woken and I always fed him back to sleep. My friends who have bf vary. One was waking every 2 hrs for a feed at 6 months, the other started sleeping through at 4 weeks. If I were you I'd offer more boob in the day but I certainly don't think it's your milk quality. Apparently your milk is a better quality at night. Another theory I heard is that babies like feeding at night as there are no distractions. You could try giving water at night to try and break the wake up habit. Don't feel pressured into making a decision that you may resent later.
  5. By 10 months formula will make no difference what so ever as lo is already on solids which fills them up more than formula would anyway. So if you want to avoid it that's fine.
    Have you tried co-sleeping? I know that not everyone likes it but it really helped me get more sleep while lo was/is waking for milk. I would say it's probably the illnesses that have disrupted your routine, it was definitely illness for us. The hormone that regulates milk supply is higher aroung 2-3 am apparently so a lot of babies wake for milk then. At 10 months my lo had decided to "reverse-cycle" so she wouldn't drink any milk from 7am - 6pm and then feed every 3-4 hours over night. Now at 16 months she sleeps 7-7 unless she's ill or teething, which still happens a reasonable amount, but less than it was.
    My sil formula fed both her boys and they still wake up through the night at 3 and 4 years. They don't get milk any more but they need the loo, need a drink, need a cuddle, etc. They all sleep through (or stop disturbing us anyway) when they are ready, and you can force the issue with cc or something similar, or you can just go with the flow and let lo decide when they will sleep. It's your decision which one you choose. I chose to do cc with my eldest (now 11) when she was 18 months, and hated every minute of it but I have to admit she stopped disturbing me after 3 nights. With lo who is 16 months we've decided to go with the flow, and it's been much less stressful but took much longer to get decent amount of sleep.
  6. hhhh

    hhhh Star commenter

    Different theories about it, as you say milk alone isn't enough after 6 most people say, but it's really what's best for you, as some people do find that formula helps them sleep better at least in early days, but don't know if it will make a differnce now. You could give it a go. Certain brands of formula, according to mum talk at groups, make them sleepmuch better than others...up to you if you wana try. Again according to real mums, real experience, not science, some milks are no better than breastmilk at making them feel full and sleep, but others work for some people. Do what feels right for your family
  7. I've 6 children and breast fed 5. The older ones slept through the night pretty quickly(from about 2-3 months) but the little two seem to be taking their time doing so. They're presently 22months and 8 months. The 22 month old has just started to have the odd full night over the last 2/3 weeks. The 8 month old generally wakes twice to be fed.

    I'm of the mind set of going with the flow, the idea of cc etc. fills me with dread. If I'm really tired I just bring them into bed with me. It's whatever you're happy with and works for you and yours x
  8. My daughter has never been a really bad sleeper and she is breastfed... She does wake up once in the night- I think for comfort though. She slept through at about 6 weeks, too good to be true as it didn't last.
    I think a lot of wake ups tend to be out of habit rather than need but it is really hard to get out of that habit, especially when you are tired, sleep deprived and half asleep- a feed solves everything. I also bring her into bed as it saves my sanity if we ever have a bad night.
    It works for me fine as, at the moment, I am not tired and am perfectly happy- which is where you need to take your cues from. If you are happy, no matter how unconventional, there is no need to change.
    I don't think formula is a magic answer though.
  9. In my opinion you are right, it is habit and nothing to do with the milk. If she was waking once at night for a feed then maybe you might think it was hunger, but at 10 months babies would not need a feed several times per night even if breastfed.
    We have found controlled crying works really well (our LO was waking every hour at one point and I was verging on psychosis!) but you have to apply it consistently so if you change back to feeding to sleep when they are teething etc then they will think they need that prop. It sounds mega harsh but I would persist with the CC even if baby is teething. For months we thought that this is why LO wasn't sleeping but he has had terrible times with his teeth during the day recently but slept perfectly at night (sometimes with a little calpol when putting him down). If they are poorly they really need sleep to recover so, whilst some people may think it is cruel I would still allow them a short resettling period before going in (5-10 minutes) as it may mean they sleep better and therefore get better quicker.
    I think it is impossible to get through a period of more than 2 weeks without some sort of illness/teething issue and the CC only really works if you keep going with it. It took us about a month before there were no tears before bedtime and now wake-ups (despite him having a horrid cold and teething) are extremely rare.
    Obviously if you are happy to carry on feeding to sleep then that is fine, but you may have to tackle this issue later on down the line.
    If you really don't feel comfortable with CC then there is a method called gradual withdrawal, which is supposed to help break sleep associations but you don't have to leave your baby to cry, there is loads of info about it on the net.
    I hope this helps.
  10. lucchese

    lucchese New commenter

    I totally sympathise that it is hard but I definitely would ignore people trying to tell you that formula will work at this stage. Like others have said, there is nothing wrong with the quality of breastmilk (quite the opposite), and nothing wrong with continuing to nightfeed as long as you can still cope with it. My LO would wake up 2-3 times a night until 13 months and I fed him each time back to sleep. I did half-heartedly try a couple of times not to feed him, the first time around 7 months and the second around 11 months, but he wasn't having any of it and would scream for 2 hours, it was heartbreaking, so I didn't persevere as I couldn't take it. Then at 13 months I had to nightwean him as I was in the early stages of pregnancy and couldn't cope with nightfeeding as well as dayfeeding. The combination of being more determined and him being ready meant that on the second night he was sleeping through and on the nights he did wake it was much easier to calm him without resorting to feeding. I was extremely lucky that my inability to carry on coincided with him being ready. I definitely wouldn't have been able to go through with it as a result of other people's pressure, I could only do it when I felt absolutely ready and convinced I was doing the right thing. Good luck x
  11. Thanks everyone, all your posts make me feel much better! I definitely felt like I was a rare creature for still bfeeding at 10 months and for still feeding to and back to sleep!
    We were away at the weekend and she slept for 9 hours solid, sods law!

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