I want to continue breastfeeding my 6-month-old
Q. Should I change my breastfeeding routine because of what others say?
I am breastfeeding my six-month-old baby and want to continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Every night he wakes up once and if I feed him immediately, he will fall straight back to sleep. In order to minimise disruption to everyone else in the house I feed him in the bed beside me and we all fall back to sleep for the rest of the night. This routine works so well, I’m reluctant to change it. He will go to sleep in the evening in his own cot, so I don’t feel I’m getting him into a ‘bad habit’, so to speak, but I seem to have a lot of peers, some breast feeders, some not, who think what I’m doing is almost sinful! Can you tell me if it’s okay to continue what I’m doing?
Firstly, it is great that you have your little person and yourself in a lovely routine, with a level of independence and a defined place of sleep at bedtime and that your baby is also just waking once for a potentially required feed. Although, the health agenda strongly discourages bed-sharing, as a practitioner and as a breast feeding mum myself, I am aware that this is a very efficient approach, provided it works for you, and also you are making an informed decision where safe sleep is concerned. To that end, I would remind you that in general our beds are not designed with small children in mind, so ensure that it is a firm flat surface with no loose covers and at no time can your child get stuck in gaps between bed and wall and indeed under covers or pillows.
It is not recommended for your child to be placed up high but rather low down with their mouths close to your breast. Naturally, breastfeeding mums envelope their offspring in a typical ‘c-shape’ position and it is suggested that your presence and breathing along with feeding help to regulate your baby. That said, even with a cot we may not always achieve a risk-free environment. With SIDS, it would appear that the largest contributory factor may be smoking. If either parent has had alcohol or drugs, including over- the-counter medication, then bed-sharing should not really be an option. If you are in the slightest bit concerned then a co-sleeping/side car cot may be a good solution for you to consider. This attaches directly to the bed and creates a separate but still close sleeping environment for you and baby.
Bear in mind that if you commit to bed-sharing for any portion of the night, your baby will possibly develop an expectation to sleep with you and at some point you may then have to work on weakening this association when you would like this to happen, but there is not real ideal time to do this.
Once, safe sleep is being observed within an informed capacity, considering the health agenda, then getting enough restful sleep for the entire family unit is of equal importance. What you do right now suits you and I would not allow yourself to change due to ‘peer pressure’.
mumsonline.ie Wolfe, CGSC, MAPSC, is a paediatric sleep consultant and mum of four young children.