Is BF the enemy of “sleeping through the night”?
How many times have you heard “Is your baby not sleeping through the night? Probably it’s because you’re breastfeeding, THAT’s the problem”, or “Give him some cereal mixed with the milk”???
Well, I have to stop here to say: even though sometimes these “grandma stories” might be helpful, they’re not necessarily the best for the baby.
First statement: Not true. The fact that a baby is breastfed doesn’t mean he’s not going to sleep through the night. The sleep cycle of each child is very different, and some of them take more time; weeks, months, or even years, to get to the point of sleeping the whole night. And that has nothing to do with the fact that you’re breastfeeding your baby or not.
It is true that breast milk is metabolized quicker than formula or other breast milk substitutes, and especially for a newborn that has a tiny stomach, you may feel that the time between feedings is very short. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. And besides, who invented the time feeding schedule (every 3-4 hours)? Us! Nature created babies to eat every time they feel hungry, and that’s every time they feel their tiny stomachs empty. This can be every hour, every two, or every three. As soon as they start growing up, so do their stomachs, so they will be able to metabolize more milk, and thus, stretch the time between feedings longer. Again, nature made this happen, as it made breast milk specially designed for them.
Second, giving cereal to your baby before bed won’t make him sleep better, it rather makes his body work harder to metabolize it. This is particularly important before 6 months old. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends feeding a baby exclusively with breast milk or breast milk substitutes, for the first 6 months, before introducing solids. This recommendation is based on lots of research that has helped the scientific community to come to such conclusion. And guess what? Cereal is a solid food!
I know, you’re probably thinking this is such a common practice. I can tell, even my mother gave me cereal at night when I wasn’t even able to raise my head; and I’m still here, nothing happened to me. But the point here is that science has advanced, so much has been tried and studied since I was a baby, and that’s why humanity can have better quality of life today.
And once again, science brings us to basics, what nature meant for us. It’s here, it’s available, and it’s free.
Lastly, I don’t want to talk about sleeping issues, or techniques, which I rather leave it to the experts of the field. But all this makes me think, why do we have to aspire for our children to sleep at certain hours, or certain amount of time? Why do we keep blaming ourselves for not being able to implement the “technique” we read in that book, or blaming whatever food we gave them for dinner, even when it was our precious breast milk?