How to Succeed in Sleep Training While Nursing

How to Succeed in Sleep Training While Nursing


Many parents wonder whether they can continue to nurse while sleep training their baby.

The answer is yes!

You can absolutely maintain an established breastfeeding relationship while encouraging your baby to sleep well and independently through the night.

First, let’s be clear about what is meant by “sleep training.” Sleep training involves helping your little one learn to fall asleep independently (without your help) at bedtime so that they can more easily connect their overnight sleep-wake cycles and sleep longer stretches as a result.

You may also apply this same concept to naps to help consolidate and lengthen naps and ensure your baby is as well-rested as possible throughout the day.

Getting Breastfed Babies Falling Asleep

If you are currently nursing your baby to sleep, this means that the pre-bedtime nursing session is happening at the end of your bedtime routine and likely at the end of your baby’s wake window too. For example, if your 5-month-old baby’s wake window is 2 hours before bed, you may be nursing them at around the 1.75-hour mark.

If this is the case, it is nearly inevitable that your little one will fall asleep nursing. This is because baby sleep pressure (drive to sleep) is high; they get comfy on the breast and fall asleep. (If you need help determining your baby’s ideal wake windows, check out our Better Sleep Bundle!).

To move away from nursing to sleep, you will want to ensure that the nursing session is happening at the beginning of your bedtime routine, about 45 minutes before the end of your baby’s wake window.

When you are transitioning to independent sleep, you want a fully awake (and well-rested) baby during the bedtime routine and upon placing them into their crib.

Other Ways to Get a Young Baby To Sleep

There are many different ways to help a child sleep on their own. Some parents choose ‘hands off’ methods that may involve more crying initially but are generally quick.

Other parents choose more ‘hands-on’ methods that involve more parental presence and intervention and typically take longer to implement. Whatever method you choose, consistency will be essential. (We’ve got loads of different methods, from gentlest to quickest, outlined in detail in The Parent Playbook).

The concept of “night weaning” is entirely separate from the concept of sleep training. That is if you still want or need to keep overnight feedings while sleep training, you absolutely can. Always check in with your baby’s physician to determine the optimal number of overnight feedings for your baby and whether it is appropriate to start to decrease overnight feedings.

Sleep Training and Breastfeeding

If you are currently nursing your baby at night and embarking upon sleep training, you may find that your little one decreases their overnight feedings on their own. This is because they have learned to fall asleep and back asleep independently and prefer to sleep rather than to ask to nurse again.

Remember that your nursing supply is based on their demand – if your baby isn’t demanding as many feedings overnight, your supply will adjust to focus more on daytime feedings.

Many parents also notice that their baby has an increased appetite during the day due to moving away from so many feedings at night (with a better ability to focus on solids, for older babies) – bonus!


I’m exclusively breastfeeding. Can I still sleep train, my baby?

Absolutely, yes!

Regardless of how you are currently getting your baby to sleep, whether you are exclusively breastfeeding, you can still sleep train your baby and protect your breastfeeding relationship and milk supply.

Will my milk production decrease if my baby is sleep trained?

Your breast milk supply will not be negatively affected if you sleep train your baby, as long as you continue to feed on demand throughout the day.

Your supply will adjust to their demand (typically, more feedings during the day versus night). You may also still feed your baby at night; it depends on when you want the baby to wake.

Always check in with your physician or lactation consultant for specific questions about feeding your baby.

Are there gentle ways to sleep train my breastfed baby?

Yes, there are many gentle ways to sleep train your baby, including lots of parental presence (you with your baby every step of the way) and comfort.


Author, Rosalee Lahaie Hera

Author, Rosalee Lahaie Hera

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