Circle of Moms member Stacey has no problem getting her eight-month-old to nap – as long as she nurses him to sleep. The problem is, Stacey works full time and this situation is becoming a real problem for the family members who help care for her son while she's at work. "He won't take the pacifier, and only wants to nurse to sleep. During the day it makes it awfully hard for others to get him down for a nap without a bottle." Has anyone ever successfully gotten their baby to go down for a nap without breastfeeding?" she asks.
Many Circle of Moms members who breastfeed come up against the same frustration. It's very easy to fall into this pattern, and it's very difficult to sustain it, because it means that no-one else can put baby down. Jeramie I. posts, "How the heck do you get a child to nap without nursing? "It's the only way to get my daughter to sleep, other than driving her around in the car when she is really tired. I know she is sleepy, cranky and whiny and clingy and begging to nurse. It is hard to get her back on schedule."
Here, Circle of Moms members share ideas for weaning baby off the nurse-to-sleep routine.
1. Start a Nap Routine That Doesn't Involve Nursing
Many Circle of Moms members suggest that the younger you start, the easier it is to establish a nap routine for baby that doesn't include nursing. Renae K. says she's glad she started with her baby at 12-14 weeks old. "Good routines take time to establish and it pays to start early." She adds that it works best if you tailor the routine to your baby's individual internal clock. "I believe that your routine should be based on...when your baby is naturally hungry and tired. Your baby will almost always be hungry after a similar amount of time of not being fed, and tired after a similar amount of time of being awake, so you can simply watch your baby and develop your routine around what they naturally do.
The consensus is that strictness and dedication to the task will pay off. "You have to be super strict with them for [it] to work," says Krystal M., who established a regular nap time for her nursing baby when he was three months old. "Babies love routine."
(Note that not everyone believes strict routines should be imposed on babies. "Are routines really for a baby or the mother?" asks Circle of Moms member Belinda E. "I believe the best parenting style is listening and responding to your baby and their cues...Sometimes [babies] are hungrier than others, sometimes they are just extra thirsty, sometimes they need more sleep and other times they don't.")
2. Set the Mood for Sleep
Dimming the lights and quieting down the house help babies ramp down for sleep. Lisa D., who struggled to get her baby to sleep after establishing a pattern of nursing him on demand, says she found that "keeping it dark and quiet helped." (She adds: "I've always been a stickler for bedtimes and nap times because I need the sleep!")
3. Experiment with Different Ways of Soothing
Some Circle of Moms members suggest giving your baby a pacifier at nap time, when you formerly would have nursed. Every baby is unique though, and if your baby, like Megan K.'s, won't take the pacifier ("he only wanted the breast before naps"), experiment to see what works. Megan eventually discovered that "rocking him in the glider calmed him down to where he fell asleep on his own."
4. Don't Play Before Naps
Being careful not to over stimulate your baby right before nap time also helps wean him from the need to nurse to fall asleep. "Instead of playing, try holding him and swaying to soft music," says Stina B. "By playing with him before bed, you could be over stimulating him... making it harder for him to settle down. "
5. Don't Be Afraid to Reinvent the Routine
For older babies and toddlers, several Circle of Moms members suggest re-inventing the nap time routine. "We started a new routine of sitting in Mommy's lap (in a different place than where we used to nurse) and reading books before nap time," says Lori A. "Then I'd sing a few songs. It didn't really take that long for my daughter to get the idea that she doesn't get to nurse anymore, but she still gets cuddle time with Momma. If it doesn't work one way, try something else. Maybe instead of a story listen to a favorite song on a CD or MP3 player."
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.