Is nursing to sleep a bad habit?
Nursing to sleep is the biological norm. It is how nature intended babies to sleep. The suckling motion promotes sleep and produces sleepy hormones in both the mother and the baby. Breastmilk produced at night contains the sleep hormone, melatonin – which plays a vital role in regulating the baby’s circadian rhythms (day/night body clock). Babies also feed well when they are asleep, while they may be distracted when awake.
Moreover, nursing creates comfort and security. The physical closeness with the parent helps them sleep better. It’s actually the perfectly designed sleep solution!
Babies do not form habits. Nor do they manipulate or “remember” that they should do something in order to get a particular result. Their neocortex (thinking brain) is simply not developed enough. They only follow their biological programming and, when they are able to outgrow it naturally, they do.
If need be, nursing to sleep can be replaced by rocking or walking, especially with an alternate caregiver. This association can be created gradually over time and most babies respond very well to multiple methods of falling asleep. Having said that, for the mom, nothing is easier and more convenient than nursing to sleep! It is much less labour intensive than rocking or walking or bottle feeding. A mum can bedshare and nurse lying down. She barely needs to wake when her baby does. So, nursing to sleep leads to much more undisturbed and continual sleep for a mom!