July 02, 2015

Q: My 6-month-old baby wakes up at least twice a night and will only go back to sleep if I breastfeed him. How can I break this routine?

A: Do you nurse your baby right before bedtime as well? Babies are creatures of habit, so if this is the case, your baby's come to expect breastfeeding as part of his falling-asleep routine. What you need to do is teach your infant to fall asleep (and go back to sleep) on his own. For the next week, feed your baby earlier in the evening and rock him to sleep instead. Once you've broken the association between nursing and slumber, put him in his crib while he's awake. Obviously, it isn't going to be easy -- and it will probably take three to five nights before he learns to conk out this way. (Throughout this transition, feel free to nurse him back to sleep if he wakes during the night.) But whatever you do, don't give up. Once your baby has learned how to soothe himself at bedtime, he'll be able to fall back to sleep in the middle of the night without your help.

Copyright© 2004. Reprinted with permission from the February 2002 issue of Parents magazine. Updated 2009

Answered by Parents Team