Nursing to sleep

Should you let a toddler nurse breastfeed until she falls asleep?

Q: My 18-month-old daughter nurses to fall asleep. My friends say I should wean her and stop letting her use me as a soother. What should I do?

A: I do not think you need to wean your toddler. However, feeding her until she falls asleep is a concern.

First, she should not fall asleep with her teeth and gums bathed in milk as this may promote tooth decay. Secondly, she needs to learn to self-soothe, to feel safe on her own in a familiar environment, and to understand you are close by, even if she can’t see you.

Offer her a soothing transitional object, such as a blanket or toy. As for her nap routine, you might nurse her; if she falls asleep at the breast, wake her to drink some water, preferably from a cup, then lay her down. Be prepared for some initial resistance and crying, but it will likely not persist, as long as you are consistent. She’ll get the idea of falling to sleep by herself, in her own crib.

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