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Feeding baby
First and foremost, when it comes to questions like this, my reply to clients is usually “do you actually want to?”. Many parents will feel that, once their child is a particular age or hits a certain milestone, they should do things that they perceive to be expected of them, rather than actually wanting to. 
Biologically speaking, it’s perfectly natural for your little one to be nursed and snuggled to sleep, so if you don’t want to stop…don’t! You are doing an amazing job at helping your baby to create secure attachments, which will benefit them as they grow. You are also building your baby’s brain during this period. 
 
However, if your baby has formed a path to sleep which includes being fed, rocked or both, you might want to gently help them become more independent sleepers. This could be for a number of reasons; perhaps because you’re back at work or trying to get them to sleep in their own room, or maybe you’re just plain exhausted. It could even be that they’re just too heavy for you to comfortably and safely lower your baby down into their cot once they’re asleep. 
 
Whatever the reason, there are methods you can use which are gentle yet effective. 
 
The first piece of advice I would offer parents is to start creating a gap between feeding and sleeping. If your baby associates being fed with sleep then they can find it difficult to fall asleep without the breast. They can also have trouble linking their sleep cycles during the night and will ask for your help. However, if you start offering their last feed some time before bed, this will create distance from that association. 
 
If you manage to successfully separate feeding and sleeping, the next thing I would suggest is to make your rocking more and more intermittent and slow. Eventually, your baby will come to associate falling asleep with a still lap, rather than one where they’re being cradled, and this will make the transition from lap to cot less of a jarring change. 
Something which is also essential is making sure that your baby is going into the cot in a calm and happy way. In contrast with outdated cry it out methods, offering no comfort will just teach them to have negative associations with their cot and bedtime, rather than calmness and relaxation. 
 
Creating a consistent bedtime routine where you perform the same actions at the same time every night is the easiest way to create a happy, healthy environment in which your child will be secure enough to go to sleep. If you follow the same steps before bedtime, they will come to expect this and just going through the motions in the same way each night will help to signal a pathway to sleep for your child. 
 
Of course, all of this advice should be followed along with proper cot safety; you can find more information on the BASIS website. Don’t feel pressured to make changes to your routine if you don’t feel that either you or your child are ready; no matter how many people tell you that “you’re making a rod for your own back”, this is an outdated attitude with no basis in fact. 
 
Enjoy your sleepy snuggles for as long as you want to! 
Tagged as: Sleep Methods
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