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Do you want to stop nursing your baby to sleep?

There are several different ways to teach a baby to fall asleep without breastfeeding. Depending on your baby’s age, your family situation, and how patient you are, you can choose different methods.

Here, I focus on how to stop nursing a baby to sleep in more gentle ways than leaving the baby to cry.

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NOTE: I will not explain the cry-it-out method here simply because I don’t like it. Many parents trying it find that it breaks their hearts AND makes the baby’s sleep even worse. I know the CIO works for some people, and that’s OK. But if you want other alternatives, you can find them here.

How To Stop Nursing Baby To Sleep

“So when to stop nursing to sleep is mainly up to what works and not in your family.”

When to Stop Breastfeeding a Baby to Sleep

There are no set rules for at what age you “should” stop breastfeeding your baby to sleep. For some moms, nursing their baby to sleep works really well until the baby is weaned off the breast entirely due to starting with solids. For other moms and families, the sleep deprivation and the evening or nighttime feedings that come with a baby that can’t fall asleep without nursing simply don’t work.

So when to stop nursing to sleep is mainly up to what works and not in your family.

However, in my experience, it is way easier and faster to teach a baby to fall asleep without nursing when they are either very young (newborn to a couple of months of age) or a bit older and not as dependent on night feedings due to larger tummies and fewer growth spurts, have longer sleep cycles and no longer have a very strong suckling reflex. “Older baby” would, in this case, mean from around eight months old. This does not mean that you can’t try the below methods at any age. You certainly can!

Regarding newborn babies, the reason why it may be easier to stop nursing them to sleep is that they haven’t yet come into this habit as much as older babies. On the other hand, there are clear benefits to breastfeeding a newborn baby around the clock since it may help stabilize their circadian rhythm. Many newborn babies have their days and nights mixed up, and breast milk actually contains sleep-inducing hormones to mitigate this. In addition, newborn babies have a very strong suckling reflex and a need to bond through comfort nursing. They also grow very rapidly and need to eat frequently.

All this points to NOT trying to stop nursing a newborn baby to sleep. However, you can certainly still use the Very Gentle Method below to avoid creating a very strong feeding-to-sleep association for your newborn.

(With my youngest baby, I simply decided that I was fine with being his evening human pacifier during the first couple of months. I just placed him at my breast and let him stay there. This way, I avoided a lot of crying and cranky evenings and introduced gentle fall-asleep training when he was around three months old. )

So, with a new baby in the house, just do whatever works to make life function!

Now to the three methods:

1) Very gentle method

how to stop nursing newborn baby to sleepPinMany newborn babies simply become so sleepy when they are breastfeeding that they can’t help but fall asleep. However, the fact that they do this over and over again in the beginning will teach them a new way to fall asleep – with your nipple in their mouth.

After a while, this is suddenly the only way they can fall asleep. Or at least the only way they will accept falling asleep. But this feeding-to-sleep association can be broken.

Here is what to do:

Every time your baby is about to fall asleep at the breast, you gently release your nipple and then gently press your baby’s chin to close his/her mouth. With a closed mouth, the baby will not try to suckle again as automatically.

The baby will be startled at first, probably wake up and search for the breast again. Let her suck and then release your breast the same way when your baby is almost asleep. And let the dance continue until your baby falls asleep without the nipple. (It can be a real nipple, bottle nipple, or pacifier).

This gentle method to stop nursing a baby to sleep can be used for babies of all ages.

This can be time-consuming, especially at first. But over the coming days, your baby will slowly learn to fall asleep without a nipple in his mouth. You’ll have to do this every time you breastfeed and your baby starts to fall asleep since they are now learning a new routine. And one day, the nipple-to-sleep association will be broken. Then, you can start working on the baby falling asleep in someone else’s arms or the crib. Yay!

If your baby doesn’t need the nipple to fall asleep, it will also be a lot easier for him or her to fall asleep when waking up at night without needing your attention.

This gentle method to stop nursing babies to sleep can be used for babies of all ages. Just remember that the younger the baby, the more likely it is that he or she is to really be hungry when waking up rather than just wanting to suckle.

This method can also be used to prevent newborns and young babies from becoming dependent on breastfeeding to fall asleep.

2) Half-gentle method

In my experience, babies older than eight months who have started with solid foods can go a whole night without a feeding. Not that they want to. But if you help them break the suckling-sleep association, they may very well start sleeping through the night without any other sleep training.

At around 8-10 months or older, a very efficient way to stop nursing a baby to sleep is to let someone else attend to the baby at night; most often, this person would be the baby’s dad or your partner. But if you are a single mom, you can also ask someone else who your baby is really safe with to help out.

If your partner has the weekends off from work, start on a Thursday evening. From that night on, it is not the breastfeeding mom, but this other person (let’s say dad) who attends to the baby at night every time the baby wakes up. Dad takes up the baby, cuddles her, rocks her, or whatever it takes to make her go back to sleep. Some babies can be put to bed next to dad and simply cuddle up, and it is enough.

With no nipple in sight, many babies go back to sleep unless hungry. As a rule of thumb, you can decide that if the baby has been sad for, say, 5 minutes together with dad, the baby can come to the nipple.

And where is Mom? Not in sight!

Preferably in another room or at least as far away from the baby as possible in the room and with earplugs. Dad is responsible for waking up Mom after a decided amount of time.

The first few nights, dad will most likely be exhausted, the baby grumpy, and mom unusually alert after getting some sleep for a change. :-) But many babies, at least from the age of 9 or 10 months, will learn really quickly to go back to sleep without the nipple if taking the possibility to suckle away like this.

After three nights, you should notice an improvement in how many times your partner needs to wake you up and maybe even an improvement in how many times dad will have to cuddle the baby back to sleep.

When not allowed to eat and suckle, it seems like many older babies subconsciously don’t find it worthwhile to wake up and demand attention at night. It may sound strange, but it often works.

If you want to try this for a younger baby, you can, but don’t count on it to work as well since a younger baby is more often hungry at night.

3) Cold Turkey (but no cry-it-out)

This method can be hard to endure, but at least you are not abandoning your baby (as you do with the cry-it-out method, in my opinion) if you stay close and show love.

If you have tried the above methods and they don’t work, or if you don’t have anyone who can help you break the sleep-suckle association, you can always just stop nursing your baby to sleep. Just stop. (But do it on a Thursday night if you are working and have the weekend off.)

Prepare yourself for a few very exhausting days and nights and a furious baby, but rest assured that your baby will eventually sleep without the nipple. Don’t leave your baby to cry, but rather do everything you can to create a positive bedtime routine as well as a napping routine, like in a stroller on a walk in the fresh air or cozy with skin contact next to you in bed. You can still move your baby to their own bed if they are too young for safe co-sleeping.

Remember that if your baby falls asleep in the stroller, he or she should be moved to a safer sleep environment before you go to sleep or even before you go out of sight. Young babies are at risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) if co-sleeping without very careful safety precautions.

This method can be hard to endure, but at least you are not abandoning your baby (as you do with the cry-it-out method, in my opinion) if you stay close and show love.

Now, remember that the option is always to let your baby continue to nurse to fall asleep, too. There are actually quite good reasons to let your baby breastfeed to fall asleep, and I explain a bit about that in this article.

Sometimes, by making nursing at night as easy as possible, it won’t impair your sleep as much. Safe co-sleeping, learning how to breastfeed while lying down without pain, and wearing the right clothes for breastfeeding at night makes everything much easier. You can read about safe co-sleeping here.

If you have reasons to believe that your baby is waking up because he or she gets too warm or cold at night, consider buying a baby sleep sack.

White noise may also help your baby fall asleep or stay asleep better.

What are the benefits of teaching the baby to fall asleep without nursing?

After reading about these options, you may wonder why even to try..? Well, especially older babies that learn to fall asleep without breastfeeding may actually skip the night feeds altogether without a struggle. Since many babies from around eight to ten months of age don’t really need to eat at night, they simply seem to sleep longer stretches when they don’t need the breast to go back to sleep. And with fewer night wakings and sleepless nights, mom is likely to be less exhausted.

Another clear benefit is, of course, that breastfeeding moms can now take turns with the not breastfeeding partner to put the baby to sleep for naps, nighttime, and night wakings.

Transition to daycare or hiring a babysitter for a date night is also suddenly within reach without as much struggle.


The three methods described here to stop nursing a baby to sleep can be used at any age. They are written for breastfed babies but can be used for bottle-fed babies, too. There is no “perfect” time to stop breastfeeding to sleep, but in my experience, it is easier to succeed if the baby is very young or older than eight months of age. There is nothing wrong with continuing to nurse to sleep until you or your baby decides to wean.

The benefits of breaking the feeding-to-sleep association are a less exhausted mom, fewer night wakings, and a more flexible life. Try the methods when you feel ready for it. No pressure!

Remember that these benefits relate to breaking the feeding-sleep association, not to introducing formula and bottle-feeding instead of breastfeeding. That move can, of course, still create more flexibility but is not as likely to lead to fewer night wakings. Research on this is inconclusive, as some studies find that exclusively breastfeeding moms sleep less than formula-feeding moms, while other studies find opposite results.

Here are more sleep tips for exhausted moms. Most of these work whether or not your baby breastfeeds to fall asleep.

You’ll find many more baby sleep tips here.

These were my tips on how to stop nursing babies to sleep. I hope they help! If you have more ideas or if you try the tips, I’d love to hear from you!

Good luck!

If you have any questions, comments, or tips to share regarding getting your baby to sleep without nursing, please share by leaving a comment below.

Read Next

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Research References


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This Post Has 65 Comments

  1. Amanda

    Can I replace my nipple with a pacifier? I love these gentle ways.

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      Absolutely! Just try, gently! :-)

  2. Charlotte

    Thank you for your suggestions! I actually don’t mind nursing him twice or so at night, but now it’s every hour so I hope these tips will improve that!

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      Thank you for taking the time to comment! :) Every hour is tough… Good luck and let me know how it goes.

    2. Amber

      My 6 MO is currently doing the same thing and I’m just wondering if you had any luck with these methods and if so which one…I’d love to get further advice from another mama having the same issue.

      1. Charlotte

        Thank you for this article.
        What I’m struggling with is having her not falling/continuing to be asleep when placed in crib, post our nursing to sleep sessions. I have to wait until she’s in deep sleep (20 min) to move her.

        Is there a way to keep nursing her but also letting her fall asleep alone in crib?

  3. Mary

    Hello!! My baby boy is 2 months old and I am forced to go back to work (me being the bread winner) at nights 6:30pm-5am. My baby falls asleep by breastfeeding to sleep and right before he’s about to sleep he suckles not eating just using me as a pacifier. I understand he does this for comfort, but the dad will be taking over soon once I go back to work and he wants me to quit breastfeeding all together cold turkey and switch to formula. My baby’s doctor said there is nothing wrong with bottle feeding and breastfeeding but I feel as if dad is a bit insensitive when it comes to this, the first mother to his kids did not breastfeed so he believes it should be easy for me and my son to quit breastfeeding all together. But me and my baby boy have a strong bond when it comes to breastfeeding. Baby boy is taking a bottle and we have started 50/50 breastmilk formula ratio but dad no longer wants me to feed him at bedtime via the boobie. How can I make dad understand that it is ok to do both?

    1. Raven

      I know this advice is too late for you, but maybe for a next kid or another Mother visiting this page it might help… Breath is best. Getting the milk from the boob is the best for the baby as it is formulated for the babies body. Formula is static the same all the time, the breastmilk will change based on your babies specific needs. But that’s not gonna happen if you don’t actually breast-feed. The nipple has receptors for when your baby back washes so that your body can analyze those saliva from the baby and decide how the process changed is it to better fit the babies needs. If you’re only pumping and bottlefeeding that’s not gonna happen.

  4. Marie Magis-Chauvel

    Hi, my 13 months old has never slept longer than 5 hour stretches, and that only happened twice. It can be anything between 5 min and 3 hours. We co-sleep, and I breastfeed on demand but I am a restless person and need to move at night. My issues are that either she wakes up every time I remove the nipple (I tried to remove just after active sucking or when really deeply asleep, or with finger under chin, or stimulating her to suck more actively so that she’d let go when fed up -well she’s never fed up- etc…) or sometimes she lets go but if I dare move an inch, there she roots for the nipple again. Naps and nights. I don’t know if there is a word for the level of exhaustion (and irritability) I’m in. But she’s really a mummy’s girl and I don’t want to let her cry (not even a few minutes). Does anyone have a real trick that works. I don’t mind her falling asleep nursing but I’d like to be able to get in the position I want to sleep in after. Is that at all possible or do I really need to stop nursing her to sleep altogether ? Thanks so much

    1. Marie Magis-Chauvel

      Just to clarify, she doesn’t have a bedroom yet, building works have just started on an extension and it will take 6 months. So the sleeping arrangements can’t change.

      1. Raven

        I was putting my baby to bed in a bassinet next to our bed. I would wake up to feed her once or twice and put her back in the bassinet and the third time, or whatever time closer to morning, I would bring her into the bed with me and let her feast on me for the last few hours. It let me move around as I pleased in between feeding and she knew that she would get me completely eventually

    2. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      Hi Marie, Well done to have kept up with the breastfeeding for 13 months and for letting your daughter be close to you so much. But… I think I can relate to your level and exhaustion, and maybe it’s time for you to take care of yourself a little bit too… Also, your daughter will soon be running around with speed, climbing, exploring the world, and she needs a mom who is not dead tired and super irritated from lack of sleep.

      Of course, your daughter still needs you close, but she doesn’t need your nipple in her mouth. :-) How many naps per day does she take? If you don’t want to start with the nights, then try to go for stroller walks for daytime naps. It works with most kids, although my daughter was quite hard to trick into falling asleep. But if they’re fed, exhausted from outside play, and in their stroller at the right time, at least many babies and toddlers do fall asleep. This way, she will learn to fall asleep without breastfeeding. Car rides can be effective too!

      If you can endure a few nights of her protesting, try method two in this post. Do you have a partner that can help you? Remember, that you are imposing a change on her that she is not prepared for and doesn’t want, so stay close to her, cuddle, be patient even if she cries.

      I understand that you want to continue to nurse her to sleep, but I wonder if maybe you should reconsider. It might be confusing for your daughter to be allowed to nurse to sleep sometimes, and sometimes not. And if she learns to fall asleep without your nipple in her mouth, it will be much easier for her to continue sleeping without you as her pacifier too.

      You can, of course, also combine for example stroller walks for naps with only letting her nurse to sleep in the evenings. Then if she wakes up at night, she gets a cuddle, pacifier, etc, but not the nipple. Children are fantastic to learn, but this might take a little longer to implement.

      What do you think, could you try any of this?

  5. Stephanie

    Hello, I’m Stephanie I love the article! My daughter is one and she has always been a frequent waker. We went through the worst sleep regression at 9.5 to 11 months old, and I haven’t even recovered from that. She’s always been active and lively (stubborn too) making up with nighttime nursing to compensate! Anyways I know that lot of her wake ups now are habitual. I know she isn’t hungry but maybe two times, and if I could break that nurse sleep association up she would sleep much more soundly. I need to get sleep and I need her to sleep better too. I just don’t know which method to use.

  6. kim

    Hi Paula,
    I have a 14 month old baby and am now just nursing to sleep – naps and nighttime. Usually she wakes 2 or 3 times in night, which isnt too bad but she can nurse for an hour or more before going back down, so I’m quite sleep deprived. We’ve tried the dad go in method and had lots of tears for 20 minutes for 2 nights, before I caved and went in to get her to sleep (nurse). I want to try this again but my question is do you think dada needs to put baby to bed (i.e do bedtime) and the night feeds or just start on night feeds. We live in a small flat and I am thinking of going out for the evening. Shes clever and knows when i am around. maybe if i just leave she will better settle with dad. I just feel if she wakes in the night she knows i am next door and will just cry. Maybe if he puts her down at bedtime she will get the idea I am not around. Thinking of doing this for a few nights. Another question – how long do we let her cry if its not working!? such a hard thing!

  7. Elizabeth

    Thanks for the article. As a first time mom I appreciate advise like that.
    I look forward to trying them where my little 8 month started wanting to nurse to sleep after he started teething at 7 months.
    Where he used to self settle and sleep thru the night I was feeling pretty lost on what to do where i didn’t have to do any sleep training where he was a pretty good sleeper.
    But where it kept getting worse and not better, i knew i needed help.
    Thanks again,

  8. Stacy

    Oh I need to try this! My LO is almost 14 months and loooves to nurse. I work so she only nurses in the evenings and alllll night long. She also nurses on weekends all throughout the day. When we are together and she is ready to nurse she makes it very clear by pulling at my shirt, fussing, grunting, sticking her head down the neck of my shirt, etc. While I love the one on one time, I am starting to be touched out at times and ready to stop nursing. Any extra advice you have for an older baby who loves nursing?

  9. Paula @easybabylife

    Hi Michele,
    So he is using you as his pacifier and obviously LOVES it! :-) Have you tried to introduce a real pacifier? It might help. I don’t think your boob is keeping him away from his sleep – at 4 months, babies still have short sleep cycles and lots of light sleep. It is possible I guess that he could wake up searching for your nipple.

    I think, I were you, that I’d try to fix the naps first and I’d also invest in a baby sling and have him sleep in it during the early evening so you can spend time with your family!

    For naps, what happens if you go on stroller walks? Lots of babies who hate napping are rocked to sleep when being outside in a stroller. Also, fresh air and day light during the day will help improving his sleep at night.

    For some pacifier tips, check this post:

    Best, Paula

    1. Michelyn Kemp

      Im in this boat with a 4 month who wants to nurse to sleep… is it best to
      Start the first recommendation for night sleep? What about naps? If he had it his way, he’d sit on my breast for naps.

  10. Jess


    Hoping this thread is still live. I love the suggestions in here as I don’t believe in CIO methods but I need a little extra advice.

    My Bub is 6 months old has had a pacifier since birth however she was waking hourly, getting up for the day at 4:30-5am, and sometimes even having wide awake periods from like 1am-3am …. needless to say after 6 months I was just exhausted so decided to take the dummy away.

    I took it away on 02.01.18 cold turkey and She did amazing! did all her day naps no problem, went down for her sleeps super easy, and slept 6 nights straight going down by around 7pm and only waking twice (11pm and 3am) to nurse (back down within 15 mins no fuss) and even started waking at 6am. It was a dream and I was celebrating how amazing she was coping with me taking the dummy cold turkey and how incredible I felt with more sleep!

    However day 7 she just flipped, screaming and squirming in my arms before each nap and before bed time, pulling at my top to nurse, started waking ever hour or so again at night and then getting up at 4:30-5am again. I have changed nothing from the 6 nights and days where she was amazing with no dummy and I’m so upset that she seems to have regressed after I got a taste of sleep again.

    It’s been 4 days and 3 nights of this behaviour now, before taking the dummy away she was easy to get to sleep and put down but would just wake through the night as describe above – she never used to scream and claw at me for breast or squirm around like she does now 😞

    I have tried panadol and bonjela in case it was teething but that doesn’t seem to help, I’ve tried giving in to giving her the breast and she just comfort sucks until she falls asleep but when I try transfer to the crib she wakes and we have to go through it all again. I’ve tried a sound machine and patting on butt, back, chest – nothing really works.

    My husband thinks she’s is going through a separation anxiety patch that the wonder weeks talks about around week 26-28, she definitely is more clingy when awake – could this have something to do with it?

    In the end I’ve given her back the dummy today and am considering trying the gentle method describe here.

    I’m just not sure if that’s the right decision or if I should stick with no dummy considering she showed she could do it for nearly a week no problem.

    I guess I’m looking for insight into why she went a week without it as if it never existed and she was so fine and sleeping great to all of a sudden seeming so driven by this suckling association, and what I should do.

    Really hoping someone sees this and can help 😞 I’m exhausted and feel like I’m causing my baby distress by taking the dummy and letting her cry when I can just give it back – even if I’m holding her and there with her and loving on her I feel terrible, like I’m going to do the same damage CIO does.

    Is it better for me to give in give the dummy and put up with the lack of sleep or should I keep the dummy away since she showed she can do it and hope this passes or should I give dummy back and do gentle method??? Or something else if it’s separation anxiety??! Is it normal for her to have done so well without it and then regress?? Help please 😞😞

    1. Beth

      Hi Jess,

      Looks like it’s been a while since you posted. I’m a first time mom, going through a kind of similar situation. What finally worked for you? Thanks for any tips you can offer:)

    2. Courtney

      Hi Jess,

      I realize you posted this 2 years ago. But wondering if you’re still on here as I am now in that EXACT situation. Except we had 7 nights of crying. It’s not getting better. I don’t know if I should give up and give the pacifier back?

  11. Rosamund Vincent

    Did anybody ever get through this? I am going through it with my 5 month Old who won’t nap or sleep at night without a nipple in his mouth and wakes 7 or 8 times in the night to suckle. I don’t even know when he’s hungry or not any more. Am desperate and exhausted :-(

    1. Kimberly Anne Hladik

      I didn’t get through it but am right in the thick of it with my 6 mo! Did you come out on the other side yet???

  12. Paula @easybabylife

    I totally agree, Aggie. And remember that most kids do wake up during periods – long after they stopped being babies. :-) If you baby starts waking up again – mom or dad can try the rocking. It all depends on how used your baby is to falling asleep only from nursing in mom’s arms.

  13. Paula @easybabylife

    Hi Manasa,
    What I mean here is that babies WILL eventually sleep without the breast, because humans need to sleep. So if you really, for some reason must stop breastfeeding very quickly, then just stop. It might mean a few nights of very poor sleep and a furious baby, but he or she will sleep without the breast. I would certainly try to comfort the baby in all other ways (hugs, rocking, stroller, pacifier etc) then, so it is not closeness, but only the breast that is taken away.

    One caveat – if the baby is younger than 8 months, he or she might be hungry. At least, in my experience, it is much harder to take away the night feedings before around 9 months. So, if your baby is waking up because of hunger, you will probably have to exchange the breast with bottle feeding (formula or pumped milk). Otherwise, your baby will continue to wake up frequently.

    Is that more clear?

    Best, Paula

  14. Paula @easybabylife

    Hi Jess! I am happy to hear that it worked! How old is your son? Can you place the crib next to your bed and lower one of the sides so he “almost” sleeps in your bed? Many babies get insecure and really want to close to their mom.

  15. Brianna Adams

    My baby has a sleep association to nursing so do you think that could be why she fights nursing during the day when she’s fighting her sleep?

    1. Paula @easybabylife

      Hi Brianna!
      Yes, that can absolutely be possible. Smart girl! How old is she?

      1. Brianna Adams

        She’s 3 months and fights sleep like no other so it makes nursing so hard during the day

        1. Paula @easybabylife

          Yes, some babies just seem to want to be in the action all the time… My daughter was like that. I actually ended up going for stroller walks with her half sitting up in the stroller so I could cheat her into falling asleep… My son did nothing more than sleep for like three months… See if you can use the stroller to put her to sleep fo naps to break the nursing sleep association for naps.

  16. Stephy Doyle

    Thanks for the info. But please don’t recommend sleeping in a car seat. It’s very dangerous

  17. Gemma Talbot

    Hi, i am planning on trying the half gentle method with my 10 month old. I have a couple of questions… Should my husband do the initial settle to sleep in the evening instead of me? Normally baby settles with the breast. And after each wake up in the night how long should i feed her/ stick around if i get called in? Fingers crossed!!! Thank you

    1. Paula @easybabylife

      Hi Gemma! At 10 months, there is definitely hope! To answer your questions, I actually breastfed as usual in the evening. I didn’t want to wean completely, just get some more sleep. It worked for us, but you just have to try and see how it goes. And when baby wakes up – we decided that dad would have 5 minutes in the beginning. We didn’t want our babies to become wide awake and furious. It worked really well! I know I had to take over a few times, but the situation improved quickly! Your husband has to be quick, though! If he is used to be allowed to sleep and you are the one who wakes up a beep, then maybe you should sleep with ear plugs. And your husband should sleep as close as possible to your baby. With our youngest, we pushed our bed against the wall and our son got to sleep with his dad next to the wall. I was in the bed too, on the other side of my husband, with ear plugs. :-)

      GOOD LUCK, and let me know how it goes!

  18. Paula @easybabylife

    Hi Alissa,
    This is such an exhausting situation and so very common. My daughter woke up like that and I thought I would just die from exhaustion! Are you co-sleeping at all? That would be my first advice so you can get more sleep immediately. Learn how to co-sleep safely (it is not a major risk at all at 9 months) and learn how to breastfeed while lying comfortably on your side. Then just let your son share your bed, and let him nurse when needed, with minimal effort. You can actually fall asleep while breastfeeding even. And since 9 months is a classic age for separation anxiety, chances are that he will not wake up at all as frequently if sleeping next to you.

    And one long weekend or vacation when your spouse doesn’t have to wake up at 4 am, you can try the second method in this article. It should work pretty well; your son is old enough. And even if it doesn’t make him sleep through the completely immediately, it can improve the situation.

    Finally, review this tips in this article on how to maximize your sleep despite having a baby that wakes up:

    I hope this helps,

  19. Paula @easybabylife

    Hi Katie,
    You are great at describing your situation. I can really picture your son crawling away, off to new adventures. :-) It is tricky when they change routines completely like this. How late in the afternoon is his last nap? It could be that he is actually not tired enough to settle. Or he is too tired. I’d probably check compare his total amount of sleep with recommended averages for his age. Maybe it is time to try just nap, even.

    Since he is crawling away, it doesn’t really sound like separation anxiety is his problem, which is otherwise often the case in his age. I think is great that you don’t try to have cry himself to sleep alone, though, because it can definitely turn into a sleep catastrophe at his age.

    He does sound like a very smart baby – he already knows that after the nursing at night comes the crib. Better hit the road! :-)

    You mention that he happily falls asleep in his dad’s arms. Have you tried that for the evenings too? Or that he is allowed to drift off to sleep in your bed next to you or his dad? He might be less interested in crawling away if he is allowed to be close to you. Most 10-month-old babies love a cuddle when they are calm and not on the go.

    What do you think?

  20. Di

    Hi! I have a 5 1/2month old I breastfeed on the evening to put him to sleep and it’s fine easy and fast. The issue is, he slept through the night for a whole month when he was 3 months old (from 8pm to 4am, quick feed and back to sleep until 7am). No idea what happened month and a half ago but that changed all the sudden and each day seems to get worse and worse waking up every 1.5-2hrs. It’s very frustrating because I know he’s able to do it, right? I mean he was younger and eating less than now. At first I thought he was going through a growth spurt but it kept happening. I’m exhausted, he gets super agitated when I confort him without picking him up or when I rock him, gets really mad when I try the pacifier and won’t stop crying until I breastfeed him. My husband works night shift and I don’t like the idea of letting him cry and cry. Any advice???

  21. Lydia

    Hi Paula,

    Would method 2, half gentle method, still be likely to work if I continue to nurse my baby to sleep at her evening bedtime or would Dad need to settle her for this as well as the night wakings?



    1. Paula @easybabylife

      Hi Lydia! It can work! It might take a bit longer or not take away the night feeding 100% but if you want to nurse in the evenings, try it that way! How old is your baby?

  22. Krystal Meyer

    My 5mo needs the breast to fall asleep at night, which is fine with me, but then every hour or so wakes up throughout the night and wont go back to sleep unless I nurse her back to sleep. How do I get her to sleep through the night without having to put her back on the breast or let her cry? No amount of consoling, in any form, works to get her back to sleep. Please help! I’m exhausted and my husband can’t help.

    1. Paula @easybabylife

      Hi Krystal, at 5 months, I would try the gentle method in this post, together with co-sleeping in a safe way and trying to maximize your own sleep with a variety of methods. The thing is, at 5 months, your baby might very well be hungry at night still, so trying to force her to go back to sleep without nursing, may not work at all. In my experience it is better to orgnanize the nights and evenings, so you get more sleep despite your baby waking up. Then, in a few months, you can the the half-gentle method and it should work. Here are links to safe co-sleeping and how to max your sleep despite your baby waking up:

      Let me know how things go!

      Take care,

  23. Paula @easybabylife

    Great to hear that you found something that worked for you! What specifically did you do? Any tips you can share with fellow moms?

  24. Katie

    Hi, We have 19 month old twin boys, who have always been breastfed to sleep at night. Once they’ve fallen asleep we transfer them into their cots. They wake up a lot still and I have to pick them up, and they will usually fall straight back to sleep, or they have a pacifier to help them go back, rather than using me! And usually by 10-11pm they end up in our bed as they won’t go back in their cots, which we don’t mind at all, however they still wake up in there quite a few times and cry for me. We’ve got to the stage now where they won’t always want to breastfeed to sleep, but they want to cuddle next to me, sometimes with their pacifier, to fall back to sleep. Sometimes they also stay awake for a few hours and won’t go back to sleep! They won’t let my husband settle them back, they just cry for me. I presume because they associate me with going to sleep.
    We feel a bit stuck and don’t know what to do! We just all need more sleep!
    As for naps, they have one nap at lunch and lie down next to me, cuddling me with their pacifier in, on the bed and stay there for the two hours that they nap. So I’m a bit stuck and can’t get any jobs done. They wake up sometimes, but I just cuddle them again and give them a pat and they go back to sleep. If I got them to sleep and put them in their cots they would only sleep for 45 minutes, which is not long enough.
    I know we need to try help them fall asleep on their own, but I don’t know where to start and how to begin! We already seem to have quite a few tears, and I can’t stand to hear them cry. Any ideas greatly appreciated!

  25. Ashley Moncrief


    I am wondering if you know what I could do for my 6 and half month old. Sometimes she will sleep after I lie her down awake, but sometimes she’ll be so hungry that we have to nurse for her to get enough food. She’s just starting to eat solids (but not nearly enough to be full) and won’t really want to nurse until bedtime. Is there a way I can entice her to eat sooner rather than always right at bedtime?

    :) Ashley

    1. Paula @easybabylife

      Hi Ashley! Yes, certainly try feeding her 30 minutes earlier for example. I don’t know when she eats her solid foods, but I’ve started with lunch for that when my children were babies. You can check out my feeding schedule here: Just one other thing – I never really succeeded in getting my kids to stop nursing to sleep until they were 8 months old or older. Before that, they were simply too hungry and I tried to wean from evening and night feedings, it just became a stressful struggle. With our youngest, I just went with the flow until he was around or 10-months old. By then he was eating enough solids foods to not really need the night feedings anymore. Just a thought. Good luck and let me know how things go.

  26. LCox

    Thanks for this. I’ve been trying the Pantley pull out method (#1 on your list) for about a month now and it just doesn’t seem to work for my almost 6mo old. He gets more and more agitated and really only lets me pull out my nipple or the pacifier after he’s completely asleep. If he were just waking to nurse 2 or 3 times a night, I’d just cosleep and be happy. However he wakes almost every hour, and from 4:30 to 6:30 am, he wakes every 20 to 30 minutes! I think I really have to break the sucking to sleep association more forcefully.

    A few questions – 1) Do you think he’s old enough at almost 6 mo to go cold turkey, as long as I still nurse him when he needs to eat (about 3 times I think)? Would that be too confusing for him?

    2) He sleeps on a floor bed – do you think it is sufficiently comforting to have a parent lying next to him during his crying for a pacifier/nursing (in order to avoid creating a rocking to sleep association), or should the comforting be more hands-on?

    3) If I go cold turkey, should I do so for naps at the same time for consistency? Or let him have his pacifier for naps so that he gets at least some decent sleep during the transition?

    4) How long should we expect cold-turkey to take? (He has vaccines in a week, so if it will take longer than a week, I figure I should probably delay until after those?)

    1. Kimberly Anne Hladik

      Did your situation improve? I was so disappointed to not see an answers to your questions! I’m in the same boat right now wondering when it will get better and how.

    2. EllieK

      Hi. I have a 10m old who wants to nurse to sleep. I can transfer him just fine, but I would like it if someone else could put him to sleep or he could go to bed earlier. He won’t go to sleep until 11pm. He gets sleepy around 6:30, so he naps for an hour and then he’s back up. By the time I have nursed him enough to try to get him to sleep earlier, my nipples are raw. I’ve tried to switch around nap schedules, but it seems that once I find something that works, he changes again. I have tried to gently put him in the crib when he is sleepy, but he screams the second I let go. Help!

  27. Nertila Kurti Tresa

    My baby is 7 months and she cant sleep without breastfeading. During the night she wakes up several times and if i dont breasfrad her she starts crying with the eyes close. She doesnt accept the pacifier. I dont know what to do. Yesterday i was exhausted…i wanted to cry all night…i have no energy during the day because i have to brestfead her every time she wakes up just to make her happy and to use my breast as a pacifier…pls help me

    1. Sylvie Roy

      I am in the exact same boat so don’t feel you are alone. It is very exhausting and I am sure you are doing the best you can, even though alot of the times it feels as though we are not.

      1. Sylvie Roy

        Did you ever get through it? Seeing as this was 8 months ago and I am in the thick of it? Thanks

  28. Aurelia Adamska

    Hi! Thank you for the article! My baby is almost 9 month old and only falls asleep if I breastfeed (naps and evening). I am going to work in a few months and she still wakes up a few times a night so I am definitely thinking to break this habit. I can’t stand CIO so I need something gentler. I did teach her that I remove the nipple before she completely falls asleep and it works most of the time. I shush her and pat her after that and usually it works. Sometimes I send dad too (that doesn’t work, she screams for me). I was thinking to move the breastfeeding earlier in the routine so she could fall asleep without it and send dad but I know there will be a lot of crying anyways. I don’t want to stop breastfeeding altogether, cause I want to continue doing it in the evenings when she joins daycare. Some moms tell me to leave it the way it is and she will adapt to the situation at the daycare. I think it’s a lot to take for a baby at once and I really would like to get some sleep before I start working. Do you think my plan will work? Any other tips please?

    1. Christina

      Did you ever figure it out? I. The same position! Hopefully you see this;)

  29. Mamamama

    My baby is 17 months and breastfed to sleep since he was a newborn, sometimes he sleep in his bed but usually we Cosleep. He is very independent in every other aspect except sleeping and I have to start working soon so we stopped cold turkey. He has a very strong character and it has become a power struggle. He ends up crying himself to sleep, sometimes lets me hold him and he falls asleep as I rock him or walk other times he doesn’t want to be touched and will fall asleep crying on the floor. How do I turn his bedtime into a pleasant routine and revert this situation so it’s peaceful for him?

    1. Paula Dennholt

      Oh, poor little fellow! And poor you too! It is really hard when the bedtime – or feeding for that matter – becomes a complete power struggle. 18 months is a development phase and a lot of babies/toddlers become a bit fussy and insecure. Add to that their strong will and a power struggle over changing routines is quite likely!

      What is it exactly that makes him so upset? Is it not being allowed to breastfeed or something else? If you’ve already stopped nursing him to sleep, I don’t think I would go back to that. Instead, see if you can create a whole new bedtime routine that he actually enjoys and that makes him calm. At his age, cuddling and laughter can sometimes be a great way to break a power struggle. What if you would create a routine of putting on the pajama, then dancing slowly together to some lullaby, then cuddling up in bed to read a story? Or something else, that he really enjoys. Give him time, but not your breast. One of the keys is to figure out what happens right before he starts to become upset, identify that trigger and change it. The routine you have right now is making both of you in a bad mood and your son is old enough to understand and feel that now this bad time – the bedtime – is coming again.

      If he understands words well enough, you can tell him that he is a big boy and that it is time for a new bedtime. He can get to choose a new lovey in the store to mark the new times.

      Regarding the co-sleeping – I would not take that away at the same time as the breast. Especially since you are about to start working, which is a huge change for a young child.

      I hope this helps. Don’t be upset with him. It is not his choice to change this routine. :-) Be consistent and loving and patient. He is just expressing that he is convinced that your decision is really stupid one. He will get used it and a lot faster if you adapt whatever you can in the evening to make him calm and happy. Your own mood is very important here!

      1. Dani

        Hi, I have a similar problem as the one of Mamamama. My son is 18m old, and he is still waking up 1-2 times during the night to breastfeed, or whatever the reason. My breast milk is decreasing immensely every day in quantity, and he cannot fall asleep as easily as before, so he’s suckling and suckling which is very painful for me. He’s crying it out if I don’t let him breastfeed, and he doesn’t let me cuddle him, or talk to him, he’s putting my hand away, telling me not to touch him. Sometimes he bits me on the nipple, for punishing me for taking it out. It’s very stressful for me to not let him suckle, but I don’t have nerves on every occasion, and sometimes we cry together. He understands come things, and he speaks some words, including his own word for breastfeeding- and he wishes it every time when he wakes up- and cries if I don’t let him suckle.

  30. Melissa Dot

    I dont mind nursing my 4m old baby to sleep but I do find it difficult when he continues to use me as human pacifier and cant go back to sleep unless he is sucking on my nipple. I also need him to be able to take naps without breast as we usually out ans about during the day. what do u suggest I do to help him go back to sleep without the breast and to take naps independently?

    1. Sarah Briggs

      I’m in the same boat as you Melissa, and it seems like every day/night gets worse and worse. By breastfeeding to sleep my 5 month old son has now learned to wake up every 2 hours at night and cannot fall back asleep without nursing. Naps are short or nonexistent. This article is great, I will try the half-gentle method but I’d like to hear what else Paula may have to say, and if anything has worked for you yet. If not, may I say…if your baby is anything like mine, it will only get worse the longer it goes on. Good luck to us both.

      1. Tara Jordan Davis

        My son is 16 weeks old and will only go to sleep with my breast. He won’t let my husband put him down, won’t let me just rock him to sleep, and during the day he rarely will go into his rock n play for a nap. He pretty much wants to be held the whole time. My husband is very frustrated. Not sure why since I’m doing it all because our son won’t allow him, but it has to be very quiet all the time or else the baby will wake up. My husband doesn’t like being quiet and said he feels like he’s in shackles at home because he can’t be noisy. We have a huge house with plenty of rooms he can go make noise in. I wanted to punch him when he made the shackles comment.

        1. Paula Dennholt

          Hi Tara,
          It is a tough adjustment to have a baby. I would guess you are both tired, which certainly doesn’t help. Your son is still very young and wanting to be held a lot is completely normal. At his age, babies also have quite short sleep cycles, so they tend to wake up or almost wake up much easier than adults and older kids. And when waking up, they have no clue how to get back to sleep. In addition, quite many babies have their first round of separation anxiety at around 4-month-old, so that might also play a part. To help the situation, I would suggest a few things.

          1) Try putting your baby sleep through stroller walks. Many babies love the rocking in a stroller and if full and happy and a bit tired, but not exhausted, then he might fall asleep and thereby slowly learn how to fall asleep by rocking in additional to being held. If your garden is safe and in shelter from the sun, you can let the baby continue to sleep outside. Buy a baby monitor so you can hear (and see) any noise if that makes you feel better.

          2) Try slowly to help your baby adapt to sleeping despite some noise. Whenever there are siblings, guests, traveling, or just being somewhere outside your home, it is extremely helpful for the baby to be able to sleep under different circumstances. If your son is very sensitive to sound, go slowly. Falling asleep outside is perfect, talking in calm voices in a room close to his, putting on some soft music or some white noise is good too. (You’ll be able to find white noise on Youtube or Spotify or you can even buy a white noise machine! :-) Again check for such machines on Amazon.) (There are a lot of babies out there that need help sleeping better!)

          3) Once your baby has learned to fall asleep in the stroller, consider bringing the stroller inside for naps. This way you and your hubby can take turns putting your baby to sleep and it will also be easier to help your son go back to sleep if he wakes up too early. The stroller can be moved to a different room for peace or even outside, where a lot of babies sleep better. Just make sure it is safe! Once your son starts moving around enough to maybe risk falling out of the stroller, you need to stop using it or keep it in your view 100% of the time.

          4) Try to find some sort of compromise and cooperation with your husband. The situation will be better naturally as your baby grows, but if you work together long-term to acknowledge that it is a bit difficult to need to be extremely silent around the baby and you work together to improve it without fighting about it, it will be so much easier! It is limiting in many ways to have a baby, and just accepting that is one important step. Another important step is to try to improve situations that are difficult for someone in the family – such as your baby needing absolute silence to sleep. I KNOW this is easier said than done, but really, the sleep situation is just one of many, many situations you will encounter as parents! Working together and compromising is a must to be able to be happy! I sound like some old lady now, I know! (But it is still true!)
          I hope this gave you at least a few ideas!

        2. Grace

          Your husband sounds like a DICK!!!! NEWSFLASH: He has a baby… it’s NOT about him anymore. 😡

  31. Tess

    My 19 month old doesn’t fall asleep on the boob, but it makes her almost fall asleep. I then rock her until she’s totally asleep and then put her in the crib. How can I get her to that “almost” sleepy mode without breastmilk? I’m trying to wean her by 24mos.

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      Hi Tess,
      At 19 months, a toddler is still so young but also very aware of her surroundings and what she wants. Can be a bit tricky if she does not at all agree with you on the weaning. :-) But the older she gets, being a “big girl” might tempt her to try to fall asleep without the breast if you convince her. In addition to that, you could try introducing a new routine, like lying on the bed together in a really cosy way and read a book and sing a lullaby. You could even let her breastfeed for a little bit and gradually reduce the time at the breast. When she approaches 24 months and understands what you say better and better and also wants to be “big”, you can also let her pick a lovey, a new pillow or whatever to be used instead of the breast. You can also start preparing her by playing games – she can put her dolls to bed, she can put you to bed and so on. If nothing works and you really want to wean, you can of course also simply stop. But there is a clear risk with a 19-month-old that this will turn into a bad power struggle. Trying to find a way to make the toddler cooperate is usually much nicer. Since you are thinking ahead 5 months – excellent! – you have plenty of time to take it in baby steps.

  32. Michelle

    This sounds like a great plan but my questions is if I break the nursing sleep association and he sleeps through the night will it still be okay for me to rock him to sleep? His sleep associations are currently rocking and or nursing but at night he wakes up and nurses.

    1. Paula Dennholt

      Michelle, yes, take one step at the time! I continued the rocking but the nursing and both my babies started sleep through anyway. I guess feeding was more attractive than rocking for them. :-)

    2. Baby Sleep

      You need to teach him to fall asleep on his own– meaning no nursing! It may be a few tear-filled evenings and nights but sooner than you think, he will learn to go to sleep on his own.