Updated: Nov 6
Sleep training is more about how your baby falls asleep rather than what they're doing between periods of sleep, or even in the middle of the night.
We shape behaviors around sleep, and essentially, these behaviors "train" your child how and when to fall asleep.
Feeding and sleep are not mutually exclusive activities, although these lines definitely get blurry in the newborn days. And this association can even continue into infanthood if a parent doesn't choose - or know - to offer other ways to sleep as their baby grows and develops.
Over time, we want your child to learn that nourishment should happen when they're awake and it's daytime. Sleep should happen at night! They don't need these things simultaneously.
Here's my best advice to help your child distinguish between these two activities:
Feed your baby upon waking instead of as they fall asleep. Follow the Eat/Play/Sleep routine.
When feeding your baby, do your best to keep them awake! If it's the middle of the night and your baby is feeding, do what you can to keep them awake during the feed so they go back to sleep on their own, or in another manner other than feeding, like rocking, patting, or shushing.
Giving your baby other ways to fall asleep build their repertoire of sleep skills and will set them up for success as they get older.
When sleep training, you CAN STILL INCLUDE NIGHT FEEDS if your baby still needs them.
Just make sure your baby is staying fully awake during the feeds and lay them back in their crib fully awake so they can find their own way to fall back asleep. Most babies who are older than 4 months and a minimum of 15 pounds no longer need night feeds, and may even drop them on their own if you're offering them opportunities to fall asleep other than feeding to sleep. Most will drop the night feeds on their own by 6 months if they've got some solid sleep skills in place. If you're interested in night weaning, check in with your child's pediatrician to make sure it's the right time.
Before you know it, you'll have a happy eater and a happy sleeper!