My baby will only fall asleep at the breast but I’m returning to work soon. How do I break this habit?

Firstly, please be kind with yourself. This starts with not blaming yourself for a biological norm. Your baby isn’t falling asleep at the breast from habit. It is the way nature intended. Nature didn’t intend for mothers to go to work in a society where they are kept separate from their babies and the caregivers looking after the baby aren’t wet nurses.

Needing to work is often our reality, but there’s plenty you can do to make the transition to day care easier on everyone, no “habit” breaking necessary. In fact we encourage you to keep feeding to sleep as a tool in your toolbox, it will make nighttime during this transition period so much easier.

There is a common perception that in order to prepare baby for a separation (starting daycare, getting ready for a new sibling, etc) we need to first “practice” separation. In fact, the opposite is true. The more that a child’s “connection cup” is full before a change or separation, the more secure they’ll feel, and the easier it will be (keeping in mind that for higher needs babies it may be extremely hard no matter what). 

Also, any new pattern set before a big change or separation has the potential to just fall apart anyway (i.e. it’s common for babies to “reverse cycle” and nurse more in the night after starting daycare as a way to get their calories AND get the needed connection with mum), so any hard work spent trying to “change” something largely biologically-driven may be for naught. 

So, our advice is not to change anything. We know from our members that babies/toddlers can have one way of falling asleep at home and another at daycare.  Without any parent-led changes.

And remember above all else: day care providers work for you. It is their responsibility to provide high-quality care for your child. It is not your responsibility to train your baby to make their life easier.

4 Steps to Help with Baby’s Transition to a New Caregiver

What is Normal Infant Sleep? (Part I)

How to Get Your Baby to Nap in Daycare

Breastfeeding And Returning To Work

The Caregivers Guide to Giving Breastmilk