My Baby Will Only Sleep Latched On All Night

baby latched on all night for sleep

Don’t panic, you are not alone – babies latching all night is a common issue! Understanding why your baby will only sleep latched on all night and how to address it can help improve sleep for both you and your baby.

In this blog, we will explore whether it is normal for babies to be latched on all night, why it happens, when you should be concerned, and what steps you can take to gently change this habit if it’s no longer sustainable for you.

baby being nursed to sleep at bedtime lying down on bed

Is This Normal?

Yes! Babies derive immense comfort from sucking, as it reminds them of being in the womb. Sucking is one of the five womb sensations, which can trigger a baby’s innate calming reflex. This is why many babies like sucking on dummies or being latched on to their mother’s breast during sleep.

It is entirely normal for babies to seek comfort from being latched on during sleep. Babies are wired to sleep this way.

baby lying on bed with mother only sleeping latched on all night

Why Does It Happen?

Sucking is regulating and calming for your baby. It is often the most efficient way of falling asleep, staying asleep, and linking sleep cycles. What happens next is that some babies become dependent on it as their sleep association. 

Typically these babies are ‘signaller’ babies and they are then relying on this one sleep association for every sleep. Some people might call this a ‘bad habit’ but it’s only a problem if it’s not working for you.

However, while it is normal for babies to be latched on all night, there are certain circumstances when you should seek further investigation.

baby latched on all night for sleeping

When Should You Be Concerned?

If your baby struggles to sleep without being latched on all night, it could indicate an underlying issue. It’s important to have ruled out any underlying reasons why your little one has such a strong association with being latched all night before making any changes with sleep. Here are some possible reasons for getting expert support:

  1. Feeding Issues: Some babies may be truly hungry and this is the reason for staying latched on permanently. It’s a really good idea to access some expert feeding support such as from an IBCLC. They can help check whether there are any issues with the latch, supply or positioning leading to inefficient feeding and prolonged suckling.
  2. Tongue Tie: A tongue tie can also make it difficult for babies to latch properly and feed efficiently. A tongue-tie can also prevent the correct position of the tongue in the mouth needed for sleep.
  3. Sensory Needs: If your baby needs to suck all night long, and you are fairly sure that it’s not because they are hungry, it is worth considering their sensory needs. Sucking is very regulating and for most babies this is totally normal.

    It could be that you child is sensory-seeking and not getting sufficient sensory input during the day. In this case, extra sensory input especially around bedtime may help. You can find practical ways of doing this in my guide: Sensory Needs and Sleep.

baby co-sleeping and latched on all night

Should I stop my baby being latched on all night?

If you notice signs of an underlying issue, addressing this is crucial to getting to the root cause before making any changes. If there are no signs of an underlying issue and both you and your baby are sleeping well, there is no reason to make a change.

Whilst some mothers are comfortable with their babies being latched on all night, others find it much more challenging.

Having your baby latched on all night can make you feel touched out by the constant physical contact and craving some personal space. Mothers who are very light sleepers can struggle to sleep at all when their baby is latched on. Having your little one latched continuously can also cause pain or discomfort making you want to look for ways to gently change this habit.

baby sleeping latched on all night to breast

Moving On from Staying Latched and Nursing to Sleep

Changing the habit of your baby being latched on all night is not always easy, but it is possible with patience, persistence, and consistency. If you think it’s your baby’s preference and it’s not actually working for you, here are some steps you can take to gently change this habit:

1.Check Their Sleep Needs

If your baby isn’t tired enough, they will find it harder to fall asleep and back to sleep, leading to more sucking to relax and calm down.

2. Try Offering a Dummy

Some babies will accept a dummy, while others won’t. Try offering it to them at the end of their feed.

3. Unlatch Your Baby at the End of the Feed

Once they have finished active feeding, slide your finger into the corner of their mouth to break the seal. Then place your finger under their chin and gently massage the underside of their chin which can encourage their tongue up towards the roof of their mouth. If they begin to fuss, gently distract them with another sleep association such as shushing, patting their bum, standing up and rocking, singing, etc.

Doing this can start to get them falling asleep and staying asleep without the nipple in their mouth.

4. Set Boundaries Around Feeds

It’s okay to place some boundaries around feeds. If you have a willing partner, ask them to hold your baby while you take a break.

5. For Older Babies

If your little one is older, talk to them about it and explain what is going to happen and that it’s time to stop. A countdown timer can help with this. Practice using this during daytime feeds first.

If your ultimate goal is to move on from feeding to sleep and being able to put your little one down, you could also start unlatching them just before they have fallen asleep. This is a bigger step and may take a while for them to adjust. If the fussing escalates and they get more upset, you can pop them back on the breast and repeat the process again.

The success of this very much depends on your babies temperament. If you are looking to gently move towards more independent sleep for your little one, I offer step-by-step guidance for different types of temperaments in my program The Good Night Sleep System.

Remember, this is only a problem if it’s not working for you. Trust your instincts and do what feels right for you and your baby.