A mama asks – conflicting advice about night time breastfeeds and car seat woes?


A mama asks….

I received some conflicting advice at my DD’s 12mo checkup. Firstly when i said my DD cries in the car but she’s too small for fwd facing the nurse suggested I turn her round anyway since it’s bad for their mental health to be so anxious and upset regularly and she could see she was quite a clingy baby and that could be cos she’s at childcare 3 days.

Then when I “confessed” that we bed share and I still feed her at night, I was told under no circumstances should I be feeding her as she doesn’t need it and i could be affecting her growth because she won’t be filling up on solids properly if she’s full of milk. And obviously bed sharing was a big no no. So I’m supposed to let her cry in the middle of the night but not in the car?! Confused!!
The nurse then proceeded to explain attachment parenting and how I need to make sure I pick her up when she’s upset (eh, hello I’m bed sharing, i get attachment parenting?!).

I’m now worried that:

A. She’s not eating enough solid food and its because she’s filling up on milk at night (how much is enough?)

B. I’m damaging her mental health by having her rear-facing in the car and crying sometimes, and taking her to childcare 3 days (which she loves btw but is more clingy to me the other days)

Pinky says

Its sounds as though you have a well- meaning nurse and it is great that she considers babies mental and emotional health, but it also sounds as though you are very aware and sensitive to your baby’s needs so you really don’t need to worry that you are causing harm to your  little one.

Firstly, safety is the number one priority – if  your baby is too small to face forwards in her car seat then that’s a safety issue.

You say she ‘sometimes’ cries in the car – I doubt you have her in the car for long periods. Occasionally we get things a bit out of ‘sync’ with babies, then we comfort them – this is actually called ‘rupture and repair’ by the experts. It is not all the time, it’s not deliberate and it’s not constant. It’s ok.  Sometimes we do have to get in the car or peel the last potato (or it all goes to crap), but it’s not something we do lots and we comfort the baby reasonably quickly. Perhaps you could play some music your baby enjoys in the car, perhaps hang some toys where she can see/play with them and try to make car trips fairly short when you are on your own. If you have somebody else driving, sit in the back with her. When she is safely big enough, turn the car seat around or if you do need to travel in the car frequently and she is very upset, it would be worth looking at alternative car seat options.

Perhaps your baby is naturally clingy – some babies are ‘velcro babies’.  Yes it can be stressful for babies to be separated from you but co-sleeping is the ‘fix it’ if you have been separated during the day. During co-sleeping, your baby is releasing oxytocin – which HELPS her brain develop wiring that aids her mental health, encourages bonding and attachment and will reduce cortisol release  (which is likely to happen during separation) and encourage the development of cortisol receptors – more cortisol receptors mean a better ability to switch off the stress response throughout life.

Night feeds also encourage good mental health – night time breastmilk is high in tryptophan, a precursor to seratonin, a neurotransmitter that induces calm feelings and happy moods. There are also amino acids in breastmilk that aid the development of seratonin receptors in the gut – recent research shows that most of our seratonin is actually produced in the gut – these receptors are important for future production of seratonin and good mental health.   This means your night –time parenting (co-sleeping and breastfeeding) is actually good for your baby’s mental health!

Re night feeds  and ‘filling up’ on milk.  Breast milk is FOOD! It’s a COMPLETE FOOD! Many babies take time to really eat lots of family foods – how much is enough, according to your nurse?  Often people expect babies to have bowlfuls of food, when they may only be ready and happy to taste and experiment – and this is fine. As long as the foods you offer are healthy, your job is to offer food and it’s your baby’s job to choose what and how much to eat.

Please relax – you are doing a great job; you are sensitive and responsive – otherwise you wouldn’t have asked about the car seat issue. When you feel confused by conflicting advice it can help to do a check by asking: Is it safe? Is it respectful? Does it feel right?  If  anything feels stressful to you or your baby, consider what can we change or tweak? What are our options? Where can we find out more?

attachment parentingbaby breastfeedingbaby carseatbonding and attachmentbreastfeedingcrying in car seatinfant mental healthnight time breastfeedingnight time parentingNight weaning from breastfeeding
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  • sally

    all i can say is I love you Pinky!! I wish I had known of you with my 1st to babies i wish i could have had the ….. attitude i have now… My baby and ill cuddle and loves and hold her as much as i like without feeling bad!!
    This chick is doing a great job- Keep doing what your doing love!

    • Merna

      While you are pregnant, you shloud definitely not worry about weighing less. I am currently 28 weeks and have only gained 3 pounds thus far, but I was overwieght to start with and my doctors are happy. I was also diagnosed with gestational diabetes so I have to watch my carb intake so my blood sugar doesn’t get too high. My suggestion would to make sure that you are eating a healthy, well-balanced diet while you are pregnant and get some exercise, something light like a walk. Don’t over do it and always follow your doctors orders! Every pregnancy is different so it totally depends on you and your body. I have heard that breastfeedimg helps take off the weight once you give birth, after all it is one of the things your body is preparing for!

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  • Hedda Wilson

    Thank you, Pinky, for while this answer wasn’t aimed at me, I have gleaned some much needed reassurance. I have just this weekend had a MCHN tell me that offering my 18 month old the breast as well as a bottle (when he is away from home or at childcare) is causing him to have a calcium overload. (He has had gastro this weekend, and I wanted information on whether breastmilk was enough as he has been refusing food.)

    I came out having been ‘schooled’ that I shouldn’t be feeding him at night, period. There should be no comfort feeding and especially as I am 32 weeks with our next baby, I should certainly be saving my reserves for the new baby and giving my 18 month old cow milk. (Which he isn’t fond of and we don’t force him to have.)

    Thank you for giving me reassurance that I am doing the right thing for my baby.

    • Pinky McKay

      Hedda you sound as though you are doing a wonderful job – I dont know where your nurse would have got any such information about a ‘calcium overload’. I – and many other mums – have happily nursed through pregnancy and given birth easily to healthy babies. Yes breastmilk alone is perfect for a baby/toddler who has had gastro – itis easily digested, will kill the bugs and boost hisimmune system, as well as providing all the nutrients he needs. All you need to do is eat well yourself, your new baby will get ‘first dibs’ on the nutrients, so take care of YOU and you will have energy and reserves for both lucky babies!

  • Robyn

    Pinky I love your confidence and support that you have given me from many of your post. Many times I have been confused and felt like shot and that I’m a bad mum for doing things that others have told me are no no’s.
    I have my girls 12 month check up on Tuesday and was worried that they will say about a few things. You have given me confidence and strength to know that what I am doing is fine and at the end of the day I have to live with the decisions I make and I have to be at peace with them. So I take what info I want to take and the rest is water off a ducks back.
    Thanks again.

  • Mollie

    Hi Pinky
    May I just ask a question re nightfeeding toddlers while we’re on the subject…my son is 20 months old. He wants milk about 3 times a night. I think it’s more just habit than anything so I’m trying to cut it out without tears, but…would you say there’s a certain age where this much milk is way too much and it is indeed affecting their appetite too much in the day?
    Many thanks!

  • Ellen Goldberg

    You are so great! I never read anything like this before. So glad to find person with some original thoughts on this post. I really love you for starting this up. This website is something, that is needed on the web. Useful job for bringing something fresh to the internet!

  • Carleigh

    Hi Pinky,
    I’m loving everything you’re saying on your blog and your Sleeping like a Baby book. However, I have a similar question with night time feeds. I have an 8 month old who wakes every two hours at night to feed for 10 minutes. He goes down between 6pm and 8pm and is awake and alert at 6am. He has a breastfeed about 2-3 times during the day and eats solids. We also co-sleep. I’m extremely sleep deprived and struggling to cope. I don’t know what I can do to help him sleep longer at night. Is his behaviour normal? Please help. Thanks.

    • mai

      Hi Carleigh. I’ve got similar sleep issues with my daughter who is almost 8 months old. We have been to two sleep schools with no success in helping her sleep for longer. It actually made me feel worse for letting her cry & schedule feeding her. She sleeps 20 to 40 minutes during the day & is up from midnight until 6am feeding which means I get very little sleep. I’m taking her to the GP tomorrow & will let you know what he advises. If you do get feedback from anyone else, I’d be keen to hear about it.