For me, reverse cycling lead to co-sleeping. DD briefly slept through the night for about two weeks when we were on vacation and she was 3 months old. As soon as I returned to work, she started waking up every two hours again. With co-sleeping, I could feed her every two hours and still get some sleep. Around 6 months, we introduced the bedtime routine and transitioned to the crib (in our room) for the first sleep cycles. When she woke up for the first time, I took her to bed with me. This forced me to go to bed early enough to get some sleep, too.
There are two risks with using co-sleeping to promote extended nursing:
1.) Sleep debt for Mom. Yes, my sleep suffered. My sleep debt is so huge that I still haven't had a refreshing sleep after 15 months.
2.) Sleep training for baby. My DD naturally went from waking every two hours to every four hours, but she seemed stuck at waking at 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. Depending on your baby's personality, and your own inclination to stop co-sleeping, at some point you might need to "train" her to go back to sleep without nursing. For me, that meant at 13 months bringing her to bed and not nursing while she cried and tried to lift my shirt (heartbreaking). After about a week, she went back to sleep without it and then I started just laying her back down in the crib. It took about a month to get her to sleep through in her crib without nursing. This was not an easy month and only added to the sleep debt. Even if you never imagined yourself as a co-sleeper, it might be helpful if your top priority is to keep nursing.
That's all of my advice in a nutshell. A few acknowledgements: I got a lot of support for breastfeeding from my mom and sister, the folks at kellymom.com
, and at whattoexpect.com
. Even so, there just isn't all that much out there for working moms who are pumping. One book I really liked and would recommend was Nursing Mother, Working Mother
by Gale Pryor and Kathleen Huggins. Finally, I think this advice is most useful for a woman returning to work with support from a partner and enough money (or credit) to equip herself for pumping and to outsource household help. Obviously that's not all nursing moms, and I would like to encourage those of us with those resources to seek out and support women without those resources.