I have a 10-month old baby, whom I am still breastfeeding. My problem is that I am breastfeeding him to sleep. He sleeps through the night, and I plan to breastfeed until he is a year old.
I have tried putting him down for naps without his falling asleep at the breast but he cries incessantly; I have let him cry for as long as 40 minutes. I feel that as long as he is napping and sleeping well at night, all is well. He is a happy, healthy, and extremely alert baby. But I am concerned that I will never get him to sleep on his own. Am I worried for no reason?
You already know the plus side to breastfeeding your baby to sleep: the closeness and reliability. Here are two issues on the negative side.
First, as you've already discovered, you're teaching your baby, intentionally or not, to rely on you to put him to sleep. If he is never taught to go from sleepy to asleep on his own, he will likely continue to ask that of you into his second year, when it can be tougher to 'unlearn' learned behavior.
If you're ready to ask him to get to sleep on his own, have someone else put him down and then stick with your resolve. Giving in even once or twice can set the process back considerably.
The second issue is dental. As his teeth come in, he will be falling asleep with a mouthful of sugary milk, which promotes decay. We recommend that parents clean baby teeth, either with a soft bristle brush or gauze, as soon as they come in. Obviously, that's hard to do to a sleeping baby.
So, here are the issues, for you to consider and weigh. Only you can decide what is right for you and your baby at this point.