One of the most trying things about breastfeeding at night is the lack of sleep that goes along with it. Whether you are just drifting off to sleep or it’s the middle of the night, it can take some extreme willpower to get up and feed your crying baby. Nighttime feedings can become very overwhelming as you lose more and more sleep, but they are very necessary for your little one.
Here is everything you need to know about breastfeeding at night to help you have a more positive experience.
The Importance of Nighttime Feedings
A newborn baby’s tummy is very small. Slowly, it will grow in size with your baby, but at first, it can only hold about 20mL of fluid. Breastmilk typically is digested within an hour. This is why infants wake every couple of hours for a snack. It takes a couple of months for babies to adjust to a day and night routine so they will wake up just as often while you are sleeping to receive night feedings.
Nighttime feedings make a big contribution to the total amount of calorie intake every twenty-four hours. Most babies from one-month-old to six months old will nurse between one and three times during the night.
If you’re getting tired of breastfeeding at night, remember it is also natural birth control. It’s suggested to wait at least a year and a half between the time of giving birth and getting pregnant again. This time will allow your body to properly heal and prepare for the next pregnancy. The less time you give your body to heal, the more likely you are to have complications or premature birth. The Lactational Amenorrhea Method or LAM is one way to do natural birth control that is almost always effective if done right.
When a baby is younger than six months old and you are breastfeeding them day and night, you can use this method of birth control. This method is not always effective so if another child is not in your plans, you might want to consider something a little more foolproof.
The Relationship between Breastfeeding and SIDS
Medical research indicates that breastfeeding lowers the chances of SIDS or sudden infant death. Since breastfeeding is the original and most natural way of feeding babies, other methods of feeding should model the behavior of breastfeeding.
Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council tell us that avoiding breastfeeding increases the chances of SIDS by a huge fifty-six percent.
“For decades, researchers have been working to identify factors which increase babies’ SIDS risk, and conversely, those that lower the risk. Many, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), recognize breastfeeding as one of the factors that lower the risk of SIDS. A 2017 study found that exclusive breastfeeding for the first 2 months of life helped reduce the risk of SIDS by 50 percent.”
The Details of Nighttime Feedings
Things to Consider
In the first few days of breastfeeding, you should try to notice any changes in your body and your baby’s body.
Many women are unaware of the fact that you can get night sweats during breastfeeding. Night sweats are due to your hormones fluctuating after delivery. When you combine the hormone imbalance with breastfeeding, this is your body’s way of shedding extra fluid gathered during pregnancy. Night sweats will usually stop happening around one to four weeks after birth. However, some women have experienced them longer.
Other Things That Need to be Done at Night
Babies will often need their diaper changed at night in the first couple of weeks. This is something to incorporate into your overnight routine. You should try to establish consistency in everything you do as soon as possible. Another thing is burping. To avoid stomach troubles and trapped gas, make sure to take a couple of minutes to pat your baby’s back before settling them down to sleep again.
Supplementing with Formula
If you’d like, you can consider supplementing breastfeeding with formula at night. If you feel like you are not producing enough milk, you could consider this option. However, keep in mind it adds more awake time to your night. If you start supplementing, your baby may not want the breast anymore. A bottle is much easier to drink from as it has a bigger hole and releases liquid at a much quicker rate. If your baby loves to eat, they might prefer the faster method of delivery.
Getting Your Baby Back to Sleep
When you wake up at night to feed your baby, try not to play with them or engage them. Keep the lights off and use a small flashlight for changing diapers or for nursing. The more awake your baby becomes the harder it will be to get them off to sleep again.
Nursing to Sleep
Some moms like to nurse their babies to sleep. While this seems easier, it may teach your baby to expect this. Once your baby starts to have a couple of teeth, it is not recommended to nurse them to sleep because breast milk contains sugar and is not great for their tiny new teeth. You should decide what method you will use to get your baby to drift off to sleep and be consistent throughout feedings.
Proper Care During the Day
One thing that is very important for mothers who do nighttime nursing is proper care for themselves during the day. You should try to fit in a little nap and make sure to keep up a healthy diet so you have plenty of energy for nighttime feedings. The stress of having a newborn, staying up at night, and adjusting to added responsibilities in the day can take a huge toll on your body. Moms should always properly take care of themselves so they can provide the best care for their babies.
Things to Make it Easier
Having the proper equipment and doing small things to make it easier is definitely worth it. When it comes to nighttime breastfeeding, you can’t focus too much on comfort. Here are a few different items and tricks to make breastfeeding at night as easy as possible:
Breastfeeding Night Bra
There are many different bras designed to make breastfeeding as easy as possible. Some of the main types are sleep bras, drop-cup bras, and stretch bras. Any of these would work for nighttime feedings but the best would probably be the sleep bra. If you have a little problem with leaking at night, you might want to get some bra pads to wear at night to absorb any extra milk. Having the right bra for nighttime feeding will make your life so much easier.
Breastfeeding Night Light
Since you are trying to teach your baby the difference between day and night, it is not recommended to be turning the lights in the bedroom on for nighttime feedings. You could use a flashlight but this is a little inconvenient to find in the dark and to hold while you tend to your little one. A nightlight for breastfeeding is perfect. You should plug it in somewhere near the bed so you can see well enough by its light and where you can reach to turn it off if you’d like.
Keeping Things Accessible
Try to make everything as easy to find as possible. You might set up a small changing table near your bed, fully equipped with wipes, diapers, a milk pump, washcloth and anything else you might need during your nighttime feedings. Another thing you might consider is keeping the crib or bassinet close to the bed in the first couple of weeks. Anything to make the process easier will pay off in the long run.
When Should I Stop Breastfeeding at Night?
After a couple of months of nighttime breastfeeding, you may be asking yourself this question. The answer to this question may vary for each mother and child. The most important thing to address before getting started is why you want your baby to sleep through the night? Make sure that it’s the right time for your baby and the right time for you. You shouldn’t feel pressured due to friends or family. Take things at your own pace.
Introducing Sleep Cues
First, you should consider how to reduce breastfeeding at night. If you stop cold turkey you may have problems with engorged breasts and a very fussy and confused baby. There are several different methods to continue breastfeeding and sleeping through the night.
If your baby falls asleep while breastfeeding then you can try introducing sleep cues to start preparing them to sleep on their own. Try bringing a stuffed animal or soft blanket to bed with you when you are nursing your baby. Play some music every night when you are putting them to sleep.
How to Reduce Breastfeeding at Night
Make sure to think of a well-structured plan before you begin the process. If your baby is accustomed to nursing regularly through the night, you should gradually reduce feedings and snuggle time so it’s not a harsh shock to them. Once you have a system in place, be consistent and you can expect to see some results within a week or two.
How to Stop Breastfeeding at Night
Once you have reduced breastfeeding at night and have decided it is time to completely stop, you should be very determined when you actually do. Many babies will not want to stop something they have become accustomed to. It can be difficult at first, but make sure that you don’t give in. If you have properly prepared and gone through gradual steps, this final part may not be that hard.
Breastfeeding can be a very enjoyable experience to bond with your baby. You will enjoy many moments of snuggles with your little one that will be gone too quickly. The sleep loss and the frustrations will fade away sooner than you think and your baby will have had a wonderful balanced start to their lives. Do you have any great tips for breastfeeding at night? Let us know in the comments below!