Many new mothers find night-time breastfeeding challenging and lonely. There is an unreal expectation of ‘babies sleeping through the night’ that further evokes frustration in parents. We need to acknowledge it is, in fact, biologically normal for babies to wake up multiple times at night and support mothers as they fight through sleep deprivation, in the interest of the health of the baby.
Read on to find some practical tips to get you through night-time breastfeeding without becoming a zombie!
Importance of night-time breastfeeding:
Babies have very tiny tummies that need to be refilled every to hours in the first few weeks. Breastfeeding at night also helps mom to establish a good supply. Prolactin, the hormone that is responsible for milk supply, is seen to be higher during the night. Nursing your baby tells your body to make more milk. Breastfeeding at night also reduces the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) which peaks at 2- 4 months of a newborn.
Practical Tips to Survive Night Time Breastfeeding:
1.Keep a calm atmosphere:
This not only helps your baby but also make it easier for you to drift back to sleep. I think it helps me more than the baby. My babies usually pass out after getting ‘milk-drunk.’ It’s me who is tossing and turning between the feeds, keeping the room dim-lighted helped me doze off.
I had a dim bedside night lamp that helped me see what’s going on without being too bright to keep me up. Research says a dim red light has calming effects that help you sleep. And, you definitely want to avoid any blue light in your room at night.
Babies get warm quickly so keep the temperature down a little. Ideal baby bedroom temperature is to be set at 20-22 C. We had a humidifier for the cooling effect, and it also aided as a source of subtle white noise which was very relaxing.
2.Keep all things within your reach:
Nobody wants to get out of the bed in the middle of the night. So make sure you have everything you need by your side. Keep a ‘Baby & Mom’ basket by your bed and load it with all the necessities.
- Baby wipes
- Bum cream
- Small wet bag
- Nipple cream
- Breast pump
- Burp cloth
- A set of change cloth for the baby
- Water and snacks for mom
You might wonder why I have snacks and water up on the list. Breastfeeding turns you into a ravenous eater. Midnight hunger pangs are so real! Dried apricots, figs, almonds and other nuts are ideal healthy bedside breastfeeding snacks.
It doesn’t have to be fancy, expensive attires that’s specifically designed for nursing. Well, if you feel like you need to splurge on nursing bras and tanks, by all means, feel free to. If you don’t want to spend any money, that’s cool too. Just slip into a comfortable and stretchy tanks/ t-shirts to whip out those ‘milk-makers.’
You must also take care of the leaky businesses. If you don’t know already, you will be leaking a lot, at least the first few days, until your milk supply gets stabilized. You don’t want to be changing wet outfits, bed sheets in the middle of the night, do you? Nursing pads help. But I often lose them and discover them under my pillow when I wake up soaking my sheets. My best advice is to use Peapod mats. Peapod mats are waterproof bed-wetting mats that absorb a ton of liquid and stays put when placed over the sheets, without shifting or bunching.
Co-sleeping works well for both Mommy and baby. Babies feel safe being close to moms and this, in turn, helps mom establish a stable breastfeeding relationship with her newborn.
If you are too afraid to put your baby in the bed with you, try making them sleep in a bassinet next to the bed. Some parents take out one side of the crib, level it and join it with the bed. This would be a good option if you wish to transition your little one to the crib later on.
Take your phone and iPad to bed with you. I know that experts suggest avoiding screen time during the night time feeds. But I say, do what’s needed to keep you mentally sane.
I felt incredibly lonely during night time feeds. I would sometimes cry starring at the walls while nursing my son. It was depressing, and I needed something to get my mind off the loneliness that I felt around me.
I would read scriptures, listen to songs, and sometimes I will put on a funny movie and laugh my heart out. But, just be careful not to wake the baby up!
6. Take your partner’s help:
You can skip a nursing session and let your partner take care of the last feeding. I go to bed a little early and give a bottle of pumped milk to my husband to take care of the next feeding session. Woohoo! I get four hours sleep at a stretch! I usually sleep in another room, so I don’t even hear the baby waking up.
Don’t go more than a feeding though, then you might end up with engorged breasts, and that’s no fun! Wait until your supply stabilizes before trying this. You also don’t want to give a bottle to your baby too soon (not in the first six weeks) as it may cause nipple confusion.
If you do wish to pump milk, there are other ways to get you partner involved in breastfeeding. He can offer to change diapers, burp and put the baby back to sleep.
7.Cluster feeding :
Nursing your baby more frequently is called ‘Cluster feeding.’ Let’s say your usual schedule is every two hours. As you near bedtime, increase the frequency of feedings. Instead of feeding at 6 pm and 8 pm, nurse every one hour, i.e., at 6 pm, 7 pm and 8 pm.
You are simply topping up your baby’s little tummy in hopes that he will sleep longer. This method has worked for me, and worth giving a shot.
8. Let your baby drain your breasts:
I know how you wish to wrap up a breastfeeding session as quickly as possible and go back to sleep. But, hear me out! It’s quite possible that your baby dozes off as your nursing him. Make sure to wake him up to finish the feed. Try this, start with nursing on one side, when he falls asleep, wake him up by changing his diaper, and let him finish off by nursing on the other side. This will ensure that your baby is getting enough hind-milk (the fatty milk) that will keep him full longer.
Breastfeeding may seem like an exhausting job! It indeed is! But, it is also one of the most rewarding! Try these tips, sleep while the baby sleeps, and ensure you rest enough to take care of your little one. They say, ‘Days are longer but the years are short.’ There is so much truth in that simple statement. Before you know, your tiny newborn babe will be running around the house, and you’ll wish for those times when you could wrap them around your arms.
Do you have any night time breastfeeding tips? Comment below and share it with other moms of the internet.
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