Are you a breastfeeding mom tired of the long nights and early mornings? Are you struggling to find a solid nighttime feeding routine?
You’re not alone!
Mastering breastfeeding throughout the night can be one of the hardest obstacles new moms face — but one of the most rewarding.
Making these late-night feeding sessions easier on you will help prolong your breastfeeding experience, get you more sleep, and keep your baby fed and happy.
Why Breastfeeding At Night Is Important
We’ve all heard breast milk is the most natural way to feed your baby, and offers a plethora of health benefits for both mother and child. However, when feeding baby at night, breastfeeding also comes with its fair share of sleep deprivation and frustration.
It’s not time to give up, though! About 20 percent of baby’s overall intake comes from those sometimes exhausting late night feeds (source).
Babies have small tummies which is why they need to feed more frequently. The important thing to keep in mind while breastfeeding is that each week will get easier. Establishing a routine and good habits will make this mission entirely impossible!
What Nighttime Breastfeeding Does For Baby
Nighttime breastfeeding carries the same benefits as doing so in the daytime, with a few extra bonuses.
Babies who are breastfed through the night naturally develop better sleeping patterns because of the hormones breast milk delivers. Their internal clock becomes active around 2 months of age, so tending to your baby’s hunger needs can create a reliable sleep schedule for you both (source).
One of the biggest benefits that nighttime breastfeeding provides is protection against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Frequent waking and careful monitoring during the night are the best ways to avoid this tragedy.
Breastfeeding also creates a psychological connection between you and your baby that helps prevent SIDS.
Are Nighttime Bottles Bad For Baby?
While some moms switch to formula for those 3 a.m. feedings, it’s important to weigh your other options first, and understand the advantages of each.
No matter how it’s done, a fed baby is a happy, healthy, baby — but you might be surprised to learn breastfeeding at night can be easier than a bottle if done right.
Some downsides to bottle feeding during the night include:
- Overfeeding: Bottles have a faster, easier flow than a breast does, which encourages your baby to keep sucking even after they become full. This can make bad habits, stretch the stomach, and make it harder to satisfy them in the future.
- Difficulty digesting: The myth that formula helps babies sleep longer is just that — a myth. Formula is actually more difficult to digest, and takes longer to break down in baby’s stomach (source).
- More work: When you think about it, preparing a bottle is a lot more difficult than feeding from your breasts. Why waste precious sleep mixing, warming, and holding a bottle?
Of course, every family has unique needs. Breastfeeding for the first year will do wonders for your baby, but it’s important above all else that they are fed — no matter how that happens.
7 Tricks To Ease Nighttime Breastfeeding
So how can you breastfeed at night without becoming a perpetual zombie? Don’t worry!
There are ways to overcome these hardships and make night feeding easier.
1. Establish A Bedtime
Night time is sleep time. Establishing a bedtime with your baby at a young age helps make feedings easier on you both.
2. Try Dream Feeding
Dream feeding is when you gently wake your baby somewhere around midnight to feed, giving them nutrients to help them last through the night. It’s very important to remember to keep things calm and low-key to ensure they fall back asleep easily.
3. Get Organized
Keep your nursing area tidy, organized, and easily accessible. No one wants to fumble around in the dark in the middle of the night! You’ll reduce the time you spend awake, and keep things peaceful so your baby isn’t stimulated enough to stay up after eating.
4. Sleep When Baby Sleeps
Fighting off exhaustion will be much harder if you focus on resting only at night. A handy rule of thumb to follow when it comes to maintaining your energy levels is to sleep when your baby sleeps. If you can’t sleep during the day, at least rest during these napping hours.
5. Wear Breathable Clothes
Minimizing the steps to get a feeding underway means getting back to sleep sooner. You might try loose fitting clothing for easy access. There are also nursing gowns made specifically for these quick and easy nighttime feedings.
6. Share The Room Or Co-Sleep
It can be okay to breastfeed in your bed while lying down in the middle of the night, but only if you are in no danger of falling asleep while you do it. When the feeding is done, return your baby to its bassinet or crib.
7. Don’t Watch The Clock
Stop making this a chore! It takes some practice to adapt to frequent feedings at night with a positive attitude, but it’ll do wonders. We grow up accustomed to sleeping through the night, but if you set that habit aside, this is just another way to bond with your bundle of joy.
How To Breastfeed a Sleepy Baby
It’s common for some newborns to sleep through their feedings, making their mothers believe they’re full. Unfortunately, these limited feedings lead to increased hunger and late-night crying.
Prevent this by ensuring your baby is getting breast milk with every feeding, even when they’re sleepy. Babies can nurse up to 14 times a day, so if you’re noticing your baby is feeding less than 8 times a day, there’s a chance you need to start waking them up to feed.
After two-to-four weeks, babies begin to stay more alert during their feedings. However, newborns need lots of sleep, and it’s not unusual you’ll have to feed a sleepy baby who has trouble getting their fill.
Follow these steps to help your baby stay awake long enough to fill their rumbly little belly.
1. Stick To A Schedule
Feeding every two hours is common for babies two weeks and under, so even if your baby is sleeping, offer them your breast frequently. They may only suckle a bit, but you’ll be back in another two hours for more, and eventually, they’ll understand what is happening and feed more.
2. Pay Attention
Being on the breast naturally relaxes your baby, and often works as a pacifier. They enjoy the closeness, which means they might not be sucking hard enough to get a real supply of milk.
Pay enough attention so you can feel the difference between their sucking for food and for comfort. Encourage them to continue swallowing by gently squeezing some of your milk onto their lips and tongue.
3. Stimulate Your Baby
It’s important to keep things low-key at night, but you also have to ensure your baby is getting fed. Try gently talking to them, making eye contact, and caressing their cheeks. This will keep your baby alert enough to get the meal they need before going back to sleep easily.
4. Try Skin-To-Skin
Our maternal instincts kick in more than usual when our baby is against us without clothes in the way. Including skin-to-skin contact during feedings has tons of benefits, but one of them is to encourage your baby to stay awake (source).
5. Include Other Activities
Because babies have such tiny tummies, breastmilk doesn’t stay in their bodies for long. Make it a habit to change the diaper before every feeding. This will help your baby associate the action with the need to stay awake for their meal!
When Will Baby Sleep All Night?
Babies will start sleeping a full 8 hours anywhere from 6-12 months of age. Breastfed babies have a tendency to hit this milestone later in life, but about 70 percent of all infants have started sleeping through the night by 9 months old (source).
How to Start Night Weaning
Most babies can start being night-weaned at around 4 months of age, or whenever you feel they’re ready. Follow these four tricks to make the change as seamless as possible.
1. Start Slowly
The biggest mistake you can make while weaning is rushing it. Babies rely on routine, and they see feedings as a source of comfort. Reduce the time spent feeding gradually, so it isn’t a sudden, jarring change.
2. Increase Daytime Feedings
Keep your baby full and transition them into filling up before bed instead of through the night. Add more time to daytime feedings and include one right before bedtime in the evening. Paying attention to your baby’s hunger signs can help you regulate a good daytime pattern.
3. Get Some Help
You don’t have to do this alone! Even if your baby isn’t hungry, they may wake up during the night — you don’t always have to go to them. In fact, it’s better that your partner or a trusted family member does the comforting during the weaning process.
This is so your child isn’t confused with the closeness of your breasts.
4. Introduce Solids
By 6 months of age, your baby can start eating solids, so don’t be shy about introducing some to keep them fuller longer. Baby foods digest more slowly, meaning their sensation of a full belly will last!
Ready for the Final Secret?
Every breastfeeding mom dreams of the light at the end of the tunnel —a full night’s sleep! Don’t despair, it’s not as far off as you think.
Implementing small changes, sticking with a routine, and enlisting some extra can help make sleep happen in the blink of an eye.
Have you mastered breastfeeding at night? Are you wondering about late-night weaning? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!
Don’t forget to share these tips with your fellow sleep-deprived mamas, too!