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Trust That Sleep (At Night) Will Come Don’t Blame The Breastfeeding

Are you awakening at night to feed, diaper and otherwise tend to your baby? Is your baby keeping you from getting a six-hour stretch of sleep at night? Well of course she is!!!                                                             

Your justborn needs to be at your breast continuously and will hopefully suck colostrum every 20 minutes. Your 2 - 4 day-old infant might be breastfeeding every 1 - 3 hours, day and night and sleeping in between feedings. And over time, your 1-month-old will have settled into a recognizable pattern of eating and then remaining awake for a while during the day before sleeping again. TIP: Keep your baby stimulated during these awake and alert periods. More awake time during the day may translate into more sleep time at night.

Take these 3 steps today for more sleep.

STEP #1: TAKE DAYTIME NAPS AFTER BREASTFEEDING

Start these on Day 1. A new baby will fall asleep easily if her belly is full enough. Sleeping after a breastfeeding session will come easily to you too, your hormones have set you up to be relaxed and content. Don’t fight it. Sleep when the baby sleeps is an expression to be taken seriously, from Day 1. Take your clothes off, keep the room dark, breathe deeply, job well-done, go to sleep.

STEP #2: ESTABLISH A NIGHT TIME SLEEPING RITUAL

Nighttime sleep is different than daytime sleep; let your baby know it. Transition into nighttime with a bath, a lotion massage, soothing music, lighting, scents. Dressed in pajamas only worn at night, your baby will become sensitized to these subtle changes and recognize that nighttime activities are different from daytime ones. (And so will your body. See my article Breastfeeding Using Your 5 Senses).

STEP #3: PUSH THE LAST FEEDING BEFORE NIGHT TIME SLEEP

Enjoy a looong breastfeeding session. Deep breathing each time your baby pauses will stimulate more milk to flow and keep her sucking and swallowing. I encourage mothers to feed on one breast per feed. If your baby feeds from both breasts, she gets a double foremilk feeding that has lower fat and most of the lactose. Not so filling in the long term and makes her gassier, perhaps pooping during the night, which will awaken her and you. Encourage her to finish the feeding on one breast to get into the fattier hindmilk... a stick-to-your-ribs kinda feeding. The more fat, the longer she’ll sleep.

New research on short night time sleep duration for mothers and babies*... shows that a mother who gets less than 6 hours of sleep during the night will be a sleep deprived mommy in the daytime. Daytime napping for as little as 20 minutes will prove invigorating, especially if you nap each time your baby does. Whether breastfed or formula fed, this research concluded; “Mothers with inadequate night time sleep had daytime sleepiness that affected their ability to function... and that breastfeeding is not associated with shortened maternal sleep duration.”

It’s awakening frequently, not the breastfeeding, that’s keeping you from sleeping longer and functioning more efficiently.  

You have to trust that when your baby is physically mature enough to sleep through the night, she will do so... if her emotional and nutritional needs have been met. A hungry baby is not a good sleeper. A lactation consultant can advise you about improving your breastfeeding techniques to get as much milk into your baby as you can.

If you need to make adjustments to your baby’s previously established nighttime sleep schedule because now you’re not getting enough sleep, it can take some time for your baby to become accustomed to the new routine. Stick with it, remain consistent, and establish your day-night boundaries. Trust that you will both adjust to changing circumstances and will learn to sleep for longer periods of time as you continue to breastfeed your growing child.

*https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3494758/


Paula Zindler

RN IBCLC

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