We’re confident that all new parents could agree: One of the most tiresome parts of caring for a newborn is hearing that mourning cry at 2:00am… and 4:30am… and 6:30am… While night feeding can be quite a chore, parents of babies may be surprised to learn that breastfeeding at night has some surprising benefits! Nighttime breastfeeding can increase milk supply, teach baby to sleep for longer stretches, and even give you the benefit of more sleep. Read on to see our 6 surprisingly awesome facts about nighttime breastfeeding!
#1 Babies consume more milk at night.
Most babies feed 1-3 times each night, and studies show that babies drink more milk at night than at any other time during the day. In fact, babies accustomed to nighttime feeding take in 20% of their daily milk supply overnight! Nighttime is a crucial feeding time for maintaining milk supply and helping baby’s development and health.
#2 Nighttime breast milk contains more healthy hormones.
While all milk contains magical sleep-inducing amino acid tryptophan, nighttime breastmilk contains a higher percentage of it. This means that nursing at night helps regulate your baby’s sleep – absolutely priceless for sleep-deprived parents of newborns. Tryptophan also improves brain development, so nighttime nursing can help boost your baby’s brain functions as well as encourage him to sleep. And as if that wasn’t enough, tryptophan is a precurser to the serotonin hormone, so tryptophan-heavy nighttime milk will help to keep your baby in high spirits. Three birds, one stone!
#3 Nighttime nursing may help increase your milk supply.
Most nursing-inclined women know about the milk-making hormone Prolactin. But many moms might be surprised to learn that prolactin has its own circadian rhythm. Several studies show that in breastfeeding women, prolactin levels are much higher at night (especially in the painfully-early morning hours!). For this reason, nighttime nursing helps maintain or boost milk supply, and establishes a healthy supply for the duration of baby’s time as an infant.
#4 Nighttime breastfeeders get more sleep.
Turns out, the idea that nighttime feeding leads to less sleep overall is a misconception. Breastfeeding moms have reported more sleep than formula-feeding moms. In fact, breastfeeding parents tend to get around 45 minutes more of sleep than non-breastfeeding parents (That may seem like a small difference, but every minute counts as a sleep-deprived new parent!). Think about it – babies need to eat during the night, so whether you breastfeed or formula-feed, you’ll be awake either way. Formula-feeding parents put in extra work preparing the bottle, while breastfeeding parents can just take baby to bed and continue to doze while baby feeds.
#5 Nighttime breastfeeding helps baby learn when to sleep.
Newborns can’t tell any difference between day and night, since there’s no innate circadian rhythm that babies are born with. In addition, babies don’t produce melatonin, the hormone which induces sleep and regulates sleep cycles. Nighttime breast milk, however, contains plenty of melatonin to make up for this lack of production on baby’s part. This melatonin-rich nighttime milk aids in the development of babies’ circadian rhythms, meaning they’ll start sleeping for longer stretches sooner!
#6 Nighttime breastfeeding helps to prevent SIDS.
SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, is a terrifying concept to any new parent, but it’s important to know the best steps toward prevention. For starters, breastfeeding in general greatly reduces the risk of SIDS. In fact, breastfeeding more than halves the risk of SIDS in newborns. And when breastfeeding at night (a.k.a. When baby is very close hand), you’re more likely to hear if your baby is in crisis, allowing you to wake and respond in situations which may otherwise go unnoticed.