Happy National Breastfeeding Month! Today (and every day) you should pat yourself on the back for being a breastfeeding mama – it’s not always easy! And while every parent has to deal with night-waking and nighttime feedings, when you’re breastfeeding, there’s no tag-teaming with your partner when you get too tired. It’s all you, mama! Lucky for you, we know some little tricks that can help you get much-needed rest during nighttime feedings. Here’s the best sleep advice for breastfeeding moms.
Understand the importance of night-time feedings.
Of course you know that night-time feedings are important for your baby’s quickly developing body, but did you know they’re good for you, too? When you breastfeed at night, your body produces more prolactin (the hormone that promotes milk production), so night feedings help to keep up milk production.
Keep your baby close.
If you don’t have to race to another room to get to your screaming baby, both you and baby are going to be in a more restful state and both of you will go back to sleep more easily. Consider putting baby’s crib next to your bed or, better yet, use a co-sleeper to keep your baby within arm’s reach without the risks associated with having your baby directly in bed with you. (If you do choose to co-sleep in one bed, please use these tips to co-sleep safely.)
Wear jammies that offer easy access.
Stretchy fabrics and tops or nighties that open in the front get your baby to your breast ASAP. If it’s not too uncomfortable, skip the nursing bra – sleeping in them can increase your chances of plugged ducts and mastitis.
Master the art of nursing lying down.
Sure, you have to wake-up in the middle of the night to feed your baby, but that doesn’t mean you have to physically get up. Nurse lying down, so you’re comfortable and still resting. Here’s how to lay on your side and on your back.
Assemble your night time necessities before bed.
Consider everything you might need during the night: diapers, spit-up rags, a towel, a bottle of water, snacks, etc. Keep it all in a basket near the bed, so you don’t have to get up and hunt it down when you’re half asleep.
Know what’s ‘normal.’
Every baby is going to have different sleep habits, but it’s good to understand what you can expect. According to The Baby Sleep Site, breastfeeding moms can expect the following night-feedings, on average:
• Newborns will breastfeed every 2-3 hours in the early days and this is also when your milk supply is established. Newborns sleep more than anything in the beginning, but that changes quickly.
• When your baby is 3-4 months old, she will probably still be breastfeeding at night 2-3 times per night and sleeping 10-12 hours, but remember that sleep does change around 4 months old.
• When your baby is 5-7 months old, he will begin to move to 2 feedings per night fairly regularly and still sleeping 11-12 hours, typically.
• An 8-9 month-old will usually transition to just one feeding per night and sleep 11-12 hours at night.
• At 10-12 months, many babies will be able to go all night without a feeding, but some will still need one through a year or beyond.
They also say, “If you are breastfeeding more than 2-3 times per night at 3 months or more than twice after 4-5 months, then you have become a human pacifier. Some people believe this is 100% what we should do as moms and are fine with it. I became a pacifier, too, and for awhile it was fine. Later on, it wasn’t…for me. These are all personal choices.”
Feeling prepared for better sleep during breastfeeding? We hope so! Here’s a tidbit of good news for you, too – not only do breastfeeding moms actually get more sleep at night, but a study has shown your baby also has less “sleep disturbance” than babies given formula. Yet another reason to breastfeed!