Nothing can properly prepare you for the sleep deprivation that accompanies parenthood. This is directly associated with the fact that your newborn baby needs to eat through the night and often. Some babies drop nighttime feedings by three or four months of age, but others don’t. Sometimes the feeding and the routine that goes along with it becomes a habit.
Regardless of your baby’s age, if he/she is waking up through the night to eat, there are some things you can do to make these feedings as smooth as possible. Ultimately, the goal is to feed your baby efficiently and with as little disruption as possible so you can both get back to sleep. This phase will pass, but if you’re in it now or about to embark upon it, the following 11 tips will help you master the ritual.
11 Keep It Dark
To help keep your baby in the sleep zone, avoid turning on lights. The extra light will only stimulate your baby making it tougher to put him/her back to sleep after the feeding. Consider having a night light in your baby’s room so you can navigate safely.
10 Keep It Quiet
Don't speak to your baby, play any music, and definitely don’t bring him/her to the TV room so you can be entertained during the feeding. Any extra noise will be a distraction during the feeding and will make it harder for him/her to settle when the feeding is over. Also, resist the urge to turn on your smartphone during night feeds. This will stimulate you both making it harder to fall asleep again.
A white noise machine is a great tool to keep a consistent level of soft noise in the room. Many babies find this soothing. It also helps to block out other noises that might disturb your little one.
9 Be Prepared
If you bottle feed, prepare the bottle and have a plan for how you will warm it. If you breastfeed, know which side you plan to start from and wear easy access clothes. To remember your side, wear an elastic band on your wrist to remind you. If you use a pillow and a stool when feeding, have them set up or easily accessible. Running into the living room at 3 am to grab your pillow is not going to be fun. Minimize your time investment at night. Being ready will help.
8 Don’t Change Baby’s Diaper
You may be tempted to change your baby’s diaper in the middle of the night, but this is completely unnecessary unless he/she has done a number two. Diapers are so absorbent now they are designed to hold a lot of liquid. Unless your baby is incredibly sensitive to a wet diaper, wait until morning. The extra activity will work against you when you try to settle the baby back to sleep.
7 Don’t Burp Baby
Many a mom has gotten anxious spending time trying to burp her baby in the middle of the night. The truth is, when babies nurse at night, they are more relaxed and feed less vigorously; thus, they are less inclined to take in air. This means they usually don’t need to be burped in the night. You can comfortably skip this step, reducing the number of things you need to do to settle your baby after a night feed, and minimizing the extra stimulation.
6 Get a Comfortable Nursing Chair
Invest in a high-quality rocking chair. You will spend a lot of time in that chair whether you breast or bottle feed so you need it to be functional and comfortable. After months of day and night feedings, your back, shoulders and arms will pay the price if your chair isn’t right. Further, your baby is more likely to successfully and efficiently feed if your chair supports proper positioning.
5 Try Dream Feeding
Dream feeding is the act of feeding your baby when he/she is more or less asleep. The idea is to do a dream feed just before you go to bed at night, which means you can get a solid chunk of sleep before baby wakes again. You must be quiet and gentle, rousing your baby only enough to have him/her latch on and begin breast or bottle feeding. To facilitate this, you can tickle or stroke his/her cheek to trigger the sucking reflex. You’ll be amazed when this works and how much it helps.
Co-sleeping isn’t for everyone, but sometimes it works well if the baby is very young and waking frequently through the night for feedings. The disruption will be minimized if you are in the same bed. As a result, you should both get more sleep. Of course, co-sleeping requires that you take the proper precautions to ensure baby’s safety.
3 Tag Your Partner In
There is no harm in having your partner participate in night feeds. It’s easier, of course, if the baby is bottle-fed. Let him take the 11 pm feeding so he can still have some solid sleep before morning if he has to face work the next day. Even if you breastfeed, your partner can take over some of the work after feeding to get your baby back to sleep. This scenario would give you a little more rest. Plus, your partner may really enjoy being involved in the process.
2 Keep a Log
You will be amazed at how tough it is to remember what happened during the night when you are sleep-deprived and slightly out of your mind. Did you go to the baby’s room four times or was it five? Did you nurse/feed every time? Did you tag your partner in? From which breast did you last feed? How many ounces did baby drink from the bottle?
It is beneficial to keep a simple nighttime log so you can review what happened the night before. This can be as simple as a piece of paper to keep track of time and activity. You will find it helpful to have a record of what happened during the night and also to monitor the progress from one night to the next in case you need to adjust your strategy. You will also find it very inspiring when you see your baby start sleeping for longer stretches.
1 Give Baby a Chance to Self-Soothe
Give baby a minute to self-soothe and settle down before you rush in. And, if you do decide it’s necessary to do a feeding, then also give your baby a chance to soothe once he/she has a full belly. Sometimes the feeding part of a nighttime feeding is the fast part but the soothing part can take forever as you try to coax your baby back to sleep. If your baby is old enough, see what he/she can do.
Obviously, this all needs to be within the realm of your comfort zone, but you may be surprised at what your baby is capable of if given the chance to quiet down on his/her own. When your baby can do this, it opens up a whole new world and night feedings become just that—feedings.