Breastfeeding is truly an amazing way to feed a baby. There is nothing wrong with formula families but breastfeeding is proven to provide more, and better nutrients for the baby. It’s also good for the mother’s health, and helpful in losing weight. And to top it all off, it's free and moms never have to leave the house to get it. So with all those positives, what could possible go wrong? Well, nothing really goes wrong but babies like to nurse and they like to nurse a lot.
Moms basically become walking, talking pacifiers using breastmilk not only for food but also for comfort and soothing measures. Some moms nurse up to 20 times a day which means they are nursing around the clock. Newborn babies and younger infants need to be able to nurse on demand to promote growth and a healthy quality of life. So, there is a solid guarantee that mom will be nursing at night time. It may not seem like much to those who haven’t experienced it, but some women know that nighttime feeding can be rough on the mommy. She can only make it on so little sleep. All the interruptions to what would normally be a restful night’s sleep can add up quickly.
So, what’s a mom to do? Stopping nighttime breastfeeding is not an option most women can or are willing to take. So the best thing she can do is to get clever and make the best of the sleepy situation. Here are 14 ways to survive nighttime nursing like a pro!
One of the best things to do to avoid the sting of late night, up all night feedings is to hide the clock. Just like they do in Vegas hide all the clocks. Moms will fret less at being up all night if they are a tad less aware of the crazy hours they are working. Remember the saying out of sight, out of mind? It’s true, the less moms are constantly reminded of how late it is, or how long or soon after the last nursing session, the better. This is one of the top tips for sleepy moms and here’s why, keep the clocks hidden if there isn’t a busy schedule or other children to tend to during the day. New mommies at home with their first children should not be a slave to the clock. Breakfast might end up being at 11am, but if baby was sleeping, then mom should, too!
Still in line with the Vegas casinos, people who don’t have clocks and windows to tell them what time it is, will spend a lot longer playing poker and hitting the slot machines. Moms that hide clocks will also be well served to keep the blinds closed and lights dimmed during the night feeding hours. This tip serves two main purposes. First, it helps the mom avoid the reality of how late or early it actually is so they can feed without the stress of the time on their mind. Secondly, it can help keep a baby from waking fully and deciding its playtime. It’s one thing to be up throughout the night nursing a drowsy baby. It is quite another to have a fully awake baby wanting to eat, play, fuss, and the likes. Also, if keeping the room pitch black sounds a little tough to maneuver, many baby supply stores carry nighttime nursing lights, which are soft lights moms can use while nursing.
Moms that feel they need to get up out of bed to nurse have it all wrong. There are many breastfeeding positions where the mom can continue to lay down. She may not be able to fully fall asleep but it’s better than sitting up, trying to prop baby in some way, or even having to leave the bed all together. There are ways that the mom can lay flat on her side using one arm to support the baby’s head and one arm to support the baby's back, in this face to face (or face to the top of the baby’s forehead) the baby has easy access to the breast for nursing. When one side is done, both mom and baby just need to flip over to give access to the other side. This position is so comfortable many moms feed this way regardless of what time of the day it is.
Breastfeeding is a lot of things, neat and clean is not typically one of them. Something many moms are familiar with or become familiar with is leakage. While the baby nurses on one side, there is often a milk “let down” on the other. Large amounts milk can slowly drip (for some it feels more like a pour) causing big messes. So, in order to prevent a wet milk soaked bed, towels are of the essence. Not just towels but properly placed towels. It’s a great idea for mom to sleep on top of a comfortable, thicker towel and keep an extra nearby to catch leaks, spit-ups, and spills. It is very important to make sure that the towels are large and comfortable and not rough otherwise they will be a pain to sleep on.
Not only is it important to keep a towel under the mom and also near-by its oh-so necessary to keep a nighttime nursing kit nearby. This kit should have everything a mom or baby could possible need during the late night or early morning hours. Here are some essentials: diapers, wipes, ointment, cream, or other diaper rash remedies, lotion (for mom and baby), extra towels, nighttime nursing light, and maybe even a book or magazine, and booklight for those nights mommy finds it hard to get back to sleep. There is nothing worse than waking in the middle of the night to nurse a baby and discovering there is something the mom or baby needs and they don’t have nearby. Then there is stumbling and grumbling, and shuffling the baby about, and there are more chances of waking the baby all the way up which as previously discussed, is no good.
Moms that are breastfeeding throughout the night have it so much easier when the baby is close-by. Many moms choose not to sleep with their babies out of fear of roll overs and the possibility of the baby falling out of the bed. Many moms also do sleep with their babies for many months, especially those that breastfeed exclusively. If sleeping together is off the table, there are some other options that are just as good (and close). There are miniature cribs that can actually go in the bed with mom against a wall to prevent them from toppling to the floor. There are also bassinets that can park right next to mom’s side of the bed. Believe it or not, some moms put their babies in laundry baskets (properly lined) and put them on the floor right by the mom’s side of the bed. Basically, it’s a whatever works best scenario, but the farther mom has to go to get to the baby, the longer it takes, the more awake the baby, and the more difficult it starts to feel as the night time hours roll by.
No, unfortunately this isn’t a discussion on the hottest outfits to wear out for ladies’ nights. We are talking about wearing the best clothing at nighttime to be able to nurse. It is extremely frustrating to be fiddling around trying to get the “ladies” out when there is a ravenous baby and its after midnight. The best types of pajamas women prefer are not the best for nursing. Forget nighties (who are we kidding), long T-shirts, thick gowns, and other “before baby” sleeping gear it simply won’t work. Also, nursing bras are not meant to be worn all day because they can cause clogged milk ducts. The best things to sleep in are loose at the top, like camisoles, or night gowns that zip down not up. Unless the mom has a reason to wear a bra at night, she really should skip it because it will just get in the way.
If moms are finding that their babies are nursing almost constantly throughout the night, the baby may be getting mostly foremilk. Foremilk comes out of the nipple first to help quench the babies thirst. But if the baby is feeding frequently foremilk may be all or most of what they get. Hindmilk comes out slower because it takes time to leave the milk ducts and mix with the foremilk. One thing a mom can do while nursing her baby is to gently squeeze the breast that is being nursed and help the hindmilk to mix in and provide a little more fat to the feeding session. Which may in turn help the nighttime feedings to space out a bit. There are moms who swear by this “fattening” method as a means to get a little more sleep in between feedings.
Cluster feeding is essential to minimizing nighttime feedings. Every mom tries some form of it but the key to cluster feedings is to do it the right way. Cluster feeding, also referred to as bunch feeding, means that the baby is nursing more often than they normally do in an effort to go longer without feeding after the cluster sessions. Basically, its stocking up the baby’s tank. So, if the baby usually goes down at 8, they need to be fed at 6, 7, and 8 o'clock. Often this can help the baby to sleep for much longer without waking, but not always. Some moms switch from breast to breast with each feeding to ensure a good amount of fat is consumed at each nursing and not just foremilk. If the baby is receiving frequent amounts of foremilk that will just be hungrier and the cluster feeding will end up lasting all night.
Moms often ask how they can produce more breastmilk, and they hear things like eat oatmeal, take this supplement and so on but most mom’s bodies will produce the exact amount of milk their baby needs at that exact moment. The best thing they can do besides eating the proper foods with nutrients and fats is drink plenty of water. Some women take this way too far, guzzling large amounts of water each day to meet certain quotas but its best for moms to drink when they are thirsty, drinking water when the body signals the need. So, a good thing to keep inside or beside the nightly nursing kit is a bottle or glass of water. Nursing can instantly parch a mom and nobody wants to be dragging their behinds to the kitchen at 4 am for a glass of water after the second or third nursing session that night.
It important to remember that feeding at night is crucial to the baby’s well-being especially in the beginning of their lives. Prolactin is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland and its primary function is to promote and maintain breast milk production in pregnant and nursing mothers. Research has shown that prolactin is highest in the times of the highest milk production and that time happens to be at night. Night nursing basically informs the breast how much milk to make for the next day. Moms who try giving their children formula at night in the hopes of helping them to sleep longer often run into trouble with milk supply because their body reads this lack of nursing as a dip in the need. So, if all else fails, at least moms can remember that nighttime nursings are important for good milk supply.
Who hasn’t heard the saying “sleep when the baby sleeps”? Not many people and the reason it is so widely used is because it is so true. Babies' schedules can be a little off and on in the first few weeks and months, they sleep when most people don’t and are up when most people are sleep. So sometimes mommy just needs to rest when the baby does. Believe it or not, this can be incredibly hard for a mom to do, not only do many moms have other children and jobs, they also have lots of stuff to do once the baby is finally asleep. But its best to get the rest. A clean house plus a zombie mommy is no good for anyone. Lack of sleep can become troublesome and even dangerous, when it comes to driving, cooking, and other daily tasks. So that’s why hiding clocks and black-out curtains are crucial. If baby is sleeping peacefully from 6a-10a, mom should be too, if at all possible.
This one is for the dads. Remember those vows they took? Well, it should have mentioned something about support during this part of life shortly after bringing home baby. This is that part of life where dads and significant others really need to step up. Laundry, cooking, cleaning, paying bills, and anything else that requires thinking or moving should not be left for mom to do when she is in the throughs of nighttime feedings. If mom is waking up three to four times a night, she gets a pass on housework. There are some places in this world where new moms are forbidden to do anything but care for her newborn for weeks and even months after the birth. This time is so important and everything else can surely wait or get passed off the husbands, friends, grandmas, grandpas, neighbors, and co-workers. Period.
One final tip and probably the most important one is this: it won’t last forever. Those long sleepless nights, that grumpy baby, the sleepy filled days will not last forever. Babies eventually stop nursing at night, they all stop nursing completely at some point. As a young mom, I would gripe and complain to anyone who would listen to me harp on how tired I was, how many times I had to feed my sons the night before and with two small children it was really tough. But now that they are older and are starting to need me less and less (they can drink milk out of a cup or eat a sandwich now) I find myself thinking about those nights I was snuggled up next to my tiny boys; I was drained but I remember them nursing so hungrily and peacefully, so content in my arms. I miss it! I miss all of it. I know I’m not the only momma that feels this way. So, cherish those quiet mom and baby moments while you can!
Sources: NaturalParentsNetwork.com, LLLI.org, TodaysParent.com