Tips and Tricks for Nursing Through the Night
This article was co-authored with a real mom based on her own experiences and advice given to her. In the event that you need any professional tips, please reach out to your healthcare provider.
With all the focus on al fresco daytime feeding, it’s easy to forget how significant night nursing is and how many questions come up after the sun goes down.
Night feeding changes over the course of your breastfeeding relationship with your baby and serves a few purposes. It provides critical nourishment to your newborn and can offer comfort to older babies and toddlers struggling with teething pain, separation anxiety, and the inevitable daycare colds.
The Early Days
Newborns need to breastfeed 8-12 times in a 24-hour period, and until your midwife or doctor tells you that baby is gaining weight steadily, you’ll be breaking the golden rule that you should “never wake a sleeping baby.” For now, you’ll have to make sure that baby eats every 2 hours during the day and every 4 hours at night. Some babies are extra sleepy at first and need to be convinced to perk up for a nighttime feed. You can try tickling the soles of baby’s feet, touching your nipple to his lips, and frequently switching from one breast to the other to stimulate letdowns and encourage him to keep eating.
You might also find that you have the opposite problem- a newborn who seems ravenous all the time. Near-constant nursing for a period of several hours, called cluster feeding, is baby’s way of increasing milk supply. Although it can be exhausting and often coincides with the typical evening fussy time, cluster feeding is temporary and should ease up when your supply is well established.
When You’ve Got The Hang Of It
Once you get the all-clear from your health care provider, you can stop waking baby for feeds. But don’t be surprised if she starts waking you up to eat and cuddle more frequently! Even when they reach the milestone of regaining their birthweight, babies still need to eat 8 or more times per day. At this stage, you’ve probably gotten into the swing of things and no longer need both hands, bright lighting, and a YouTube tutorial to get baby latched – ha!
At this point, it’s time to introduce some nursing hacks, passed down from breastfeeding pros to breastfeeding newbies over the years.
- Side-lying nursing and dream feeding can help you get some rest while keeping your baby fed and happy.Side-lying nursing takes a bit of practice but is a great alternative when you are achy from sitting in the rocker or can’t muster up the energy to sit upright for another nursing session. To get into position, lie on your side, support your head and back with pillows and position your baby nipple-to-nose. You can cradle baby with your arm or wedge a rolled-up receiving blanket behind her back. In addition to these positioning tips, investing in a good, versatile nursing bra, is also an important item to help with night feeding adventures.
- While multitasking, it is helpful to have a nursing bra with easy open and close, one-handed nursing clips with full drop away bra cups designed for maximum skin-to-skin contact. The Original Nursing Bra by Bravado Designs has all of these features in an ultra-soft, breathable cotton-modal fabric blend, making it the nursing bras most moms want to wear when they’re looking for the most amount of comfort. Available in two styles to support a wide range of sizes, there is the simple cross-over style of our Original Nursing Bra to support B-D cups in, and the Original Full Cup Nursing Bra with a higher neckline to support the proportions of DD/E-G cups.
A dream feed is a nursing session that you initiate right before you go to sleep for the night. If your baby goes to bed at 7pm and usually wakes up at 11pm to nurse, you can try to get a few uninterrupted hours of sleep by gently picking the baby up (without waking him/her!) and putting them to your breast. You be may be surprised to see how easily she latches and eats without fully waking. This dream feed should tide her over so that you can get more shut-eye before the next session.
When You Wonder Why Everyone Else’s Infant Is Sleeping
In the first 6 months, babies vary widely in their ability to sleep long stretches at night. Some parents are happy to point out that their 4-month-old sleeps 6-hour stretches while others, already on their third coffee of the day, will begrudge those well-rested parents thinking about their baby’s hourly wake-ups. The truth is that frequent nursing, like many other baby behaviours, is just a quirk that some of us are born with and may need time (or some post-6-month sleep coaching) to grow out of.
A final word of advice to parents on the baby night shift: know that it does get better. Breastfeeding can be exhausting, especially in the first few months, but it typically gets easier. In the meantime, don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends and relatives. And when one of them offers to hold the baby, walk right past the sink full of dishes and directly into bed for a nap.
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