As you probably know, breastfeeding provides countless benefits to you, your baby, and your family. Although as comforting and healthy as breastfeeding can be, it is not always easy in the first few weeks after giving birth—especially at night.
To help moms feel a bit more at ease when handling these nighttime nursing sessions, Lamaze International President Maria J. Brooks, BSN, RNC-OB, LCCE, FACCE, shares four tips:
Follow baby’s lead
If you are waking up several times to feed your baby at night, remember that this is expected! Newborns need to feed around the clock in order to grow both their brain and their body. Their stomachs are tiny and needs frequent refills. Your baby should breastfeed at least eight times in 24 hours during the first weeks. (The exception to this is the first 24 hours after birth, when many babies sleep more.) Following your baby’s lead on the number and length of feeds helps to build a great milk supply.
Sleep near baby
Keeping your baby nearby for sleep helps make frequent nighttime feeds more manageable. Having your breastfeeding baby sleep in your room or in your bed are options many mothers find gets everyone the most sleep. Regardless of where your baby sleeps, the same safety notes apply: babies should sleep on their backs on a firm surface with no areas for them to become entrapped, without fluffy bedding, pillows, or stuffed toys. If your little one is in bed with you, there are additional considerations: only adults who are aware the baby is sleeping with them should be in the bed. If you or your partner are taking medication that causes excessive drowsiness, using street drugs or alcohol, or are obese, it is not safe to co-sleep. Also, pets and other children should not sleep with babies. And remember, it is not safe to co-sleep on a couch, chair, or recliner.
As babies get older and your milk supply ramps up, they begin to sleep for longer stretches of time. Nighttime breastfeeding doesn’t last forever, though it can sometimes feel that way. Babies adjust their sleeping patterns at their own unique pace. Remember the saying, “This too shall pass.”
Breastfeeding while lying down allows you to nurse, often without fully waking up. Lie in bed on your side with your baby facing you. Snuggle baby in with your nipple near your baby’s nose. You may need a helper to assist with latch for the first few times, but soon you and your baby should be able to latch easily. This position helps not only with getting everyone some sleep, but also eases discomfort and promotes healing of the perineum.
Although nights with your newborn may be challenging, remember to be kind to yourself. You just grew and birthed a baby which in itself can be exhausting. Now this little person needs you almost constantly with no regard for your need for sleep. Throw in some hormones, visitors with lots of opinions, and the major life change of bringing a baby into your life, and you’ve got even more reasons to be overwhelmed.
Take sleep whenever you can get it, and forget the dishes and laundry. Getting support when you need it, some sleep, a sense of humor, and a focus on taking the early days in stride will serve you well. It shouldn’t be long before you adjust and find your stride. Try to enjoy your baby. He or she will grow too fast!
— Maria J. Brooks, BSN, RNC-OB, LCCE, FACCE. Maria is a mom, President of Lamaze International, a Certified Registered Nurse on a busy labor and delivery floor as well as a Free-Standing Birth Center, and a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator (LCCE). On a day-to-day basis, Maria works with expecting and new parents. She provides care ranging from antepartum to labor and birth for both lower and high risk mothers and babies. As a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator she has taught hundreds of women and their families on topics spanning from prenatal care to preparation for childbirth, postpartum and early parenting. To learn more about breastfeeding, check out Lamaze’s online breastfeeding class.