Breastfeeding a Baby at Night

Breastfeeding a Baby at Night: Benefits, Tips & More

Since all babies and mommies are different, their breastfeeding schedules will also vary from one another. Your little one will feed around 6 to 8 times in a day. While some babies feed themselves well during the day, others feed during the night. Getting up at intervals at night and feeding the baby may leave you tired and weak. This article will share some tips on how to cope with breastfeeding a baby at night.

Is Night Breastfeeding Safe?

There are varied opinions about night breastfeeding. While some believe that nursing at night is a must, there are others who believe that dream feeding a baby is completely safe. Dream feeding is a term used for when a mother wakes her baby up at night to sneak in another feed. While dream feeding a baby at night can give both mother and baby an opportunity to sleep for 3 to 4 hours at a stretch, it is also believed that dream feeding can sometimes lead to the baby rolling over and suffocating himself. Hence, it can be dangerous to fall asleep beside your baby after feeding. The risk is higher with premature babies, underweight babies, and babies less than four months old.

The safest way to dream feed your baby is when your baby is fast asleep, but you are awake. Just before you go to sleep – lift your baby from the crib, feed him, change his nappy and put him back to bed, without really waking him up. Ensure that the gap between this feed and the previous feed is just about 2 hours. This way, your baby will be full and will sleep for about 5 hours at a stretch. This will also give you an opportunity to catch up on some sleep.

Benefits of Feeding Baby at Night

Though it can be painstaking to wake up at night to feed the baby, it is a must-do as breastfeeding at night has numerous benefits.

  • An empty breast makes more milk. Breastfeeding at night is important because it regulates the supply of milk. If you nurse your baby at night, your body gets the message to make more milk. Whereas, if your baby feeds on the bottle only for the night, then your milk supply can have a negative impact.
  • At night, the level of prolactin, a kind of hormone that helps in making milk in your body, is high. As a result, nursing at night helps a mother’s body to regulate a strong milk supply for the breastfeeding period.
  • At night, babies consume only 20% of the milk in comparison to the milk they feed on throughout the day. Feeding this 20% of milk is not only important for regulating the mother’s milk supply but also for the proper growth and development of the infant.
  • As your baby grows older, he will nurse less during the day as he gets busy with playing and engaging in other activities. Hence, he will catch up on their feed at night. This can seem a little tiresome as you may want to schedule his feed and train him to sleep throughout the night. In this case, you will have to learn to differentiate between when your baby is actually hungry and when your baby is just waking up out of habit.

Tips for Breastfeeding at Night

Here are some tips that may make breastfeeding at night a little more comfortable for you.

  • Use a lie-down position: The sooner you learn to feed your baby in a lie-down position, the better for you. Just lie down on your side with 2 pillows under your head. You can also use a pillow in between your knees for more comfort. Make the baby lie on his side with his chin touching your breasts and his head tipped a little backwards as he latches on.

Breastfeeding in lie-down position

  • Laid back breastfeeding position: A variation of the lie-down position this is also one which is very comfortable. Sit in a reclining position with some pillows supporting your back. Then, hold the baby close with his tummy down on your chest and you are ready to feed.
  • Keep your baby close: Stay close to your baby and share a room or even the cot if necessary. If you are not on any drugs or medication, then it is perfectly ok to share a cot with the newborn baby. Just use a firm mattress with a clean sheet over it. Staying close to your baby, not only makes feeding easy for you, but it also saves you from the hassle of putting a fully awake and irritated baby back to sleep.
  • Keep the clock away: Avoid looking at the clock as it is frustrating to realize that you have hardly slept for few hours. In case of some moms, the psychological analysis of time has proven to be quite depressing. Try to stay positive and happy.
  • Don’t turn the lights on: Never turn the room lights on when your little one gets up for nursing. Keep the room dark and quiet so that he/she falls asleep immediately. If you must look at something, keep a flashlight handy.
  • Comfortable night clothing: It’s important that you too wear a comfortable nightgown or PJ that opens in the front to give easy access to your baby.
  • Be organised: Keep things like a bottle of water, snacks, baby diapers and anything else you may need during the night handy. In this way, you can avoid getting up in the middle of the night for every small thing. In case you have a leaking breast, keep a towel handy for easy clean-up.
  • Take short naps: Take naps whenever possible during the day. If you can nap when your baby naps during the day, it will make a lot of difference, and you will feel much better.

Waking Baby Up for Breastfeeding at Night

Infants usually get up on their own when hungry and seeking a feed. This is called demand feeding, and it is a very natural process with infants. Waking the baby up from sleep to feed is not necessary. But if your baby is in the habit of sleeping for 4 to 5 hours at a stretch, then you may want to keep a close watch.

Other than this, only if your doctor advises you to schedule your baby’s feed, you may have to wake your baby up from his sleep to feed him. This is only applicable in cases where the baby is born premature or is underweight. Sometimes, your doctor may also advise you to schedule your baby’s feed in the first few days after birth till the baby gets back to his birth weight.

Can You Breastfeed Baby to Sleep?

Newborns falling asleep during breastfeeding is quite natural. An infant or a newborn tends to sleep during most part of the day and night. So, for him/her to fall asleep during the feed and waking up for more feed when hungry is the most natural thing to do. In fact, most mommies feel that breastfeeding babies to sleep is a beautiful way of letting these little munchkins wind down for the day. But as your baby gets older, you must be careful about not doing this all the time. If it becomes a habit with your baby, then every time he is awake he will demand a feed to fall asleep, which might take a toll on your health.

How to Make Baby Sleep Without Breastfeeding at Night?

In order to make your baby sleep without breastfeeding at night, you can set up a bedtime routine and train your baby to self-soothe. Just feed your baby well in advance and when he is drowsy and ready to sleep, just put him to bed and stay close by so that your baby can feel you or smell you.

Now, if you want to know by when babies sleep through the night without feeding, then the answer is, once they are 6 months old. That’s an appropriate time to wean him off nighttime feeding.

If I Feed My Baby Formula Milk Will He Sleep Better?

An infant’s sleep cycle does not depend on what milk you feed him. It is true that in case of breastfeeding, a baby’s tummy gets empty faster and he tends to wake up at short intervals for feed. In case of formula feeding at night, the baby sleeps a little longer as he is full for a longer period.

Baby taking formula milk at night

But it is advisable to breastfeed your baby rather than put him on formula milk. Nursing is not only a healthier option for your baby, but it is also more convenient for you, as you don’t have to get up and go through the ordeal of making formula milk.

How to Stop Breastfeeding at Night?

Once your baby is about 6 months old, you can start the process of night weaning slowly and gradually. Make sure that your baby eats well throughout the day so that he is less hungry when he is asleep at night. If necessary, give extra feeds during the evenings before sleep to ensure that he is full. Also, taking your partner’s help to comfort the baby and put him to sleep when he wakes up for a feed in the middle of the night is a good idea. Husbands usually feel a little left out during this phase and this will help him bond with the baby better as well as help your baby recognise him as a caregiver too.

Dad feeding formula milk to baby

FAQs

Here are a some frequently asked questions about breastfeeding at night.

What do I do if My Baby Falls Asleep During Breastfeeding?

It is ok for your baby to fall asleep while feeding at night. In fact, with infants, it is a very natural process and can be left that way. But as your baby grows older, separate feeding and sleeping time. Set up a bedtime routine and finish feeding before you start dressing your baby for bed. As soon as your baby is ready to sleep, put him on his cot and allow him to soothe himself to sleep.

My Baby Wakes Up for Feed at Night. What Can I Do to Manage Sleep Deprivation?

Sleep deprivation can drive a mother crazy after some time. Try and take help from one of your family members to swap baby duty during either the day or night. Catch up on as much sleep as you can throughout the day. Try giving bottled or expressed milk for the night after the baby is six weeks old. Also, make your baby burp after a night feed. Many times children wake up more due to discomfort than hunger.

I Fall Asleep While Breastfeeding My Baby. Is It Safe?

Falling asleep while feeding an infant is not safe. Small babies will not be able to turn their heads away when they are done with the feed. Hence, the mother must safely turn the baby back to his sleeping position. If the baby is left to fall asleep in the feeding position, there is always a danger of the baby getting suffocated or choked, which can be fatal for the baby.

Before making any changes in your child’s night feeding pattern, be sure to consult your doctor. Let your doctor know about your baby’s feed schedule and let him suggest a change based on the existing schedule and your baby’s health.

Also Read: How to Breastfeed? A Complete Visual Guide