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Breastfeeding is certainly not the easiest part of motherhood – especially when it comes to nighttime breastfeeding. And although it may seem like you are never going to sleep again once you start breastfeeding your baby, you truly will and when your baby stops breastfeeding at night, you’ll miss it.
But until that time comes here is how I survived nighttime breastfeeding without becoming a zombie.
*This page may contain affiliate links, however, I will never recommend anything that I do not believe in and use myself. You can read more about my disclosure policy here. Here are a few facts about breastfeeding that you may not know. I am not a doctor or a medical professional but these are my experiences as a breastfeeding mom.
Importance of Nighttime Breastfeeding
When your baby is a newborn he or she will likely start off their breastfeeding journey with cluster feeding for the first few weeks or more of their life. This is how they are able to tell your body to start making breast milk and to also produce more breast milk for them as they grow.
What is cluster feeding? Cluster feeding is when your baby nurses several times in a short period, for example, every hour. This is completely normal and just your baby’s way of communicating with your body to help your breasts make the amount of breast milk that they need.
And if you plan to breastfeed for a while nighttime feedings are essential.
The downside of cluster feeding, however, is the fact that your baby will often wake you up throughout the night to have several feedings and you may start to feel like you are never able to sleep.
So here is how to survive cluster feeding at night and also regular nighttime feedings that are keeping you up.
1. Nurse on Demand
When your baby is constantly wanting to breastfeed, you may start to wonder if they really need to nurse right then or if you need to start putting them on a schedule to keep their feedings a few hours apart. This happens to many parents at nighttime especially. They assume that since they need to sleep their baby needs to sleep instead of breastfeeding.
Do I need a newborn night feeding schedule?
No! Especially not during the newborn phase. Breastfeeding is a supply and demand type of system and your body will never know how much milk to make for your baby unless your baby tells it.
Every time your newborn baby latches on and starts to breastfeed your breasts are being stimulated and in turn start to send signals to your body to produce more milk to feed your baby. So if you were to start cutting out nighttime feedings, your body will simply stop producing as much breast milk that your baby truly needs at that time of the night.
So why is my baby so hungry at night?
A newborn baby’s stomach is only the size of their fist and breast milk is digested within just a couple of hours since it is made perfectly for your baby. That means that their little tummy is empty every 2-4 hours during the newborn stage so it would be only natural that they would need to fill it again.
So my advice for new breastfeeding moms is to always nurse your baby on demand to allow your baby to tell your body what they need.
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2. Sleep Close to Your Baby
Having your baby close to you while sleeping is only natural since you’ve both been inseparable for over 9 months of pregnancy. I literally could not imagine not having my little newborn baby close by so I could check in when I am worried and to comfort them when they need a little reassurance.
One way to have your baby close by is by using an infant co-sleeper next to your bed or by side-caring the crib.
With your baby close by you are able to nurse them quickly without having to go into another room for nighttime breastfeeding.
3. Consider Cosleeping
Another option for nursing moms to survive nighttime breastfeeding is cosleeping with your baby.
I coslept with my baby until he was nine months old and was able to breastfeed him literally while I slept. We were both able to get so much more sleep this way since I was able to latch him to my breast as soon as he starting waking for nighttime feedings.
And as always practice caution with cosleeping and ensure that you have a safe bedsharing environment to ensure that you are cosleeping safely with a newborn.
4. Have a Bedtime Routine
I have always preached that routines are key for all children – and this is especially true for babies when they are adapting to their new environment outside of the womb.
Your bedtime routine does not have to be in-depth or overly complicated. Just having a few rituals that always happen before bedtime will do the trick.
For example, when I was still breastfeeding my son, we would give him a bath if he needed one, get him dressed in his pajamas, and I would lay in bed with him and breastfeed him until he fell asleep. It was super simple, but he knew exactly what to expect when we were laying down in the bed and the lights went out.
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5. Designate A Comfortable Breastfeeding Spot
Whether you are breastfeeding your baby in bed or you have a comfy chair where you love to nurse, designate that spot so you can keep a routine of nighttime breastfeeding and then putting your baby back to bed.
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6. Keep Essentials Close By
Just like keeping your baby close to you so that you can easily access them when they need to breastfeed throughout the night, you need your baby essentials as well.
The last thing you want to do is have your baby spit up on you and have to search for a burp rag or towel in the dark to clean it up. This is why having a basket of essentials close to your bed with everything you may need during a nighttime feeding is so crucial in saving time and sleep. Some baby items to keep nearby are:
- diapers and wipes
- water – because breastfeeding makes you thirsty!
- burp rags
- nipple cream
- diaper cream
- extra towels
- Boppy pillow
- a change of clothes for you and baby
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7. Learn to Breastfeed While Laying Down
When I first started breastfeeding I would always sit up and have to get situated to actually breastfeed him – even at night. But once I learned how to breastfeed while laying down in bed, I was in heaven.
Is it safe to feed my baby lying down?
With bottle feeding normally it’s not recommended to feed your baby while they are laying down, however, breastfeeding puts your baby at lower risk of many problems that bottle-fed babies experience when feeding while laying down.
And since we were already laying down when he would wake up and want to breastfeed at night, feeding him got so much easier since I didn’t have to get out of bed.
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8. Keep the Lights Off
Once the lights are turned off your baby’s natural melatonin hormones begin to relax them for sleeping. And keeping the lights off anytime you wake up to breastfeed at night will make going back to sleep much easier.
If you really must have a light to help you see at night, consider getting a soft night light that is not too bright.
9. Sleep in Breastfeeding Accessible Sleepwear
When beginning your breastfeeding journey with your newborn baby, all regular clothes get kicked out of the closet. And the same goes for your sleepwear. Having easy access for nursing at night will make your nighttime breastfeeding sessions much quicker and easier for both you and your baby.
10. Nursing Pads
Breastfeeding causes leaks. Yep, the entire time I breastfed our son, I leaked every time he latched on. Most of the time it would come from the breast opposite of the one he would begin nursing on and it happened a lot at night.
This is where nursing pads are so helpful. They soak up the excess breast milk that you express without letting any leak onto your clothes.
Trust me! I remember having mornings where I would wake up with wet spots on my shirt because I forgot to put a nursing pad in.
When do Breastfed Babies Sleep Through the Night?
Honestly, this is a tough question for any breastfeeding mom because it completely depends on your baby and their individual needs.
For our son, he stopped having nighttime feedings around 12-13 months old unless he wasn’t feeling well. But on the other hand, there are some babies who sleep through the night without any nighttime feedings much younger than that.
I think it all depends on your baby and how they are able to self-sooth to sleep.
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