A heads up for new mommies, breastfeeding is not only for day time! Your baby will wake up for several times throughout the night to breastfeed. Breastfeeding at night can be intimidating at first but you will soon understand why it is an essential part of your breastfeeding journey!
Is It Good To Breastfeed at Night?
Breastfeeding at night is actually very good for your baby. Matter of fact, it is actually an important part of your baby’s development and growth. This is because for optimum growth, your baby will need adequate nourishment at all times especially newborn babies. Moreover, you can establish a good breastfeeding relationship between mother and child when you night feed. Although having to get up when you are still half asleep, scrambling in the dark for your baby and latching them to your breast is definitely not something anyone would look forward to, it will all be worth it for your baby.
According to La Leche League GB (Breastfeeding Association), breastfed babies sleep better than babies who are formula fed, contrary to popular belief. Some may say that formula milk keeps the baby fuller for longer time but breast milk has special natural hormones that can help soothe your baby. A baby sleeping soundly for longer hours means mommy also get to sleep for more hours!
Baby Sleeps More, Mommy Sleeps More Too
How Often Should I Breastfeed At Night?
During the early months, your newborn may wake up every few hours at night. There are many reasons why your baby may wake up and it is not necessarily because of hunger.
Other reasons why babies wake up at night:
- They feel uncomfortable (room is too hot or too cold)
- They want comfort and connection
For night feeding, you may need to breastfeed your newborn every 2 to 3 hours. Gradually, as your baby grows and is able to consume more, the frequency of night feeding will decrease.
What Happens To Breastmilk At Night?
One of the reasons why breastfeeding at night is good for your baby is because of the composition of your breastmilk. For your information, breastmilk composition varies from time to time following your baby’s condition, your condition, and even the time of the day! Amazing isn’t it?
At night, the fat content is highest. Your baby will need this to gain weight. Fat content produced in breastmilk increases bit by bit throughout the entire day and is highest percentage by night time. The high fat concentration also allows your baby to sleep longer before waking up.
Your breastmilk composition at night is said to contain high amount of prolactin. Similar to fat content, prolactin level are also highest at night. This means, that at night, your breasts gets a boost of milk supply. Not expressing your milk may lead to breast engorgement or blocked ducts.
You should also know that your body regulates your milk supply based on supply and demand. So, if you want to let your breasts know to make more milk, you will have to make sure you empty your breast frequently.
Note: Prolactin are hormones that triggers milk production in your breasts.
3.Amino Acids Trytophan
Breastfeeding at night can benefit your baby by helping them to develop good circadian rhythm. This is helped with the high level of Amino Acids Trytophan present in breastmilk at night. Amino Acids Trytophan is one of the ingredients needed by your baby to produce melatonin. Melatonin is used to develop circadian rhythm.
Note: Circadian Rhythm is our internal clock. It helps the body regulate hormones and tells our body when to be energized and when to go to sleep.
More on Circadian Rhythm: Sleeping Cutie: Practicing Good Sleeping Routine
Is It Bad To Breastfeed My Baby To Sleep?
Breastfeeding your baby to sleep is common and normal and it is far from bad. Hormones in breastmilk help soothe your baby so they doze off to sleep more easily. You don’t need to worry about this becoming a habit for your child. Eventually, your baby will not need your breasts in order to fall asleep. You may find that breastfeeding makes yourself sleepy too. This is also due to breastfeeding hormone. That’s why many lactation counsellors may advice co-sleeping.
Co-sleeping means you sleep together with your baby either in the same bed or your baby in the cot next to you. Sleeping as your baby nurse and sleeps can help you get that much needed sleeping hours. You will find that the co-sleeping method is extremely helpful when your baby is 4 to 6 months old. During this time, your baby’s night time feeding frequency may increase because your baby gets hungry quicker.
Note: 4 to 6 months is the age where your baby is developing a lot of things like their teeth, or new skills like crawling or even talking.
You can try side-lying position when breastfeeding at night. This position makes it easier for you to fall asleep. It may take a little practice but as soon as you get the hang out it, you’ll find it more manageable for both mother and baby at night.
When Should Breastfeeding at Night Stop?
This is highly individual for each baby. Even though you already start feeding your baby solid foods, your baby may still get hungry at night. Others may just sleep through the night. As the mother, you will know what your baby needs more than anyone so keep to your motherly instinct and let your baby tells you what they want. However, if you really feel the need to put a deadline to breastfeeding at night, you can start night-weaning your baby after 18 months.
When you find that your baby is ready for it then you can try night-weaning them. Night weaning is to slowly train your baby to stop breastfeeding at night. In order to this, you may want to feed them just before bed time and right after they wake up.
Cues To Look For:
- Your baby wakes up less at night
- Shorter night feeds
Challenges of Breastfeeding At Night.
Sleep deprivation is one of the biggest challenges of breastfeeding at night. It is not easy having to wake up and breastfeed, going back to sleep and wake up again after only what feels like a few minutes. Anything for your baby, right?
Still, continuous deprivation of sleep can affect our daily activities and our mental health. We may find ourselves get crankier and lower in tolerance. This could affect our relationship with others too.
How To Cope With Night Feeds?
For the best of both mother and baby, this is when you will need help. For single mothers, you can ask your relatives and family members to help out during the day so you can have some time to rest. Fathers should play their role too!
Mom at Night Duty, Dad at Morning Duty.
Experts advise to leave the night feedings to the mother. Meaning that the father do not have to wake up at night but instead should take over in the morning. This is because the mother although not breastfeeding, may need to wake up to pump their milk or else they will risk engorgement. In the morning, the father can help by preparing the baby for the day like bathing them for instance. If you have other children, daddy can help prepare breakfast or get them ready for school. Morning duties taken over by dad will allow mom to catch extra sleeping hours.
You may also need to communicate thoroughly with your partner to help you with other things. Your partner may not know what can help to make you more comfortable, so let them know and try to find a way that works best for both of you.