Breastfeeding Advice to Get Better Sleep
Ahh, the moment you’ve literally dreamed of for months is here: Your baby sleeps through the night for the first time. Suddenly, the grass looks greener, and the sky is blue again. While perhaps a slight over-exaggeration, it’s incredible what a block of five or six hours can do for your outlook on life. After all, sleep deprivation can take a toll on new parents— affecting their mood, energy levels, and overall well-being.
Did you know that most babies are able to get a six- to eight-hour stretch around three months, or when they’re 12 to 13 pounds? If your little one isn’t there yet, don’t worry: About two-thirds of babies can sleep through most nights by 6 months.
But for some mothers, this celebratory moment of the return to sleep is stifled by their need to pump—either to relieve engorgement or because their supply hasn’t been regulated. (Like your due date, there is no set time when your milk is fully established, but it usually happens between six and 12 weeks postpartum.) So how can breastfeeding moms get more sleep? The key is understanding the rhythm of your milk supply and making sure daytime feeds are on track so baby is well-prepared for a night of rest with a full belly. Here, we’ll explore some useful pumping and breastfeeding tips for better sleep.
1. Establish a Good Sleep Routine
Developing a good sleep routine is crucial for both the mother and baby. Try to create a consistent bedtime routine that includes a relaxing activity such as a warm bath, a gentle baby massage, and a lullaby. This will signal your baby that it's time for bed and help you relax and wind down.
2. Nurse on Demand During the Day
Newborn babies have tiny stomachs and must eat frequently, so it's essential to nurse on demand. This means feeding your baby whenever they show signs of hunger, such as rooting, sucking on their hands, lip smacking, and crying. Nursing on demand can help establish a good milk supply and ensure your baby has enough to eat. Said another way, if your baby isn’t getting enough milk to eat during the day, they’ll be more hungry at night.
Read more: How to Increase Your Breastmilk Supply
3. Use Breastfeeding Pillows
Breastfeeding pillows can help support your baby and make breastfeeding more comfortable for you and your baby, leading to a longer, more filling feed. They can also help prevent back and neck pain, allowing you to relax and nurse for longer periods without discomfort. Many types of breastfeeding pillows are available—including ones designed for mothers nursing twins—so find one that works best for you.
4. Get Comfortable
Breastfeeding can take some time, so it's important to get comfortable. Find a cozy spot where you can relax, such as a comfortable chair or a bed. Use pillows or cushions to support your back, arms, and neck, and make sure that your baby is in a comfortable position.
5. Try Side-Lying Position
The side-lying position can be a comfortable and convenient breastfeeding position, especially at night. Lie on your side with your baby facing you, and use pillows to support your head and neck. This position can help you and your baby relax and fall back to sleep quickly after feeding.
Read more: Our Mylicon® guide to popular breastfeeding positions.
6. Pump and Store Milk
Pumping and storing milk can be helpful for breastfeeding mothers, especially when trying to get more sleep. Pumping allows you to have a supply of milk that your partner or family member can use to feed your baby while you nap or rest. It's also a good way to establish a good milk supply and relieve engorgement. Also, ensure you’re up-to-date on the latest breast milk storage guidelines.
7. Know When to Pump or Breastfeed
To maintain your milk supply, it's essential to pump or breastfeed frequently. In general, newborn babies need to nurse at least eight to 12 times in 24 hours. This means nursing every two to three hours, including overnight feedings. As your baby grows and their stomach gets bigger, they may need to eat less frequently.
If you are pumping, it's recommended to pump at least eight times per day to maintain your milk supply. You may need to pump more frequently if your baby is not nursing well or if you are trying to increase your milk supply.
One way to set yourself up for success in a nighttime breastfeeding session is to have your pumping supplies clean and nearby your bed to limit your disturbance.
8. Add a Dream Feed
A dream feed is a feeding given to your baby before you go to bed, usually between 10 pm to midnight. This feed can help your baby sleep for longer stretches, giving you more rest. To do a dream feed, gently pick up your sleeping baby and nurse them while keeping the lights low and avoiding stimulation. After the feed, place your baby back in their crib or bassinet.
9. Understand Your Milk’s “Circadian Rhythm”
Baby’s circadian rhythm starts to form between four and 12 weeks after birth, but your breast milk also has a day and night pattern too. Studies have shown the presence of melatonin in breast milk spiked during the evening, which helps to communicate time of day information to breastfed babies. Consider this information next time you’re thinking about trying out that dream feed. It’s a win-win: You’ll top up the baby’s tank with your nighttime-signaling milk and empty your breasts right before you sleep.
10. Take Naps
Have you seen the viral social media trend poking fun at the “sleep when the baby sleeps” mantra? Here, new parents say they’ll do the dishes when the baby does the dishes, and cook when the baby cooks. Of course, the household chores don’t slow down just because you have a baby (but give yourself some grace for your messier-than-usual kitchen). Remember, new mothers need to rest and recover; taking naps can be a great way to get some much-needed sleep. Ask your partner or family member to take over so you can refill your tank.
At the end of the day, whatever way you decide to feed your baby is right for you. As you consider these breastfeeding at night tips, remember babies digest formula slower, so bottle-fed babies may have fewer feeding times. But data suggest that imbalance sorts itself out once babies are six months old.
Suppose you suspect that baby gas is causing disturbances in your little one’s sleep. In that case, Infants’ Mylicon Gas Relief Drops works gently to speed up a baby’s natural process of getting rid of gas, relieving pressure and discomfort. Safe for use with all infants—even the newest of newborns—Mylicon can be used at every feeding, up to 12 times a day (use as directed).
Up next: Did you know that your baby's cries can tell you what they want or need? Discover the four types of baby cries and what they mean.