Breastfeeding And Sleep:8 Tips To Embrace the Benefits

Getting your partner to help can give you so much comfort to sleep

Oh me Mama! I remember 26 years ago, my last postpartum journey. It was different but similar to the other three postpartum. After coming home from the hospital, I was tired, sleepy, tired, and just wanted a good sleep. Can any of you identify with me? Did you know that breastfeeding provides moms and babies with the benefit of better sleep? Breastfeeding helps babies fall asleep quickly any time of the day or night due to the rhythmic action of sucking and the sleep inducing hormones in breast milk which help establish their circadian rhythms—their internal body clocks affecting sleeping and eating cycles 1.

Sleep deprivation is a documented form of torture, and a new parent can probably attest to that. While these newborn days seem like they will never end, before you know it, your baby will be sleeping through the night and these restless days and nights will be a distant memory. But until then, here are 10 tips for getting through this time and actually enjoying it.

Breastfeeding and sleep often overlap in the early weeks, when your baby spends more time asleep than awake. Dozing off mid-feed and waking for more milk a short time later is normal for newborns.

You can carry on breastfeeding your baby to sleep, and feed him back to sleep during the night, for as long as you’re happy to. Many mums find that breastfeeding to sleep, especially at night, is a lovely way to get close to their baby and have some uninterrupted time together.

As your baby gets older and feeds less often, you may decide to stop feeding him to sleep so he can get used to settling himself. Some parents find that if their baby feeds until he sleeps, he starts to link the two. That can make things more difficult if you start trying to cut down on night feeds or if you’re getting him into a bedtime routine.

If you want to encourage your baby to fall asleep without needing to feed, wait until he’s at least three months old. By then, he may be ready for you to start easing him into a bedtime routine.

1.Co- habitation I s A Blessing For More Sleep

Co-habitation with your baby gives you both more sleep

Your baby should sleep in the same room as you for his first six months, for both day and night-time sleeps. Coping with night-time waking may be easier if your baby’s right next to you, in a cot, Moses basket or bedside cot. This is a three-sided cot which sits right next to your bed, with the open side level with your mattress.

Having your baby next to you makes it easier to reach across to him. You won’t need to get out of bed to feed him, and you may be able to stay half asleep yourself. If you do use a bedside cot, make sure it’s securely fastened to the side of your bed and that there are no gaps where your baby could become stuck.

Keeping your baby close to you at night also helps you pick up on his early feeding cues, such as restlessness and sucking his fingers. That means you can respond to him and start a feed, before he wakes fully and starts to cry.

During a feed, keep noises low and the lights dim. This will help you both get back to sleep more easily after a feed. It will also help your baby get used to the difference between day and night.

If you want to breastfeed your baby in bed with you, lie in the ‘C’ position to help keep your baby safe. The ‘C’ position is when you lie on your side, facing your baby, with your body curled around him in a protective C-shape.

Place your lower arm above your baby’s head and draw your knees up under his feet. You’ll probably lie in this position instinctively, as it helps to have your baby lying level with your breasts so he can feed.

Many parents co-sleep with their baby, even when they never intended to. It’s one of the ways of coping with disturbed nights and the demands of feeding.

Co-sleeping with your baby gives him the opportunity to feed whenever he likes, without disturbing you too much. This usually leads to more feeds, which increases your breast milk supply. Breastfeeding also releases hormones that help you and your baby feel sleepy and relaxed. You may hear co-sleeping and breastfeeding being called “breastsleeping”.

Make sure you know how to co-sleep safely. Never sleep with your baby in an armchair or on the sofa . These are two of the most dangerous places for you to sleep with your baby, as he may become wedged in the cushions if you fall asleep while holding him.

Bear in mind that, although sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is rare, co-sleeping can increase the risk of it happening, if:

  • You, or your partner, have been drinking alcohol, or have taken medication that makes you feel drowsy.
  • You or your partner smokes, or uses e-cigarettes, even if you never smoke in bed.
  • Your baby is under three months old, was premature (born before 37 weeks) or had a low birth weight (less than 2.5kg or 5.5lbs).

Some experts also recommend avoiding co-sleeping if you’re feeling particularly tired.

Read our article about co-sleeping safely to find out more.

2. Would my baby sleep better on formula?

Research shows that there’s little difference between the total amount of sleep that breast-fed and formula-fed babies have. It’s unlikely your baby would sleep better with formula milk, though there are some differences between breast-fed and formula-fed babies when it comes to sleep. Breast-fed babies are more likely to sleep in shorter bursts, sleep less deeply and take longer to sleep through the night. But they do benefit from the melatonin in your breastmilk, which helps them get to sleep.

Getting up to prepare a bottle and putting on lights to see what you’re doing will wake you up more. It’s may be harder for you to get back to sleep, without the sleep hormone from breast milk helping you and your baby to drift off. So if you do all the formula-feeding at night, it may mean you end up getting less sleep than if you breastfeed.

You could try these ideas to help your baby to sleep longer.

  • Cluster feed: In your baby’s first few months he’ll sometimes want to cluster feed. This means having lots of short feeds close together. It’s perfectly normal and it often coincides with a growth spurt. Go with the flow and feed him on demand if you can. Once your milk supply catches up, things should settle back down . During this time many mothers believe that baby needs formula when all baby needs is continued feeding.
  • Dream feed or focal feed: This is when you partly wake your baby for a breastfeed before you go to bed, usually between 10pm and midnight. Dream-feeding may help your baby to sleep longer if you do it regularly. If you decide to try dream feeding, allow plenty of time after your baby’s last feed of the day. Otherwise, you could find you’re waking your baby for a feed when he already has milk in his tummy.

3. Helping Your Baby Fall Asleep Without Feeds Is Possible

This can be done by getting baby into a routine. At the same time during the evening at a certain time you can dim the lights, play a lullaby for baby, give baby a nice body message after a good bath, singing to baby, allowing baby to listen to music, swaddling baby, or even swishing baby to sleep.

4. Keep Baby Close to You At Night

During nighttime feedings, you don’t want to be awake for any longer than you have to be. Getting up and out of bed can make those middle-of-the-night wake-ups harder than necessary. A bedside sleeper or some kind of bassinet that can be pushed against your bed might be best for this.

The AAP advises that parents share a room with their baby for at least the first six months of life but to not co-sleep. Many cultures practice bed-sharing, and ultimately it is up to you and your family to decide what works. Discuss your plans with your pediatrician to assure that sleep circumstances are as safe as possible.

5. Stay Away From Caffeine

Caffeine beverages can keep you up

This might be a tough one — in fact, as new or soon-to-be parents, there is a good chance that you are drinking a cup of coffee while reading this. Caffeine is a stimulant, which is why it probably helps you get through the longest days. It can stay in your system for hours after consumption, and depending on the person, the effects can be a disaster for sleep.

Try to keep your caffeine intake limited to the morning hours so that there isn’t any interference with nighttime sleep. If your naps are increasingly difficult, caffeine could be the culprit, and it could even be passed to the baby through your breast milk, keeping them awake if taken in high dosages.

6. Rest Even If You Cannot Sleep

Falling asleep can feel impossible when there are a million things running through your mind, and as a new mom, the random thoughts never end: whether baby acne is normal, the best way to clip a newborn’s nails, why you are so thirsty all the time, whether baby shoes serve a purpose besides being adorable — the list goes on.

While you might laugh at the thought of taking a nap with so many things to think about (and look up on Google), try to at least lie down. Relaxing for a few minutes can sometimes be equally as refreshing as a nap, and heaven knows new parents are at a loss for refreshments

7. Take Good Care Of Yourself

A simple bath can make the world of difference

Many new moms tend to neglect themselves and place all priority on their newborn. I know; I have four children. This is not a good practice. If feels so good when you can take care of you and your baby. Its amazing how just taking a bath or shower revitalizes you. Caring for yourself rejuvenates you for any challenges ahead. Know this one thing Mamas, in order to be the best mother you can be, it is essential to take care of yourself. Find a way to recharge, and it can do wonders for you and your family. You might not be able to afford a babysitter, but even taking a walk with your baby, getting out of the house, reading a good book while your little one naps, or exercising can give you a little break.

Your new baby has probably become your priority, but they need you to be feeling your best. Tell your partner, family, or friends that you need to sleep in this weekend, a chance to go grocery shopping by yourself (too crazy?), or even an hour to get a manicure. The feeling of doing something for you can be incredibly refreshing and enough to tackle the daunting task of motherhood.

8. Let Your Partner Help Out

You can get help to look after baby if you are overwhelmed

To help everyone get some rest, you could share some of the night-time care with your partner or a relative. Here are some things that don’t have to be done by a breastfeeding mum.

  • Giving a bottle of expressed milk. You could try this after the first six weeks, once your baby has learned how to breastfeed.
  • Winding and settling after a night feed.
  • Getting your baby up and dressed after the first morning feed so that you can go back to sleep, particularly at weekends.

Bottom Line

For most people, breastfeeding is hard. Learning how to care for a new baby takes some time, even if it is your second, third, or sixth baby, and no one should have to do that on little-to-no sleep. Although your nights might not be as dream-filled as they used to be, you don’t have to feel like a zombie forever — reach out and ask for help!Sleep is important, so I encourage you to get as much as possible.

While these tips might not suddenly make your baby sleep through the night (if only, right?), they can help you survive these weeks feeling a little bit more like yourself. 

Know that you are not alone. God wants to be with us in everything we go through so ask Him to go with you no every path of life. I have found Him to be such a ROCKI can depend on. Thank you for stopping by today and do visit again. Let me know if any of the above suggestions help you or how you are doing with your sleep. As usual I wish you every success in your breastfeeding and sleep journey.

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Published by Marilyn Smith

Hello. My name is Marilyn Smith. I am a Health Specialist with specialized skills in Clinical Practical Nursing, and Midwife of thirty six years. I am also a certified Lactation and Grief Specialist. I am well qualified to assist in meeting your breastfeeding needs. Breastfeeding is indeed the best for your baby. Congratulations on making such a wonderful decision. Consider this your home as we learn about the joys and pains of pregnancy & breastfeeding

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