One of the most common complaints among new nursing moms is that their baby is ALWAYS NURSING! They feel like a 24/7 milk factory, and find that their baby isn't happy unless on the breast. While it's true that there is never a wrong time to offer the breast, and I do FULLY ENCOURAGE you to nurse your baby often (at least 8 times every 24 hours!) there are likely times when your baby is trying to tell you that they ACTUALLY NEED SOMETHING ELSE.
The most common reason a baby is staying on the breast longer than what is ideal: Baby's cues are being misinterpreted which leads the mother to think she isn't making enough milk!!!
This is actually the #1 reason breastfeeding mothers give up and it's one of the most easily avoided breastfeeding "problems" when you know what you're looking for!
Usually, mothers mistake gassiness or sleepiness for hunger. When really baby is saying burp me or support me so I can go to sleep! OR another REALLY BIG misinterpretation- baby will cry after nursing and the mother will assume it means her baby is still hungry! This is BY FAR the most common misinterpretation. Crying after nursing is NORMAL and to be EXPECTED. It usually signals gas, indigestion, or the need to poop. There are rare instances where a mother is actually unable to produce what her baby needs, and if you think that is what's going on, please don't ignore it.
Listen to your instincts and check in with your support team!!!
Another reason baby may stay on the breast for longer periods is their latch may not be effective. This is usually accompanied with nipple pain, and nipples that look flattened, creased, or misshapen when baby comes off the breast. When your nipple is being compressed from a latch or positioning that isn't quite right, it can "kink" your nipple, kind of like a hose, and make drinking harder than it needs to be. If you're told your baby isn't gaining weight well, this may be the reason why.
Like I said, your baby is going to be an EXCELLENT COMMUNICATOR, you just need to read their body language. The trouble is, sometimes these cues are very subtle, or they look very similar to each other. The good news, that's what I am here for! If you're unsure what your baby is trying to say you can reach out to me for guidance. In the meantime, check out these videos to help you more fully understand your little one.
These videos are incredibly helpful, and come from Jan Tedder, owner of HUG Your Baby. You can find her videos on YouTube. I share these videos with the families I serve regularly. I began my journey into learning more about newborn's cues, states, and zones after taking Jan's training. I now use these skills in my own practice as a Lactation Counselor.
Blog Post Written by Kelly Doresi, Successful Breastfeeding Expert.
As a Lactation Expert in private practice, I have spent a lot of time supporting mothers in their homes, in the spaces that are most comfortable for them. This very often means nursing in their beds. I have sat on hundreds of different beds, and supported these mothers in them, teaching them to nurse in “side lying” positions, and also offering safe sleep information. I am an advocate for co-sleeping, an umbrella term for many forms of sleeping near a baby, and am an even bigger advocate for safe bedsharing instruction.
The truth is, bedsharing actually can be safe when you follow the rules, and one of the most important rules is: use a firm mattress. (Scroll to the bottom of this article for more info about safe bedsharing.) In my practice, it is rare to find a mother using a mattress that is suitable for safe bedsharing. Typically the mattresses are too soft, which creates dangerous indents for baby to roll into when laying next to baby. Until recently, the only mattress I have ever confidently been able to recommend for mothers to use has been futon mattresses, as they are the only mattress that is firm enough to stay flat when laying next to baby. Who really wants to sleep on a futon mattress? The problem is, futon mattresses are incredibly uncomfortable, and wreck havoc on the spine. The last thing a new mom needs is back pain! Ouch! Now, I have FINALLY discovered a mattress that is both firm enough for bedsharing AND comfortable! This is life changing you guys!
It all started when *I* needed a new mattress, as ours was beginning to sag. I didn’t want to spend a fortune, and since I was bedsharing I needed a mattress that was firm. Through a Facebook ad I came across a mattress called GhostBed. (FYI, I am writing this because I love this product- GohstBed by Nature’s Sleep did not ask me to write and they have not compensated me for writing this either.) I was immediately intrigued by the mattress, and decided to give it a try! They even had a 101 day money back guarantee. Not to mention it is incredibly affordable.
Fast forward to the day my GhostBed arrived. It was heaven. It was such an upgrade from our uncomfortably firm, spring mattress we were previously using. I immediately put it to the test and took a looooong nap with my son, and it was fabulous. The mattress did not sag when I layed on it, and my baby did not roll toward me. For bedsharing purposes I would compare the level of firmness (or lack of sag for that matter) to that of a futon, but the comfort of the GhostBed is ABOVE and beyond. I have now been using the GhostBed for about six months, and the mattress is still just as firm and comfortable as the day it arrived.
I am confident recommending this mattress as a safe, and comfortable platform for bedsharing. It is also very comfortable without a box spring too! It is recommended when sleeping with your baby to place your mattress on the floor, away from walls. Our other mattress was NOT comfortable at all when on the floor. The GhostBed almost seems to be enhanced by it. We have two GhostBeds, one on the floor in my son’s room and one in my bedroom on a box spring. They are both equally pleasant to sleep on, and both the perfect firmness. Now, when I teach my prenatal breastfeeding classes and support moms postpartum at home, I always tell them about the GhostBed, and safe bedsharing of course.
What’s even better than all of this????? This family run company is breastfeeding friendly! I had the pleasure of speaking with Ashley Werner, Director of Social Experience at GhostBed by Nature’s Sleep. This is what she had to say:
“As a very health-conscious individual, I always knew that breastfeeding would be the only source of nutrition for my son the first six months of his life. The way I see it, the abundance of vitamins, minerals, proteins, etc. present in breastmilk is the best gift I can give him!
I began sleeping on the GhostBed around the 6th month of my pregnancy. My prior mattress was too soft and was causing me increased lower back discomfort, especially since it was my first pregnancy and my body had never held so much weight in my stomach area before. Once I switched to the GhostBed, within about a week my lower back pain disappeared completely, and I spent the remainder of my pregnancy getting unusually great sleep for a preggo!
Naturally, once my son was born, breastfeeding him in my GhostBed was easy, relaxing, and stress-free. I’m well aware of the risks of having an infant in the bed, but because the GhostBed is a firmer mattress, it took many of the risks away.
As a full time working mom, getting my sleep at night is critical. Of course, waking up when the baby cries in the middle of the night is part of the job as well. But being able to bring him into my GhostBed with me while we nurse made the entire experience much more manageable.
At 17 months, we are still going strong nursing! Luckily I no longer have to wake up in the middle of the night to feed him, but first thing in the morning and right before bed we nurse. I get some strange looks when people hear that I still breastfeed, but I love it and so does my son. It provides so many wonderful benefits to both mommy and child that I see no purpose in weaning until I am ready.”
As promised, here are the rest of the rules for bedsharing safely. You can find more information about safe bedsharing in the links provided below.
Co-sleep is an umbrella term for many forms of sleeping with your baby. Things that fall under co-sleep are, but are not limited to:
Despite what many people believe bedsharing, under the right conditions, can be SAFE. It is considered safe for non-smoking, breastfeeding mothers who are not obese to bedshare. How is bedsharing safe? Well, first let's go over a few myths involved in this subject.
Myth #1: Your baby will die of SIDS
First of all, SIDS and suffocation are two completely different demons. Secondly, your baby is actually significantly less at risk of SIDS if bedsharing, or any form of co-sleeping is practiced. Babies greatly benefit from hearing their mother’s rhythmic heartbeat and breathing throughout the night. Newborns are not unconscious breathers like we are. They need to think about it. Hearing you breath is a reminder, and also sets a pace for them.
Myth #2: You will roll over onto and crush your baby.
You will be surprised how well aware of your child you will be! It is completely natural for a breastfeeding mother to create a protective curl around their infant while they sleep, keeping them close to their body. Any time that baby stirs or makes a sound you will be in tune to them and wake. Many mothers find themselves actually waking just before their baby, only to then realize their baby was ready to nurse. Talk about hormonal chemistry! Obviously, there is an exception to this rule. If you are under the influence of over the counter or prescription drugs which may make you drowsy, DO NOT SLEEP WITH BABY. If you are under the influence of illicit drugs, alcohol, or are sleep deprived, DO NOT SLEEP WITH YOUR BABY. It should also be noted that ONLY the exclusively breastfeeding mother should sleep with her baby- not the father or anyone else.
Myth #3: You will never sleep again!
On the contrary. I sleep far better with my baby next to me in my bed than I ever have with him even at arm’s reach away from me, and so does he. I have peace of mind knowing that I can just open my eyes and not need to get up to check on him. Night nursing is a breeze too. I don’t even have to wake up to nurse him. I wear an easy access shirt and keep one breast exposed and he pops on and off as he pleases while I sleep! Research also supports this.
Myth #4: You will never get the baby out of your bed.
Fostering a secure independence begins with a healthy dependence. Part of this includes sleeping with or near your baby. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends co-sleeping for the first year of life. During the first few months, especially, having your baby in your bed will only help you all get more sleep. Newborns are also not designed to sleep alone, and when they are a bit older, and ready to sleep on their own, it will be much easier to do so when they are not nursing frequently through the night.
Myth #5: Bedsharing will destroy your sex life.
Have you seen the internet meme floating around that reads, “Co-sleepers do it in the kitchen!”? Well, it's true. Or in the bathroom, shower, on the couch, down the hall, etc. You get creative. I personally would resent being in a relationship where sex strictly had to take place in the bedroom or on a bed. How boring, right?
Now that we have gone over some myths, let's go over some do’s and don’ts of bedsharing.
The Do’s of Bedsharing:
The Don’ts of Bedsharing:
Mothers have been bedsharing for thousands of years, all over the world. It is an instinctive, primitive parenting technique. I hope someday the negative perception of bedsharing will change and it will be socially normal and accepted. The links provided are a few of my sources, though most all of this information I have committed to memory. Happy and safe Bedsharing everyone!
Kelly Maher, CLC, CLE