Successful Breastfeeding Blog
Evidence based advice, support, and education for modern families.
“Say goodbye to sleep!” I can’t remember how many times I heard this while pregnant with my second baby after a 10 year gap between pregnancies. It was super annoying. Every baby was different, but I also knew a few tricks that had worked really well with my first baby, and I was looking forward to trying them again to see if they worked.
We’re 4 weeks into our breastfeeding journey, and my son is a VERY different human from my daughter. She was more laid back. He’s particular. I checked her diaper constantly because she couldn’t care less what went on in there. I hear from him if 5 minutes pass and he hasn’t been changed. Temperature didn’t bother her. If he’s even slightly chilly, the entire house knows about it.
But the sleep tricks that worked the first time still worked this time, you can use them too!
Hey there! My name is Kelly Maher Carvell, CLC, CLE.
I offer effective telehealth lactation support and education to modern families.
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A common myth is that sleep is worse with a breastfed baby vs. a formula fed baby. Researches have looked closely at this. While it’s true that moms may get fewer hours of sleep since a partner isn’t splitting nighttime feedings, their quality of sleep tends to be better and they report feeling more rested than mothers who formula feed. Babies don’t sleep through the night for many months, sometimes years, no matter what you feed them. But there ARE things you can do to get everyone in the house more rest. I’m not going to tell you to nap when the baby naps, because as a mom myself, I know how unrealistic that is, unless you have a nanny for other kids, a private chef to cook for your family, a maid to clean your house, and a driver to run all your errands for you.
*Before you use my hacks for a better night’s sleep, click here to read about safe sleeping arrangements.
Did you know that babies aren’t born making melatonin?
Melatonin is the sleepytime hormone. You make it naturally as part of your day/night, sleep/wake cycle. Guess what contains melatonin? Your milk! And night milk has more than day milk.
Food for thought: Even if your partner got up to give a bottle of YOUR pumped milk from earlier in the day, it’s possible that the different hormone levels could lead to a nighttime baby party, and you’d STILL have to pump to protect your supply. Sounds like a lose-lose.
There are some things I’ve found from experience (and research supports as well) that can ACTUALLY help you and your baby find the best routine possible. After my hacks, I'll share with you my exact routine that works like a charm, and allows me the most sleep possible!
Sleep hacks, and why they work for most babies.
My particular routine:
I start by I dimming the living room lights after dinner and nurse, fold laundry, spend time with my husband, and watch TV. At bedtime, we do a diaper change, swaddling sleep sack, and lights off other than a small night light. I turn on white noise and nurse in a side-lying position in bed, then he comes off the breast and closes his eyes, usually between 10:30 and 11 PM. He sleeps on his back; no rocking, pacifier, or elaborate bedtime ritual. He wakes up between 2-3am to nurse. He does NOT cry to tell me he’s hungry, and 9 times out of 10, I wake up before he even opens his eyes. It’s breastfeeding magic I can’t explain. We nurse side lying, and he goes right back to sleep when he’s done. We repeat the same thing at 5:30ish, and finish when my husband’s alarm goes off. He changes the baby and hands him back to me, and we snooze until 7 when I turn the lights on, the white noise off, and unswaddle him. RARELY is he ready to be fully awake at that time and he naps while I shower. I get out and nurse a wide awake baby at 8 before taking my older daughter to school.
Virtual Breastfeeding SupportI hope these help you get better sleep, and build a better nursing relationship with your little one. If you’re struggling or have questions about making a nighttime routine work for you, reach out to one of our experts. A baby who cries non-stop for hours is never normal and needs help! Check in with us and your pediatrician to figure things out. Don’t just assume no sleep for anyone is a normal thing.
Hey! I’m Allison, guest poster for Successful Breastfeeding! I am an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and have over seven years of experience as a pediatric nurse working one on one with mothers and babies. My most important credential is being “Mama” to two little ones.
Kelly Maher, CLC, CLE
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