How much shut-eye do you get each night?
If you're a brand-new mom, you're laughing sarcastically, and I get it. Nights were my personal nightmare as a newly-minted mama who chose to breastfeed.
First of all, know that you're not alone in your sleep deprivation. A recent study shows that new parents lose about 44 days of sleep during baby's first year. New moms have it even harder if they breastfeed exclusively. If that sounds like you, rest assured that breastfeeding at night can get a little easier. Here are some tips on how to get a good night's sleep through that trying first year.
1. Try Breastfeeding While Lying Down
Where do you usually breastfeed?
Personally, my favorite place to feed was a comfy old armchair. But for nighttime feedings, I mastered the art of breastfeeding while lying down. You should try it, too.
Check out this helpful video to see how to safely feed while lying on your side:
A Few Safety Tips To Keep In Mind
Breastfeeding in bed is an amazing way to get some more rest through the night, but remember to follow these crucial safety guidelines:
- Keep baby's back positioned against a rolled-up blanket or pillow so he doesn't roll away.
- Make sure that his chin is resting against your chest and his nose is not touching your breast.
- Make sure that you're breastfeeding on a firm mattress.
If you have a lot of blankets and pillows, get rid of some of them while your baby's in your bed. This is especially important if your baby is less than six months old.
A recent report shows that parents are still ignoring the dangers of blankets and pillows around infants, both while they're sleeping alone and in their parents' beds. Yet the number one risk of Sudden Infant Death syndrome is night-time smothering.
When you're done with a feeding, put baby back in his safe sleeping space. I know how tempting it is to let baby sleep next to you for the rest of the night.
I can't count how often I thought: We're so comfy here, all snuggled up and warm. I don't feel like getting up and putting my baby back in his bassinet. But I braved the cold floor so he could rest in his cradle because his well-being comes first.
Fortunately, this next tip makes the above dilemma so much easier.
2. Keep Baby Close At Night
Does your baby sleep in her own room or in yours?
My son shared our room till he was eighteen months old. I swear, this saved my sanity.
If you're not room-sharing with your baby yet, you should give it a try. It might just help you get that good night's rest you've been pining for.
How to Room-Share Safely
First, establish a safe sleeping space.
Though you may be keen on bed-sharing, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that babies who sleep in their parents bed are at a higher risk of SIDS. A safer alternative is having the baby's bassinet in your room, right near your bed.
3. Get Comfy While Breastfeeding
Speaking of not getting out of bed, are you comfortable while breastfeeding?
When I was a breastfeeding newbie, I didn't really consider my own comfort. I'd sit, slightly hunched over in my armchair, stiffly trying to hold my position so baby could latch on.
This backfired spectacularly. My discomfort transferred onto my baby, and before long we were both frustrated.
Build yourself a comfy feeding nest. Even if you're not going to breastfeed while laying down, use your bed as the ultimate comfort zone. Prop yourself up with some pillows, grab a light blanket, and enjoy each nighttime feeding. If you're not comfortable, those feedings are going to seem twice as long.
Pro Tip: If you're anything like me, you're feeling pangs of hunger during every breastfeeding session. Don't deny yourself nourishment, even if it's 3 A.M. You're body is providing food for your baby, so it's only natural that you need sustenance, too.
Keep a bag of Graham Crackers or some other light snack on your nightstand. Eating in bed is totally excusable when you're a breastfeeding mama, if you ask me.
4. Nap With Baby If You Can
Do you sleep when baby sleeps?
I know -- Easier said than done, right? If you're able to sleep during the day, though, don't deny yourself that nap.
I personally loved napping with my baby. It was my favorite way to bond with him. Watching him snooze peacefully lulled me right to sleep.
If you're tired during the day, don't feel guilty about needing that cat nap. The dishes and laundry can wait. Your body needs the rest, especially now that it's working overtime.
Naps are even trickier if you have older kids. Don't be afraid to ask a neighbor or loved one if they can babysit. Also, while it's not an ideal solution, let your older kids watch a favorite show while you doze off for a bit. Do that as a last resort, though.
5. Get Some Help With Nighttime Feedings
Do you breastfeed exclusively?
If so, this tip may be hard to subscribe to. But if you're feeling overwhelmed due to sleep deprivation, consider letting someone help with nighttime feedings.
Your partner might love to help with this task. I know my partner was keen on bottle-feeding. It was a way for him to bond with our son, and he was glad he could share the responsibilities.
It's difficult to stray from your breastfeeding ideals as a new mom. But if these ideals cost you your health and sanity, then you can't be your best mommy-self, anyway.
Express your milk after each feeding. Pumping at night is especially helpful, since studies show that this is when your body's prolactin levels increase. Prolactin is the hormone responsible for milk production.
If you can't pump enough milk, your partner or another loved one can bottle-feed without resorting to formula.
6. Start A Bedtime Routine For Yourself
Do you have a bedtime routine?
Of course, your baby has a bedtime ritual, but plan one out for yourself, too. You'll be surprised how much that can help with sleeping more soundly through the night.
For instance, an hour before you plan on going to sleep, put away your electronics. Studies show that screen time can interfere with sleep patterns.
When I had trouble sleeping, I got into the habit of a warm night time shower just before bed. After my shower, I'd snuggle up with a book -- nothing to exciting, though. I'd read just long enough to feel drowsy.
My routine made it easier to drift off to sleep each night. I even started looking forward to bedtimes.
7. Stick to Sleepy Activities
Even if you get used to a bedtime routine, you might still have trouble getting back to sleep after a midnight feeding.
In that case, try to find something sleep-inducing. No matter how strong the urge to binge-watch Grey's Anatomy , try to stay away from something that engages you. Watch or listen to something that won't keep you invested.
I turned on a little classical music or some boring talk radio. Either one would put me to sleep in minutes.
8. Make The Most Of Being Awake
But wait. Don't stress too much over your lack of sleep.
I know this sounds contradictory to all the tips above. If you try too hard to fall back asleep after feedings, though, you'll only stress yourself out. That's counterintuitive, and adds to your sleep deprivation.
Listen to your body. If you feel that you're too wired to fall back asleep, do something else instead. Go ahead and watch that binge-worthy show if you have to choose between that and stressing about sleep.
9. Befriend a Fellow New Mommy
Do you have a breastfeeding support system?
If not, find a way to connect with new mommies like you. Ideally, you can befriend a fellow breastfeeding mom who shares your struggles.
For me, that bond with my mommy friends was a life-saver. I could always count on one of my closest friends to get me through the night with a text chat or a string of funny memes.
The best place to find support for breastfeeding moms is your local La Leche League. If not that, join a Mommy and Me playgroup, or just say hi to new moms at the park.
Who knows -- You might even make some lifelong friends this way. Whatever the outcome, knowing that you're not alone in your nighttime struggles is very uplifting.
Is A Good Night's Rest In The Cards For You?
Which of these tips helps you cope with breastfeeding at night? Are any of them a total game-changer? Tell us what works for you. Share your story in the comments below.