Nighttime feeding and sleep are hard to cope with, especially in the first weeks. The Baby’s Sleep section provides an overview of common infant sleep patterns – most newborns sleep often but for short periods of time. Breastfeeding or expressing milk generally matches this pattern, with infant feeding occurring every few hours or more, around the clock.
If milk is not removed from breasts through the night, mothers may wake up engorged (with very full breasts). Milk removal impacts milk production; feeding frequently creates more milk and feeding less often means there will be less milk. If mothers want to provide their milk for their babies, this means several nighttime nursing or pumping sessions. Getting sleep in short chunks of time is hard for all adults. Getting sleep in chunks is even harder for people recovering from pregnancy, labor and delivery, and constant infant care. This part of parenting is really tough. It will be easier!
If getting more sleep is important for parents, you can consider “sleeping in shifts” with a partner or other support. For example, a caregiver can take responsibility for holding, settling, and changing baby from 6pm to midnight. You sleep and, as the baby cues, the other adult can bring the baby to nurse side-lying. You can remain mostly asleep while the other caregiver monitors your baby and moves him/her to the sleeping location once the baby is done feeding. Then, after midnight, you can assume primary responsibility while the other caregiver sleeps. Or a partner might step in for a 3am shift so mom can sleep until morning.
Setting up a baby changing station and having everything you need to feed baby close at hand before you go to bed can make it easier to function in the middle of the night. Some parents suggest keeping lights low so it at least feels like night. Going for many nights with limited sleep can lead to feelings of impatience, sadness, and forgetfulness. Try to nap during the day when you can. And if it is getting to be too much, tell someone. Maybe having a friend or someone stay with you for a night to help out can be just the ticket to feeling better.
Resources to Explore:
- Information about dangers of falling asleep with the baby while breastfeeding, see American Academy of Pediatrics ‘Guidance for parents who fall asleep while feeding their infant’