Night feeds are an integral part of establishing breastfeeding because night feeds promote your milk supply. Newborn babies have little stomachs and need feeds throughout the night too, just like other baby mammals, such as kittens and puppies.
However, if you’ve spent the rest of your adult life enjoying blissful, uninterrupted sleep, having to wake up several times in the night is really hard and tiring. The good news is that night feeds become less frequent and more quick and efficient as your baby gets older. Feeding your baby at night is also easier if you are breastfeeding compared to bottle-feeding.
There are several things you can do to make night feeds less disruptive to both you and your baby’s night.
Share a bedroom with your baby
The HSE recommends that your baby should sleep in the same room as you for at least the first six months. This is to reduce the likelihood of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). It also means that you will be able to quickly feed your baby without having to wait for them to cry to get your attention and having to get up and go to another room.
Feed lying down
Night feeding can be more restful if you learn to feed lying down, but make sure you don’t fall asleep with your baby in your bed as there are lots of risks associated with it. After the feed, put your baby back in their bed space, eg a cot attached to your bed. You can find more safe sleeping advice on the HSE’s website.
Nap when your baby naps in the day
In the early days with your newborn, try to nap when your baby naps, or if you have family around let them look after your baby while you catch up on some sleep.
Night feeding is easier for breastfeeding mums
Getting up in the night to breastfeed your baby is tough. All new parents feel tired and sleep-deprived, but breastfeeding mums who feed their babies at night enjoy several advantages:
- Studies have reported that breastfeeding mums gain an extra 45 minutes of sleep in the first months compared to mums and dads who are bottle-feeding through the night, as they don’t have to make up bottles.
- Breastfeeding mums produce lots of the hormone oxytocin during a night feed, which helps them drop off to sleep more quickly after a feed.
- Breast milk contains both the hormone melatonin and the amino acid tryptophan, which help promote baby’s sleep.
- The levels of the hormone prolactin peak at night in breastfeeding mums. This stimulates breast milk, so breastfed babies get good, nourishing feeds at night.
- Breastfeeding at night promotes and maintains milk supply, which increases the chances that breastfeeding will be successfully established.
- Sharing a room with their mums and waking for night feeds help to protect babies from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).