Megan @oatcakeadventures & @birth-ed 🤰Hypnobirthing & Positive Birth Expert 💪🏽Business Owner, writer & podcaster 👶🏽Talking all things to make your birth better Mama to Otis Lover of Getting Muddy in The Great Outdoors
Probably the biggest challenge of the first few months to a year of parenting are the relentless night feeds. Production of prolactin, a hormone essential for breastfeeding, is higher at night, meaning babies wake more at night to get fed! But what can we do to make night feeds easier?
Understand that it is normal
When your baby’s waking for the 8th time in the night, it’s absolutely not easy, but it is normal. There’s a theory that baby’s wake more at night because they needed to be sure you were going to be alert and there to protect them from any danger or predators. This evolutionary behaviour has stuck around and it’s very normal for your baby to wake frequently at night. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong and it doesn’t mean your baby’s broken! It’s simply normal infant behaviour.
Change your expectations
It’s often easier to change our expectations about what a night with a baby looks like, than it is to change the normal behaviour they are showing by feeding throughout the night. Put in place plenty of opportunity in the day for naps, try to get to bed a little earlier in the night if you can. If you are mixed feeding, using a bottle for any feeds or using formula, then you may choose to split the night feeds with your partner.
Practice safe cosleeping
Around 75% of parents will co-sleep with their baby in the first few months of parenthood, either intentionally or unintentionally. Dosing off whilst feeding your baby often happens, so whether you intend to or not it’s important to understand how to do this safely. The Lullaby Trust and BASIS apps have excellent advice for safe bed sharing.
Practice breastfeeding on your side
If you are breastfeeding your baby, being able to feed in a lying down position can ensure you get as much rest as possible. If you’re in the early days of breastfeeding, have a practice of this during the day until you get the hang of it. But night feeds don’t mean you have to get out of bed, change rooms or even sit up!
Avoid checking your phone, watching TV or turning on the lights
Bright light, particularly blue light from phones and TVs, inhibits the production of melatonin (our sleepy hormone), not just in you, but in your baby too! Meaning that once you’ve turned on the lights or checked your phone, it’s going to be much harder to get back to sleep, even if you feel tired! Not to mention that social media, emails, text messages are all going to stimulate your brain and get it thinking, worrying, planning etc.
Podcasts, Audiobooks, or gentle music are great alternatives
If it’s a REALLY long feed and you feel like you need entertaining, listening to a podcast or audio book quietly with your eyes closed is a great alternative to watching tv! If you really must check your phone or watch tv, turn it onto ‘night mode’ which blocks out the blue light likely to disturb your sleep.
Make sure you’ve got a HUGE bottle of water, muslins, nappies, wipes, a towel etc to hand before you go to bed. You can change your baby on the bed if you need to, and completely avoid even climbing out of bed at all!
And last of all remember, that this too shall pass! Eventually night feeds become less frequent and babies and children begin to sleep for longer stretches. Whilst you’re in it, it’s hard work, but you are doing a fantastic job!