Clare @mumsymidwife 👶 Midwife & Blogger 🤰Talking all things pregnancy & parenting Mum to Isabelle Lover of coconut mushrooms & cherry bakewells 🍒
The first few days after having a baby can lull you into a false sense of security. They are still sleepy from the birth and not necessarily using the full capacity of their lungs to scream and let them show their presence. But one thing that will start at day dot, is night feeds.
Babies naturally want to feed at night – biologically their wake/sleep rhythms focus towards 4-6 hourly feeds and possibly even more in the hours of darkness. Fun fact! Breast milk is actually better tasting overnight as the prolactin hormone is higher, this is the hormone that makes you produce milk. Babies need a steady stream of nutrition so the goal of getting a baby that sleeps through until morning is a bit of an old fashioned idea. Therefore getting used to waking up with your baby is a priority.
As a mum myself, I can’t really say that you ever get “used” to night feeds. It is something that I barely tolerated. I did it because I had to, but I struggled with the continuous demand and cumulative sleep deprivation. I would say that you need to survive them rather than enjoy them. Here are some top tips for feeding at night.
Get stocked up
Regardless of the method you’ve decided to feed it pays to get everything ready before you hunker down for the night time hours. If you’re breastfeeding then making sure you have some snacks for you to hand (it’s very draining to breastfeed and you need some sustenance). If you’re bottle feeding have the bits you need arranged and to hand. We don’t recommend pre-making feeds but having the bits and pieces laid out ready to prepare a bottle just makes it a bit easier when you’re tired and a bit disorientated.
In the early weeks it’s a good idea to change baby with each feed so make sure you have the nappies, wipes and bags ready so it just streamlines they process a little bit.
Get a night light
A small night light will come in really handy when feeding in darkness. Big harsh lamps can completely wake up baby so a dim night light means you can maintain the calm ambiance whilst still seeing what you’re doing. I found a USB chargeable one that I could carry around with me as I moved about the house.
If you have a partner then swapping shifts may be a good idea. With us I went to bed really early (about 8pm) and slept through until 2am. My husband looked after my daughter in the evening and we then swapped and I took over the feeds over night. It meant I got a wedge of unbroken sleep and it made a massive difference. If you breastfeed it can be difficult to do this unless you express milk, which we don’t recommend until feeding is established at about 6 weeks, however, I have known of couples where the partner was able to put baby to the breast whilst Mum sleeps! You must be careful with this though and partner needs to be sat watching to make sure baby doesn’t fall off or mum roll over onto baby.
Charge your tablet
Night feeds can be very boring. Normally they take between 15 mins and 1 hour and that’s not including the time to settle baby afterwards. I would recommend charging your tablet and getting some earphones so you can watch some tv whilst feeding. This causes minimal disruption to anyone sleeping in bed with you and the light coming from it is a lot less than a bit TV. I managed to watch the whole of Pretty Little Liars when my daughter was born. It was a godsend when I was up at all hours.
Join Facebook groups
This sounds like a weird one but it is one thing that really helped me. I found feeding at night very lonely and it was the time I struggled the most. I always think things seem much worse in the night, so what I did was join some Facebook groups that were focused towards new mums. I found that there was always someone there who was awake with me that I could chat to. I shared many an hour with these other mums and got some brilliant tips along the way too. Sharing the experience with other like minded parents was really beneficial to my mental health and really helped me through postnatal depression.
Night feeds are undeniably hard, but one saying I always held with me was “this too shall pass”, and it couldn’t be more true. They don’t last forever, although they feel like they will at the time. If you can embrace the hours overnight it is an amazing opportunity to bond with your baby. Don’t be in a rush to achieve that “slept through the night for the first time” milestone and feel reassured by the fact that you’re not alone.
If you are struggling with the demands of night feeds I hear you sister, it’s hard. But remember to look after yourself as well and take care of yourself. It’s hard but you can do it – you have every other parent in the world behind you.