Afraid You Will Never Sleep Again? How to help your breastfeeding baby sleep.
By Jennifer Seawell, MD, FAAP
You’ve brought home your brand new baby and you’re starting to get the hang of breastfeeding. Except for one tiny detail. Your sweet bundle has drifted right back into the same pattern he had before delivery… sleep all day and party all night. Are you beginning to worry that you may never sleep again? If you’re starting to notice that your bundle of joy is snoozing thru the day and wanting to nurse and play all night long, there is hope!
Bad habits are easy to make
This is an unfortunate truth. And I will sadly admit that I’ve made ALL the bad habits more than once. Luckily, once you’ve figured out where you’re going wrong, all bad habits can be fixed. But the longer you wait, the harder it will be.
Loose schedules are your friend
Your breastfeeding mini is going to want and need to eat frequently. In the beginning, it is totally normal for them to eat every 2 hours (beginning to beginning of feeds). Which means you are likely spending a minimum of 6 hours a day with your baby latched. And most likely getting no more than 2-3 hours of sleep in a stretch. You are going to be tired. And likely desperate to get more sleep.
Set your schedule
Eat, Awake, Sleep is your new mantra for setting up good sleep patterns. Sounds easy, right? Except that your sweet little is going to pass out once their tummy is full of warm milk and their head will drop back. Usually with a drop of milk leaking out onto their cheeks. Super cute. Not good for setting good sleep habits! So once you notice those beautiful eyes starting to close and your sweet baby starting to drift off to sleepy-land, time to burp and change. And THEN lay them down in their own space for a nap.
Don’t hold them while asleep
Ok, I have to admit, this one is HARD!! Because there is absolutely NOTHING in this world nicer than holding a sleeping baby. So why should you consider putting them down to sleep? Because your sweet snuggly bundle is not going to stay this small forever. And because toddler limbs draping over you all night long isn’t comfortable. And because little kid limbs draped over you are even LESS comfortable. Set yourself up for success here.
Limit the length of daytime naps
In general, I recommend feeding on demand for my breastfeeding mommas. But I also recommend trying to get our littles on our schedules. So try not to let your mini sleep for extended periods during the day. I try to coax newborns awake every 2 hours for feeds during normal daylight hours. You may be totally unsuccessful. But if you keep trying, you will eventually train them to want to eat every 2 hours.
Let them sleep longer at night
On the flip side, I like to let my newborns rest a bit more at night. Check with your pediatrician about how long you should let your baby go before waking them to eat. But for most healthy full term babies, it’s totally fine to let them sleep for 3-4 hours is they’re gaining weight well. Obviously, if they wake up at 2 hours and want to eat, then feed them. But if they want to give you a 4 hour stretch, do a happy dance and get your snooze on.
Encourage sleeping at night and awake during the day
Try to set your home environment with clear differences in daytime/nighttime. During the daytime, don’t worry about being quiet. They will adjust. And we don’t necessarily want them to sleep too long anyway. So roll with it. And remember… more calories during the day means fewer calories needed at night.
At night, keep things quiet and the lights dim. Consider using a nightlight to avoid using bright overhead lights. Keep the chatting to a minimum. This is not the time for lots of cooing and talking with your baby. Nighttime is strictly business. Eat and back to bed!!
Keep in mind that your little just spent 9 months living on their own timetable. Although you may be one of the lucky few whose baby naturally syncs up with your routine (in which case, you may not want to gloat too much), most babies take some time to adjust to our world. So take a deep breath and repeat after me: Calm, Kind, Consistent. And keep your eyes on the goal. One day, you will sleep again. 🙂
For more information on setting yourself up for success with breastfeeding, check out this post. And keep your eyes open…. next week we’ll talk about breastmilk and your diet. Rules of supplementing coming soon too!