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How to survive night feeding a newborn
Perhaps the greatest difficulty of parenting a newborn is getting up at night for night feedings! Do you agree?
Most parents agree that middle-of-the-night feedings can be really rough!
In this post, I am going to offer 12 really helpful tips for feeding your newborn at night. Including…
- Tips for bottle feeding at night
- Breastfeeding at night feeding tips
- How to dream feed baby
- Ways to cope with newborn night feeds
- Survival tips for night waking
- Newborn night feeding tips
- Co-sleeping and bed sharing safety
How to ease the burden of night feedings
Because it is very important for both breastfeeding mom and young baby to feed during the night, you must accept the fact that night feedings will be your reality for the next few months.
Rather than fighting the fact that you will need to feed your baby at night, decide NOW to equip yourself with some overnight survival tools!
Yes! There are definitely some things that you can do to help ease the burden of night feedings.
If you are struggling with those dreaded night feedings, here are 12 great tips to survive middle-of-the-night feedings that you will love!
12 newborn night feeding tips!
1. Rooming in
Not only are newborn night feeds easier if you don’t have to trudge down the hall to get to your crying baby, but research shows that room sharing reduces the risk of SIDS.
In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends room-sharing (source) as a way to reduce SIDS.
They also recommend having the baby in his own separate space such as a crib or bassinet within the mother’s bedroom, rather than bed-sharing.
Read more about the AAP’s Safe Sleep Practices here.
Co-sleeping and bed sharing
Disclaimer: As a postpartum doula and childbirth professional, it is my duty to inform new parents about The American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) Safe Sleep Practices. Although the AAP recommends room-sharing, they do not endorse bed-sharing. However, the AAP recognizes that 60% of new parents admit to bedsharing at some time. (The actual number is believed to be even higher) Because of this, they have recently adjusted their guidelines to include these safe sleep guidelines for bedsharing. As a doula, I want to be clear that I am not recommending bed-sharing to my clients or readers. In the following section, I am merely offering it as an option to consider for night feedings. If you choose to bed-share with your newborn, please make sure to do so safely and follow the AAP guidelines!
As part of the “rooming in” discussion, I need to discuss the topic of co-sleeping. Although the AAP does not recommend bed-sharing, many parents do experiment with it at some point.
Co-sleeping vs. bed sharing
For the purpose of this post, I want to make a distinction between co-sleeping and bed sharing.
Co-sleeping is not necessarily bed sharing. Babies that sleep in a co-sleeper or in a separate sleep space are not considered to be bed-sharing.
Because it is believed that most parents will bed-share at some point, (often out of desperation) I think it warrants a discussion all it’s own.
If you decide to bed-share, it is important that you learn the importance of safe sleep practices for co-sleeping. There are many IMPORTANT do’s and don’ts to keep in mind before you decide to sleep with your baby.
Make sure that you create a safe sleep environment. Read more about that here.
Bedsharing and night feedings
There are many parents (myself included) who believe that safe co-sleeping is the best way to survive night feedings.
As a new mom, I loved the fact that I didn’t even have to get out of bed during the night!
When my baby started stirring, I simply pulled her in close and “plugged her in”! She nursed while I dozed. When she was done, we both fell back to sleep. No crying. No sleep-loss. Easy peasy!
I respect the fact that some moms just don’t feel safe co-sleeping or bed sharing. They fear that they will roll over on top of their baby or that the baby will fall out of bed or get stuck. They or their partner may also be heavy sleepers.
These are valid concerns! I agree that if you don’t feel completely comfortable with the decision to co-sleep, then you should consider other options instead… No judgement here!
Bottom line, if you decide to co-sleep or bed share, make sure that you do the research and do so safely and with confidence in your decision.
Co-sleeping without bed-sharing
If you are interested in co-sleeping without bed-sharing, there are some great co-sleepers that give baby her own sleep space while keeping her close by. Here are some of my favorite ones:
This is a sweet co-sleeper!
Foldable, portable and everything you would want in a bassinet or porta crib PLUS it’s a co-sleeper!! I love that it does triple duty: bassinet, co-sleeper, and porta crib. Oh, did I mention diaper changing station as well? Skip the diaper changing table and just get this instead!!
Another great co-sleeper/porta crib that is also super portable. If you’re looking for something larger and lightweight, you may prefer this one instead. I love them both!
2. Get organized before those night feeds!
Before you head to bed, take a few minutes to gather up everything for your night-time feedings. It’s no fun fumbling about in the dark looking for things when you are super groggy.
The more organized you are, the faster you can go back to bed. Yay!
Essential Night Time Feeding Supplies:
- Extra water!
- snacks for mom
- diapers and wipes
- nipple cream
- diaper cream
- extra towels or burp cloths
- night light
- Boppy pillow
- Pre-made bottles for bottle feeding. If you are formula feeding, consider these great milk powder dispensers that make mixing bottles a breeze! These containers also double as a snack cup when your baby is older!
If you are formula feeding, you absolutely MUST try a Baby Breeza Automatic Formula Dispenser!!!
Put it on your BABY REGISTRY now!
It makes night bottle feedings sooooo much easier.
Wow! I have used them many times with my clients and I absolutely LOVE it!
You will feel spoiled every time you use it because it quickly dispenses and warms the bottle to the perfect temperature.
It’s a bit pricey, but you will not regret splurging on this baby item…especially at 2 am. Trust me!
3. Buy a red light bulb or night light
When your baby wakes to nurse, keep the room as dark and quiet as possible, to encourage him (and you) to go right back to sleep.
If you need to see what you’re doing to get a good latch, a nightlight or flashlight are better options than turning on a bright light. If you do need light, consider replacing your lamp or night light with a red light bulb.
There is new evidence that red light may not affect melatonin and helps relax and keep everyone in a sleepy state.
I really love this little bear night light! Just push his belly for easy, fast light without the harsh glare of regular light bulbs. This soft light also works well for middle of the night diaper changes!
Pro-tip: Get the red one!!
4. Avoid Lights or Cell Phones during night feedings
Just as red light helps with sleep, we have all probably heard by now that blue light has the opposite effect on sleep.
Resist the urge to look at your phone or check your email during middle-of-the-night feedings!
Not only will blue light disrupt your circadian rhythm, but it will distract and keep your baby awake too. No good. Keep it dark, ladies.
No phones or devices at night!
The goal here is to get as much sleep as possible at night.
5. Do Not Talk or Engage with Baby during overnight feedings
Some babies have their days and night mixed up! They need help to understand that nighttime is not playtime.
When your baby wakes to eat at night, make things as boring as possible. 🙂
Keep the room dark and quiet and try not to talk or engage him. Skip diaper changes. if not necessary.
Close your eyes so you are not tempted to talk or smile at your baby. This will help him fall back to sleep faster.
If your baby has long periods of wake time during the night, check out this post for some ways to help change that.
6. Learn How to Nurse Lying Down
Breastfeeding at night can be especially challenging when you are fighting to stay upright and awake.
Learn to breastfeed lying down as soon as you can. It can literally be a game-changer for your night feedings!
It may be difficult to learn in the early weeks, but once you and your baby get the hang of nursing upright, it’s time to try it out.
Start by practicing during the day, when it’s easier to see your baby. Don’t be surprised if your baby protests at first. Be patient and your baby will soon get the hang of it.
Once you both get the hang of it, you won’t even need the light to see during night feedings!
How to have safer night feedings
Even if you choose not to co-sleep, you can still feed lying down at night. It is so much easier than trying to nurse upright with your head bobbing as you fight to stay awake!
Not only is it difficult to feed upright when you are sleepy, it’s not safe if you fall asleep in a chair!
Trust me… I had a very scary experience falling asleep in a chair with my first baby. That’s why I chose to only breastfeed lying down at night after that.
What started out as a negative experience, though, evolved into a very huge blessing.
You can read more about my bedsharing journey and how I slept through the night with my newborns.
If your bed is not big enough, consider getting a spare bed or even a blanket or pad on the floor.
There are two popular positions for nursing while lying down: Side-lying and Laid-Back positions. Here is how they both work:
Lie on your side, with a pillow or two to support your head. A pillow between your knees may help you feel comfortable too.
Position the baby, lying on her side facing you, so that her nose is level with your nipple. (If your breasts are on the smaller side, you may need a firm pillow under the baby to bring him up level with your nipple.)
With one hand, bring the baby in close to you so that his chin is touching your breast and his head is tipped back a bit. You can stroke his upper lip with your nipple if he doesn’t latch on right away.
To change sides, you can either hold the baby firmly against your chest, and roll over, or, depending on the size of your breasts, you can leave the baby where she is and re-position yourself so that you are rolled slightly towards the baby and she can now nurse on the “top” breast.
I love this position! There are so many great benefits of laid-back breastfeeding, night or day! It is also called the “biological nurturing position”.
When using the “laid-back” breastfeeding position, lay back in a semi-reclining position in your bed, supported by pillows, with the baby tummy-to-tummy against your chest and abdomen.
She’ll find the nipple and self-attach, or you can help her get latched on.
This position also works well in a reclining chair or laying back on the couch while watching TV during cluster-feedings!
7. Wear Front Opening Night Clothing
In the middle of the night, you will be glad that your PJ’s or nightgown opens easily down the front to give your baby quick access, while still keeping you warm.
Get one that is soft, breathable cotton like this easy front-opening night shirt. I love how soft and pretty it is. It will make your postpartum body feel pretty, too! Pair it with leggings or sleep pants during cooler weather.
In fact, you can just live in it during your postpartum baby-moon! Why not?! 🙂
It’s best if you sleep without your nursing bra, since tight clothing may increase your risk for plugged ducts or mastitis.
If you are concerned about your breasts leaking during sleep, try using towels or cloth diapers to catch the leaks.
A good waterproof mattress protector is a necessity if you choose to breastfeed, too. Night time leaks are very common, especially during the early weeks postpartum.
8. Feed Often During the Day & Prioritize Cluster-Feedings Before Bed
One of the biggest mistakes that new parents make is not feeding their babies enough during the day.
If you allow your baby to feed often during the day and evening, he will start to wake less at night.
You see, your baby needs a certain amount of calories in a 24-hour time period. If he doesn’t get those necessary calories during the day… you guessed it…. he will want to eat more at night!
You can remedy this by waking him every 2-3 hours to feed during the day and allowing him to cluster-feed during the evening hours.
If you do wake him to eat during the day, it’s okay if he wants to sleep again after eating, just make sure that he keeps eating often so he gets the daytime volumes that he needs.
Remember, it’s NOT necessary to keep your baby awake during the day so that he sleeps better at night. That is an old wives tale and usually backfires!
Instead of a baby that sleeps better at night, you end up with an over-stimulated, over-tired baby that WON’T sleep!
9. Ask For night feeding help!
If you find the night feedings unbearable, don’t be afraid to ask for help during the early weeks.
If your baby takes a bottle, perhaps your partner can take one of the night feedings, so that you can get a longer sleep stretch.
Some couples find taking shifts to be a great sanity saver! Learn more about this tip and other great sleep strategies for the 4th trimester.
Your partner can also bring the baby to you in bed and do the middle of the night diaper change to help as well!
If you don’t have a partner to help, consider asking a relative or friend for some daytime help so that you can nap during the day.
You might also be able to find a “night-owl” friend who is willing to take the midnight feeding so that you can go to bed early and get some sleep on the front end of the night.
10. Nap During the Day
You’ve probably already heard this a hundred times, but SLEEP WHEN THE BABY SLEEPS!
Everyone says it because it’s TRUE! Resist the urge to get things done when baby is asleep. Get as much rest as you can during the day.
This can be difficult if you have more than one child, but if you nap when the baby naps, it will make a huge difference!
See about getting daytime help so you can rest. Perhaps your partner can take the baby or older kiddos for a while on weekend mornings while you get a bit more sleep.
11. Understand and accept night feedings as necessary
Understand that nighttime feedings are very important. Not only does your newborn need the calories of night feedings, but your body produces more prolactin during the overnight hours.
Prolactin is the hormone that encourages milk production. Your body needs these feedings, especially during the early weeks when your milk supply is just getting established.
It is also believed that babies are hard-wired to wake between 3 and 4 am. This is the time when babies usually want to nurse because it is when mom’s breasts make the most milk! Your baby knows this. It is best for mom and baby.
Without night feedings, your milk supply may dwindle!
When moms understand the importance of night feedings, it really helps them to accept them and to adapt.
Instead of fighting the night feedings, figure out other ways to cope.
Remember, this newborn period only lasts a few short months. Hug your baby and keep telling yourself this truth!
12. Dream feed baby to reduce night feeding
While technically a PRE-night feeding tip, many parents swear by dream feeding to reduce newborn night waking.
I also recommend dream feeding your newborn during those early weeks of your postpartum recovery.
While there are definitely cons for dream feeding older babies, newborn dream feeding can be a real life-saver!
What exactly is a dream feed?
I have written two separate posts to help you better understand how to use dream feeds for your baby’s sleep.
*Disclaimer – The information in the post is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be medical advice. Please make sure that you do your own research and talk with your baby’s doctor about the care of your newborn.
30 Easy Sleep Tips for New Parents!
Having a newborn is hard! The greatest challenge for most new parents is loss of sleep.
How can you get more sleep with your newborn? It is possible! My new eBook shows you how.
This is NOT your average book on baby sleep, but an easy step-by-step, hands-on survival guide for new parents!
I teach new parents how to maximize their sleep during the postpartum period.
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This quick read is a very affordable eBook that will be a game changer for your family!