Your bundle of joy has finally arrived, and while you couldn't be more grateful, being a new mom is challenging, too. One of the hardest adjustments to make is getting so little sleep.
A lack of sleep can start to make any mom feel like a zombie. She might even start to consider giving up on breastfeeding at night.
On the surface, it sounds like a solid plan. The mom's partner or another caregiver could provide the baby with a bottle feeding a few times per night, giving mom some much-needed extra sleep.
However, there is scientific evidence that suggests this may not be the best and healthiest strategy for you or your baby.
While nighttime breastfeeding is admittedly difficult, there are many good reasons why it makes sense to find ways to deal with sleep deprivation that don't involve giving up on nursing at night.
Perhaps when you understand just how critical nighttime breastfeeding is, you'll find new resolve to continue this practice over the long term.
Why Do Babies Need to Eat Frequently?
When babies are born, their tummies are tiny. Moreover, those tummies grow quite slowly over time. This means that baby's tummy can't hold a lot of milk at once.
Also, consider that your breast milk gets digested with surprising speed. It usually only takes about one hour for your baby to burn through a stomach full of milk. This is the reason why so many newborns tend to insist on hourly feedings or at least one feeding every two hours.
There is a definite upside for mom when it comes to breastfeeding with this level of frequency. It is one of the best ways to stimulate and maintain your milk-producing capabilities so that you can breastfeed for as long as you wish.
In fact, many doctors consider the first six weeks after birth to be absolutely critical in terms of establishing the supply of a mother's milk. The more that you breastfeed, both day and night, the more reliable your supply of breast milk is likely to be.
Your Levels of Prolactin Peak at Night
Also called the "milk hormone," prolactin is produced by your pituitary gland. This important hormone performs a number of services for you. Scientists estimate that it helps your body to regulate approximately 300 functions. These functions are divided into categories such as:
- Immune system regulation
- Behavioral functions
- Fluid regulation
The function that is of most interest to moms is prolactin's responsibility for building and maintaining a supply of breast milk. As you begin breastfeeding, certain prolactin receptors are moved to your breasts to regulate milk production. The more prolactin you have, the more milk your body makes.
Your prolactin levels rise as your baby nurses. Accordingly, more frequent nursing equals higher levels of prolactin. Because levels of this hormone naturally rise at night, when you breastfeed your baby during these hours, you are sending your body the message that a steady and strong supply of milk is required.
Is Breastmilk Different at Night?
Breast milk naturally contains an amino acid called tryptophan. This amino acid is used to produce melatonin in your body and in your baby as well. Melatonin is an essential hormone that is necessary to inducing and regulating sleep.
Your circadian rhythm largely dictates the amount of tryptophan that is present in your breast milk. Researchers have learned that tryptophan levels in breast milk generally are higher at night. Accordingly, when you breastfeed your baby at night, you are ensuring that she takes in more tryptophan. This can ensure that baby and you get more sleep.
It also is worth noting that the ingestion of tryptophan helps to develop serotonin receptors. Serotonin is necessary for developing brain function, and it also assists with managing sleep-wake cycles. It can even help to put baby in a better mood. It's just another reason why nighttime breastfeeding is essential.
Nighttime Breastfeeding Supports LAM
Are you hoping to benefit from the Lactational Amenorrhea Method? This all-natural form of birth control is anticipated by many moms.
Basically, moms who decide to exclusively breastfeed their babies naturally stop ovulating. This means that it may be possible to prevent a pregnancy using no other method than breastfeeding.
It's a great way to simplify life for new moms. It's 98-percent effective, free and can work for as long as six months.
The downside is that it's critical to be really dedicated to LAM. Typically, that means nursing a minimum of every four hours during the day and six hours at night.
Many moms find that their menstrual cycle makes a return if they either significantly reduce or stop doing nighttime breastfeeding.
In other words, nighttime nursing is an absolute must if you want to take full advantage of LAM.
How Does Breastfeeding Protect Against SIDS?
Perhaps one of the most persuasive arguments for nighttime breastfeeding is that the practice may protect your baby against SIDS.
SIDS refers to the unexplained, sudden death of an infant. It's a terrifying subject for all parents, but it is one that needs to be acknowledged so that you can take steps to protect your baby.
One of those steps is committing yourself to nighttime breastfeeding. In as many as 18 independent studies, the results have demonstrated that SIDS risk is reduced by 50 percent when mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies at night. Experts suggest that arousing the infant at night may also be a survival mechanism. Since waking up at night is most common among breastfed babies, it makes sense to make nighttime nursing a part of your daily routine.
You May Get to Sleep More
It can be pretty hard to believe when you are feeling sleep deprived, but numerous studies have found that moms who breastfeed at night actually get more sleep than moms who choose to feed with formula or mix formula feedings with breastfeeding.
These studies concluded that moms who exclusively breastfeed generally get about 45 minutes more sleep every night, although this tends to be fragmented time. Still, an extra few minutes of sleep here and there can make a huge difference in how you feel all day long.
Tips to Make Nighttime Breastfeeding Easier
With a few tips, you may find that nighttime breastfeeding feels like less of a chore. Try these ideas to make getting up at night easier:
- Get comfortable
- Sleep in close proximity to baby
- Hide your alarm clock
- Don't turn on the lights
- Wear clothing with easy access
Let's take a closer look at these tips.
Getting comfortable means nursing in the coziest, most relaxed position you can find. For some moms, this means nursing while lying down. You may not be able to sleep, but at least you can go for extra relaxation.
You also may find it helpful to sleep closer to baby at night. This may mean having him sleep in your room or sharing your bed. Either way, it's less disruptive to be in the same room than to have to trek down the hallway for each feeding.
Hiding your alarm clock is a favorite trick of many sleep-deprived moms. Essentially, not looking at the time each time you get up can help spare you from the mental drain of finding that it's only been an hour or two since the last feeding.
Keeping the lights off is a great idea because it's important that your surroundings be dark, quiet and peaceful. This environment similarly encourages your baby to go back to sleep as soon as possible.
Wearing easy access clothing at night makes things simpler for you and your baby. Wear nighttime attire that opens at the front rather than needing to be pulled up or down.
Look to Euphoric Herbals for Extra Support
At Euphoric Herbals, we're moms too, and that's how we know that your job is one of the most important ones in the world. We're dedicated to helping moms everywhere discover healthy, all-natural ways to support breastfeeding for as long as possible.
If you are concerned about stimulating or maintaining your milk supply, then browse through the organic products on our website. Our teas and supplements are just what you need to make breastfeeding more rewarding for both of you.