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Did you know that it is biologically normal and expected for babies to need night feedings? But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. So, to ease your journey through the highs and lows of night feeding, our expert Certified Breastfeeding Specialist and Lactation Consultant Samantha Tully is sharing how to minimize wake ups while ensuring baby gets all the nourishment they need.
Meet our expert
In This Article
If your baby nurses more than a couple of times a night, you may find yourself wondering if there is something you can do to reduce night feedings or ensure that you are doing all you can to support them. Start with the knowledge that night feedings can often make up a large percentage of your baby’s caloric intake and help to meet their nutritional needs. Night feedings are also beneficial for your breast milk supply. Prolactin levels (the hormone that tells the body to produce breast milk) are highest through the night, making your body very responsive to the stimulation of night feedings. Night nursing is an integral part of the breastfeeding journey, but they still interrupt new mamas’ much-needed sleep, so here’s how to make sure you’re only night feeding when necessary.
It’s important to make sure that your little one can efficiently nurse during the daytime to help meet nutritional needs during those waking hours. Most babies will need anywhere between 8 to 10+ feedings total every 24 hours, regardless of age, so aiming to nurse at least every 2 to 3 hours during the day is a good goal. Follow the baby’s cues and nurse whenever they need it, but to ensure your baby doesn’t go for long stretches between feedings it’s best to feed at set intervals.
Around 3 to 4 months of age, babies start to become very aware of their surroundings and interested in the world around them. This is an exciting time for baby’s development! It also means that they may become distracted during daytime feedings. Your little one may nurse for shorter amounts of time and pull on and off the breast a few times during each feeding. To ensure they are getting enough nutrition during the day, aim to have day nursing sessions in a low distraction environment, like a dedicated nursing spot where you’re away from dogs, older children, family, TVs, etc. Help your baby be more efficient by turning off the lights, putting away the phone or other distracting screens, and turning on white noise.
Another variable to consider is your baby’s sleep environment. Especially as they become more responsive and interested in the world around them, babies sleep best in the same type of environment that we sleep best in – typically dark, cool, calm, and maybe with white noise playing in the background. And just as the right bedding and pajamas might help you sleep, avoid over bundling your little one and ensure their sleep sack or swaddle is the right material to keep them at a comfortable temperature all night. It’s also recommended to never dress babies in more than one additional layer compared to what you and other adults are wearing. The cotton and bamboo material Nested Bean Zen Sleepwear is a great option for your baby’s bedtime. Their gently weighted Zen Bodysuit and Zen Sack™ help to create a positive bedtime association and are designed to be safe for sleeping.
More than One Way to Soothe
After your baby reaches six months of age, I suggest layering in additional soothing measures other than nursing. This is a great time to start singing or humming, rubbing the forehead or nose, patting the bottom, etc. while you are nursing. After those soothing measures have been consistently implemented while nursing, try the techniques without the feeding. Sometimes these alternative soothing measures will completely replace nursing. It’s helpful to have your baby respond to other means of soothing that another caregiver can provide. The key is to remain responsive to your little one’s needs and remember it’s very normal and healthy for a baby to need a caregiver’s comfort.
Phone an Expert
If you are questioning the number of night nursing sessions your baby needs, it’s a great idea to reach out to a lactation consultant for a detailed assessment, discussion, and plan to move forward. I offer virtual consultations and provide many resources on Instagram.
Common questions from new parents
I have three little ones ages 4, 17 months, and 9 months. We are all currently sick. I am so exhausted and sick out of my mind with no help at all. My boyfriend (their dad) is also sick and will absolutely refuse to help me with them because as he said “I’m the one who’s sicker I can’t watch them” which is not true because our symptoms are both the same. So. No support. I know this sounds bad, but my two youngest constantly fight for me to carry them and I am so weak and tired and I can’t do it anymore. I’m in so much pain. Anyways… Is it ok to give my 17 month old melatonin to help him sleep just while he isn’t feeling too well? I just need a little bit of soothing for him and I’m pretty sure my 9 month old is of course super young and I’ve tried searching on whether I can give it to my 17 month old. I tried contacting my childs dr to ask but the office I take them to is the worst and they have not called me back.