There is nothing sweeter than snuggling your baby while you nurse, seeing their eyelids get heavier and heavier with each rock back and forth. Nursing your baby to sleep can be extremely gratifying and can also be extremely exhausting. Something happens when your baby becomes dependent on nursing to fall asleep. What once was a precious gift of bonding can quickly become a tiresome chore when weeks turn to months. After the first few weeks, it is ever helpful to mommy and baby to establish good eating habits to ensure rest for the whole family.
Napping During the Day
Many new mothers struggle with forming a new normal once they bring baby home. While structure for your newborn shouldn’t be expected by week one or two, around week three is a good time to introduce awake, eat, play routine. The wake, eat, play routine requires feeding upon waking rather than before sleep.
Wake, eat, and play has two major benefits: Babies eat better, and they learn to self soothe. Have you ever found yourself struggling to get baby to latch or to stay awake for a full feeding at bedtime? It is most often because the baby is overly tired. When the baby doesn’t eat well, they often wake up earlier and are hungry and irritable. However, feeding your baby when he/she wakes up from their nap will ensure they will stay awake through the whole feeding and eat enough to hold them over until they need to nurse again.
After eating, it is playtime! Mommy or caregiver should play with the baby until he or she shows the first signs of becoming tired (yawning, rubbing eyes or face, playing with hair, avoiding eye contact). Rather than a nursing baby at this time, try laying him/her down in their crib or even rocking for several minutes until he/she is just about to fall asleep. Putting a baby to bed without nursing will help your baby to learn how to self soothe at an early age and will help them to fall back to sleep as they get older.
Sleeping at Night
While wake, eat, playsets you up for success during the day, bedtime can look a little different. The goal for most mothers is a full night’s sleep! Wake, eat, play works up until baby has had their last feeding and is now ready for bedtime. A solid bedtime routine helps meet the physical and emotional needs of a baby without relying on mommy to nurse them to sleep. A good feeding followed by a warm bath will help relax baby. Dim the lights and turn off stimulating electronics to create a tranquil atmosphere. Snuggle in with a short book and read quietly to your baby. Your little one now is getting their physical cue to relax and become drowsy from your routine cues, and their emotional needs are met with cuddles rather than nursing.
If the baby still needs an evening feeding (and he/she will, for the first couple months), try giving a bottle rather than nursing. Offering a bottle at bedtime helps keep the baby from becoming dependent on nursing to fall asleep. Bottle feeding frees up mommy to rest and can help prevent social calls in the middle of the night.
Wee Hour Social Visits
Wee hour social visits occur when the baby wakes up in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. Early on in infancy, it is because the baby needs to eat. (A good rule of thumb is to feed the baby every two to two and a half hours for the first four weeks of life, then work on sleeping longer during the night. Typically, sleeping one-hour longer for every week of age.) If your baby is eight to ten weeks old, they can sleep six to eight hours without the need for nourishment. Most often, the baby has just been aroused and is finding it hard to fall back asleep, so call on Mommy to help them by nursing. If this sounds like your baby, try weening the time you spend helping the baby back to sleep. Use a bottle and shorten your feeding time by five minutes each time until they no longer wake up. Or, you can try to rock them without feeding simply.
Growth spurts can frazzle the most structured mother because your baby can seemingly nurse forever and then be hungry again in an hour! Just when you get into a good routine and feel like you’re getting the hang of breastfeeding, baby grows. It’s inevitable, and no plan or structure can deter it. It will happen. Try sticking to your schedule as much as possible, but allow for plenty of flexibility and patience. When a baby has a growth spurt, not only does their little body grow, so does mommy’s milk supply! It is okay to feed baby longer than normal or more frequently during these times as long as it does not last more than three or four days. Continuing to feed on demand will be counterproductive to the groundwork you’ve established. However, the most important focus is making sure the baby gets adequate nutrition.
Mother’s Milk Supply
During the first four weeks of infancy, babies wake up every two or two and a half hours due to hunger. This is because breastmilk is quickly digested. For the first four weeks, even if the baby seems to sleep longer, it is good for mommy to wake the baby every two or two and a half hours to feed to help her milk supply. The more your baby suckles, the more milk you will produce.
Diet and personal care can affect your milk supply. In turn, this affects how the baby reacts to feedings and sleep. If you are getting too much caffeine, the baby could be too stimulated to sleep. If you use skincare products with peppermint or other herbal ingredients, your milk supply can be adversely affected. Be sure to limit caffeine and sugary foods while breastfeeding and check labels carefully for ingredients that could dry up your milk supply. A healthy milk supply makes for a well-fed baby, and a well-fed baby leads to a well-rested baby and family!