It is such a common thing that it has become a cliche. You know it when you see it - the exhausted, harried, confused, and totally overwhelmed new parent. You see them fall asleep on the couch sitting up. They haven’t bathed or brushed their hair in a few days. Everyone is tired and just as they think they are going to have a moment to sleep - the baby starts to cry.
But what if there was a different way? What if there was a way that you could get the rest you need, your baby could get the attention they need, and everyone could get a good night's sleep? Breastfeeding can help a lot when it comes to sleep. In addition to the numerous benefits to mom and baby, breastfeeding can actually help new parents to get more sleep.
No Need to Prepare Bottles or Pump
This may seem like a small thing, but it’s not. When you are bottle feeding an infant, you have to awaken enough to prepare and warm up a bottle. Either you or your partner has to sit up and cuddle with the baby while they feed, and then rock them or snuggle them back to sleep - and hope that the baby doesn’t wake up again when you lay them back down in their crib. Don’t forget to at least rinse out the dirty bottle also.
If you have a quick eater, this can take at least 30 minutes. But if you have a baby that takes a little longer to feed and then get back to sleep, this process could take up to an hour. Breastfeeding can significantly cut down on the time it takes you to feed your baby during the night.
If you are pumping every time your infant eats, you have double the work. Pumping is hard work and takes a lot of time. There are many resources that can help you to move from pumping to directly breastfeeding if this is something you want to do. Contact your local chapter of La Leche League, or a local IBCLC certified lactation consultant.
Revising your Expectations (or The Myth of Sleeping Through the Night)
A newborn isn’t ready to sleep through the night for quite a while. Unfortunately, we have gotten the idea that sleeping through the night is something we should encourage our babies to do. However, their stomachs are so tiny at birth, and they digest milk so quickly, that they need to feed often in order to grow and thrive optimally. It doesn’t take much to fill them up, and they need to fill up often.
It can be frustrating if you are expecting your baby to reach a magical milestone and sleep through the night. You will often hear people ask if your baby is a “good sleeper” or a “bad sleeper”. Categorizing your baby as a good or bad sleeper is not really helpful when all you really want is to sleep. Babies respond to what they need - they aren’t good or bad. Your tiny little baby is actually quite incapable of getting upset about not getting something it simply wants. If they are crying because they are hungry or tired, they are simply responding to what they need in that moment.
Respond to your baby. Go to her whenever she needs you, or wear her close to your heart or on your back (when she is bigger) so that she can be close to you all day. By lovingly responding to your child’s needs, she will learn that the world is a place she can trust.
Breastfeeding your baby throughout the night is a gentle and loving way to respond to your baby, and get the most sleep you possibly can. Especially if you are a first-time momma, it can take some time to get breastfeeding down so that it comes naturally. And it can take even more time for you and your baby to learn to nurse in the side-lying position. But once breastfeeding is established and you and your baby are working easily together, breastfeeding is such a time saver. If your baby sleeps in bed with you (please make sure you are practicing safe sleep sharing), or in a crib in your room, you barely have to wake up to breastfeed.
Choosing to breastfeed is a time and energy commitment. However, there are so many benefits for both you and your baby that it is worth the effort. Being well-rested is one of the great benefits that you may not have thought of when you decided to breastfeed, but it makes everything easier for everyone in your family when you all get enough sleep. Restful and adequate sleep is necessary for all of us, and breastfeeding is one tool that you can use to ensure you get the sleep that you need.
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