You are tired. You are exhausted. All you want to do is sleep. But you can’t. Your baby is up a few times wanting to nurse. Should you sleep train or should you continue walking around with your shirt on backwards, your lipstick as eyeliner and your coffee as your total consumption of liquids for the day. You are not alone. You are feeling the same way every parent does around the world. Some feel this by week 4 and some by 1 year. I have some compelling information for you night feeding skeptics.
Most BF babies will wake to feed on a more frequent basis than a formula fed baby. This is because BM is more rapidly digested and absorbed into every part of your baby’s body, that they will need more milk. Formula is not broken down in the body so it takes longer to digest making a baby seem more satiated. Nursing a baby back to sleep helps with their hunger as well as their need for comfort and the knowledge that they are safe. IT’s like your initial communication that you are respecting your baby.
When you are feeding your baby at night, you are setting them up for an adequate amount of milk during the day. It’s like your factory works at night then goes on autopilot for the day. Some mom’s satisfy their sleep requirements by bed sharing. This way a baby can breastfeed on cue, but it is not as disruptive to the parents.
Prolactin, the hormone responsible for helping the alveolar cells in the breast to make breast milk, is released from the pituitary gland during letdown. Research has shown the level of prolactin in breast milk is higher during times of highest milk production and that the highest prolactin levels occur in the middle of the night. Conversely, prolactin levels in the breast are lowest when the breasts are the most engorged.1 This means that babies who are allowed to nurse on demand will nurse with the frequency in order to ensure the correct milk supply for its unique growing needs.
SIDS is a fear that every new parent has. When a baby is hungry, they will wake up. As we already discussed, a BF baby will wake more frequently as the milk is absorbed faster into their system. This may one of the reasons that a BF baby is at a considerably lower risk for SIDS. When a baby bedshares, the mother and baby are in a rhythm together. The mother is able to respond faster to the baby’s cues. This is the same for cosleeping3.
This post has been edited from its original form, which was posted at Breastfeeding Moms Unite!
- The Breastfeeding Answer Book, La Leche League, 2003 ↩
- Here are the co-sleeping guidelines from Attachment Parenting International.
- Bedsharing refers to when mother and baby share the same surface. Cosleeping refers to when a baby is in a bassinet, crib or other surface that is adjacent or next to mothers bed