When you bring home a brand new baby, your world is literally turned upside down. You are beyond blissful for having this sweet new little baby, but you’re also learning how to be a parent for the first time or how to be a parent of multiple children for the first time. No matter how prepared you think you are, there’s a learning curve involved and everyone is exhausted, especially you, mama! And even more so if you are breastfeeding! Breastfeeding and baby sleep was a popular topic requested by YOU, so I want to share my experience. I’m by no means a baby sleep expert, but I WILL share some tips that really worked for us, as well as an amazing resource for you to get more help if you need it!
I really struggled with exhaustion during the first 2 months of Mason’s life. He was an amazing napper during the day, but slept horribly most nights (as in…sometimes he didn’t sleep AT ALL). Plus, newborns eat every 2.5-3 hours according to hunger cues, but you definitely want to wake them so they don’t go over 3 hours between feedings. This means VERY little sleep for mama (and dad…my husband was super hands on, helpful, and sleep deprived)! On the bright side, starting at 4 weeks, you can begin to let baby sleep one “long” stretch at night rather than waking baby to nurse. Baby can start sleeping about the same amount of hours as his age in weeks (i.e. 5 hours for a 5 week old, 6 hours for a 6 week old, and so forth). However, Mason was 4 weeks early, which meant he was 4 weeks behind in being developmentally ready to sleep those longer stretches in the night. His pediatrician recommended we continue feeding him every 2.5-3 hours until he was 8 weeks old to account for his adjusted age. #teamnosleep
Mason also wasn’t a consistently good sleeper at this age, so we worked with a certified pediatric sleep consultant, a lactation consultant, and our pediatrician. The sleep consultant was the true game changer. I’ll share more information about her at the end (but you may have already heard of her…she’s pretty amazing!). We also read the book On Becoming Babywise, which was also super helpful. This is an example of what my breastfeeding + baby sleep routine looked like during those first 2 months:
7am Feeding + awake time
10am Feeding + awake time
1pm Feeding + awake time
4pm Feeding + awake time(and usually witching hour here!)
7pm Feeding + awake time
10pm Feeding then right back to sleep(fingers crossed)
1am Feeding then right back to sleep(again, fingers crossed)
4am Feeding then right back to sleep(once again, fingers crossed)
As Mason got older, this routine got a little easier as I mentioned earlier. At certain ages, they start to drop feedings and they sleep longer stretches at night. By 12 weeks (16 weeks for Mason due to using his adjusted age for sleep purposes), your baby can sleep up to 12 hour stretches at night! So don’t worry…it DOES get easier!
However, here are 3 SIMPLE tips you can implement to make your breastfeeding journey a little easier a little earlier:
Wake that baby UP!
People always say, “Don’t wake a sleeping baby!” But they’re all liars –do not let baby sleep too long during the day! They need to get enough calories in, so you want to be sure to wake them for feedings. Whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle feeding, wake the baby for a feeding so they don’t go longer than 3 hours since the beginning of their last feeding. Plus, if you want that long stretch at night once baby is old enough, you definitely want to wake baby from their daytime naps in a timely manner!
Make sure baby is FULL!
Get full feedings in, mama! Feed your baby when he or she is hungry! Learn your baby’s hunger cues and make sure baby gets a nice, full feeding in at that time. Full feedings help ensure that your baby receives the right amount of calories, which leads to better sleep. Plus, for nursing mamas, a full feeding means baby is getting both foremilk and hind milk, giving baby just the right amount of protein and fat that is essential for their development. If you’re struggling with supply, full feedings help with this too! If you don’t know if your baby is getting full feedings, get in touch with a lactation consultant to help you!
Let baby NAP!
This might sound counterintuitive, especially given tip #1, but sleeping during the day in between feedings actually HELPS your baby sleep better and longer at night! Don't try to keep baby up during the day because you think it'll make them more tired and sleep more at night. It's the opposite! Just keep tip #1 in mind and don’t let baby sleep too long! We used a swaddle for every nap and at night to help simulate the snug, secure feeling of the womb to help promote sleep.
If you implemented these tips and are still struggling with baby sleep, go to Taking Cara Babies on Instagram! This is not an ad –I just love her so much! We took both her newborn class and her ABCs of Sleep class, and they WORK. However, her Instagram account provides ENDLESS free resources for you. I literally went on her Instagram every single day for MONTHS while I was on maternity leave and found so much great advice. You got this mama! If you want to dive deeper into this topic, feel free to leave a comment below!