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Breastfeeding and sleep

Breastfeeding and sleep

Breastfeeding is a rest-defying activity on many levels. There are factors beyond just the night feedings to contend with. Although we have an image of the peacefully breastfeeding mother in a rocking chair, possibly relaxed by prolactin levels that rise during breastfeeding, reality can be very different. The rest of the day you may have anxiety from worrying about how your baby is breastfeeding, whether he or she is getting enough milk, or whether you have enough breast milk. If your baby is sleeping through the night — by the way, it might surprise you that this definition is five hours of uninterrupted sleep — you might experience breast tenderness or wet nightclothes from leakage. Some solutions to consider:

Wear your bra to bed. In particular, special maternity bras and pads will give you extra support to limit breast tenderness and prevent breast-milk leakage on your clothes or bed sheets.

Let Dad help. A friend of mine mastered getting her kids to sleep before pumping breast milk and going to bed at 9 p.m., then having her husband stay up to feed the baby at midnight. She would wake up to do the 3 a.m. feed so she could get at least six hours of sleep, and so would he. Other women will alternate “night call” for the baby, taking turns so one person does all the feeding one night and then the other gets to sleep. Others have their partners bring the baby to them to feed. Whatever method you design, make sure you design something. Don’t try to do it all on your own. Breastfeeding for six months to a year is a long time to go sleep-deprived.

Sleep with your baby in your bed, or put your baby in a bassinet near your bed. Having your baby sleep in bed with you is called co-sleeping, and it requires being especially attentive to the baby’s safety; this may not work for you if you will worry too much about the baby while you sleep. However, if your baby wakes up frequently, it might help him or her to feel and smell Mommy and Daddy nearby. In addition, it can be easier and more relaxing if baby is in the bed to feed him or her quickly without getting out of bed.

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