Sleeping & Nursing — Why New Moms Struggle and Don’t Have To

A successful breast-feeding and sleep relationship is possible

Newborn sleeping baby.

As a Certified Lactation Counselor and a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant, I know the many benefits to nursing your baby. The emotional and health benefits have been well documented and discussed for years, both with parents and general science. There are many people who believe it’s impossible to have a successful nursing relationship and still manage a decent night’s sleep — for both yourself and your baby.

Sleep training a newborn is a gradual process. If fact, its more about habit and establishing healthy ones .vs training, per se. It takes time for a newborn baby to learn a new sleep cycle, and for their bodies to adjust to it. To be honest, I hate the word ‘sleep train,’ because of the negative connotations between the word the the reality of what I do. If you are finding that your baby is not sleeping through the night as he or she “should”, there are a few important factors to look at.

Are they Getting Enough to Eat?

If your baby is hungry, he or she will wake up. There is no question about this. Take careful note of your feeding times versus sleep times. Babies this age need anywhere between 22oz & 34oz of milk a day, regardless if it’s breast or formula. If they don’t get it in the daytime, they will get it in the overnight. Sometimes, simple adjustments and changes will get them sleeping better. Also, encourage full feeds, not 15 small grazing feeds every hour or two.

The Timing of Nursing

The timing between nursing and sleeping is also directly related. Try to slowly work your baby into a feeding schedule, keeping in mind that this schedule will change dramatically with age. A sample at 3 months, if the baby wakes at 7am, would have feedings layout as such: 7am,10am, 2pm, 5pm, & 7pm + perhaps a dream feed at 10pm. If they still wake at night, try to slowly give them less, so they start the day hungry. (After all, if you ate breakfast at 4am, you wouldn’t be hungry at 7am either!) Try to feed your baby as close to bedtime as possible & keep your baby from napping too close to bedtime.

Is Anything Else Waking up your Baby?

When sleep training your infants or toddlers, it’s common to immediately assume that your baby is calling for you and is hungry when he or she wakes up crying. The immediate response is to nurse him or her or rock him or her back to bed. However, before immediately nursing, give them a minute to settle on their own back to sleep, or see if a dirty diaper is the culprit. There can also be environmental issues that are causing your baby to wake up. A night shift neighbor, temperature of the room, a barking dog, a fire truck siren. A number of factors can cause your baby to wake. Food might not be the reason.

While it is a challenge. It is possible to have an infant that sleeps through the night while you are still nursing. Once you have figured out what works best for your own child, you will be able to successfully nurse him or her well into his or her first year. We understand the difficulties of sleep and nursing, but we also understand how beneficial it is for both mother and child.

At Tiny Transitions, help is just a phone call away. We know how overwhelming the process of sleep training a newborn can be, so we provide a suite of services to help both you and baby during this important time in your lives. Tiny Transitions provides sleep consultations for expecting parents as well as parents of newborns, infants and toddlers, so the whole family can enjoy the many, healthy benefits of a good night sleep. If you have a newborn or young child who is struggling to sleep through the night, contact us today for support from a certified sleep professional & lactation counselor.