How to Make Night Feedings Easier
One of the major adjustments to having a new baby is learning to wake up during the night to tend to them and get back to sleep after. It’s a skill most of us need help with and some of us will never fully accomplish before our baby is old enough to sleep through the night making the point moot. Regardless, making the whole ordeal of a nighttime feed less taxing is a great way to cope. There are many tips and tricks out on the internet, in parenting magazines and even passed down from parent to parent, but what actually works? Read on for tried and true nighttime feeding hacks for every family to try. Whether you’re nursing or bottle feeding you want to make sure that you’re doing the best for your baby and keeping an easy to follow routine will only make that goal easier to achieve.
Limiting disturbances is the best way to make sure that you and baby get back to sleep after a nighttime feeding. Turning on the lights is about the absolute worst thing you can do when it’s time for a late night chow session, so prepare the room with a nightlight that gives enough illumination to see but not as much as the regular light. Avoid lights with a blue hue as this can signal daytime to your brain making it harder to get back to sleep, this also means you’ll want to stay off of digital devices like cell phones and tablets and if you can’t download an app or getting into the settings to adjust the amount of blue light your device is displaying. If you need extra light having a small flashlight with a red filter can help avoid brightness while still giving enough light to see what’s up.
Keep your baby close. Until they are able to sleep through the night, keeping your baby nearby is the easiest way to get through a nighttime feeding session. Most doctors recommend sharing a room with your baby for at least the first six months. Having a chair in your room that you can use for feeding is ideal for many as it will mean less disturbance for your partner and more comfort for you.
In the same vein of limiting disturbances, as hard as it is, try not to interact too much with your baby. While it’s a given that cuddles and feeding require interaction you might want to avoid talking to your baby if you think it may cause them to become too wakeful. It can be hard to do a completely silent feed, but if you can manage it you might find doing so helps your baby to stay in that wondrous space between being fully asleep and fully awake where they can eat, but drift off again after.
Make sure you’re feeding adequately but not too often. A newborn needs food during the night because they cannot last a full 8 hours without it, but they may be able to go anywhere from 2-5 hours depending on each individual baby’s needs. Waking up your baby should only be done if your doctor insists due to growth or weight gain problems or if your baby has other conditions that prevent them from letting you know when they’re hungry.
On that note, do make sure you feed them as soon as they demand it. Letting a baby cry too much at night not only upsets them and wakes them up more but it can make things more stressful for you making it harder to relax back into sleep.
Don’t forget to burp your baby and check their diaper. While it’s good to try to avoid unnecessary jostling during the night, it’s actually going to be better for your baby and you if you take care of burping and diapering at the same time as feeding to avoid discomfort later. If your baby’s diaper is clean and dry you can skip the diaper change, obviously. Some babies fall asleep during their meal without taking in enough to last them until the next feeding and a trick to get them to eat the rest might be a diaper change in the middle of a feeding. Use your best judgment on this one.
Hide the clock, or at least ignore it. Watching the minutes tick by and mentally reassessing how much sleep you’d be getting if you were asleep right now is a horrible hobby, and it definitely sours your attitude and wakes up your brain enough to make getting back to sleep just a bit more difficult.
Breastfeeding at night tricks
Prepare as much as you can by making sure you have the ability to get everything you might need ready in advance. Make sure your nursing pillow is where you’ll be doing the night feed, that you have clean nursing pads nearby, and by wearing an outfit to bed that gives you easy access.
Keeping a clean towel nearby can help limit the need to do a deep cleaning during the night. Putting a towel beneath your baby can help with little milk incidents and give you the freedom of not having to change clothes in the middle of the night if something happens.
Some find using breast expression techniques while feeding at night can help your baby get more of the high-fat breast milk keeping them satisfied a little longer at night. Once your baby is latched on well use your hand to help things along by squeezing just like when you express milk due to discomfort. You may find that a little taste of the good stuff helps your baby get motivated to draw milk out with greater gusto.
If you pump, having some bottles already thawed and ready so your partner can take some feeds can be a lifesaver.
Bottle feeding tricks
Get your baby used to room temperature bottles, being able to avoid heating bottles in the night can cut the amount of time you’re up and think, and your baby will be fine as long as you make sure to follow all the food safety rules that you do for bottle feeding anyway. That means when you’re preparing bottles for the night you’ll want to measure the powder into the bottle but not add the water yet, as doing so would require you to refrigerate them and defeats the purpose of trying to avoid heating them. Having clean water at the bedside and bottles with pre-measured formula can help make providing fresh room temperature bottles a reality.
Bottle feeding is a great time for your partner to step up and help more as well. Taking shifts can ensure you both get an uninterrupted 5 hours of sleep making life easier for everyone, but make sure you’re taking precautions not to disturb them during their sleep shift and help set up a routine so they will know where everything is and what to do so you can have your sleep shift uninterrupted too.
The last bit of advice is to avoid old wive’s tales about adding cereal to your baby’s bottle before they are old enough to handle it. Ask your doctor for advice about this, but many young babies cannot digest or handle cereal yet and it will only cause digestive discomfort and more sleepless nights for everyone.