Remember when sleep was just a normal part of your daily life, something that wasn’t debated, measured or craved? Sleep is definitely a hot topic for parents of newborns in those first few crazy weeks of multiple nighttime wakeups and round-the-clock hands-on care. Here’s the inside scoop on a few common sleep issues.
When to stop waking baby to feed
He’s sleeping at last…you don’t really have to wake him, do you? It’s actually really important to feed your newborn every two to three hours, even if that means waking him, so he doesn’t go too long without eating. However (yay!) this is only necessary for the first two weeks after birth. As long as he has surpassed his birth weight and his weight continues to grow at a healthy rate, after the two-week mark you can go ahead and just nurse on demand, and whew, enjoy a bit more sleep yourself. The exceptions: preemie babies, who can be tired enough to sleep through a feeding (so make sure they go no longer than four hours between feeds) and jaundiced babies (jaundice makes babies sleepy enough to sleep through a feed, so they should be nursed every three hours).
How to work with a sleepy baby
You’re cozy in the glow of the nightlight, nursing your newborn…except she keeps dozing off after only a few minutes of breastfeeding, only to wake, hungry, after another 10 or 20 minutes. Try this four-step plan to keep her awake long enough to have a full, satisfying feed:
- Pull her closer to your breast, and then compress your breast with your hand to express more milk into her mouth. The automatic swallowing reflex might remind her that oh, yeah, it’s time to nurse.
- If she’s still sleepy, put her down on a flat, safe surface such as a blanket on the floor—realizing she’s no longer snuggled in close to mom may be enough to wake her.
- Next, burp her or undress her a bit so she’s more awake and ready to nurse.
- Then, switch her to the other breast. This second breast has a pooled supply of milk that flows faster, so she won’t have to work as hard to latch and swallow. It’s fine to switch breasts three or four times during nursing.
Taking a few hours off
Consider pumping and storing your breast milk so your partner or another family member can feed the baby at night or during the day when you’re napping. The type of breast pump you choose will depend on how often your baby will get a bottle of expressed breast milk. Being relaxed, pumping consistently and applying warm compresses to your breasts can all help you get into a pumping routine.
Breast milk can be stored at room temperature for four to six hours, in the fridge for three to eight days, or frozen for six to 12 months. Consider it your own personal goldmine.
Heather Kelly is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Heather has been practicing in New York City since 2001. Bravado also draws on resources from our parent company Medela, a leader in breastmilk and breastfeeding research and information.