As your newborn is developing rapidly, they will need to refuel every few hours because their tummies are tiny. Their stomachs grow from the size of a small marble at birth to that of a ping-pong ball in days.
So, caring for a newborn can be exhausting, especially at night as mothers find themselves waking up every few hours to breastfeed their little ones. With so many nights of interrupted sleep, this can leave them feeling wiped out.
So, following a simple set of rules will keep these night feeds as stress-free as possible. Do remember to:
1. Make sure the room is dark
Lo says, “Bright light keeps a baby wide awake and causes disruption of their sleep. Consequently, it will take a longer time for them to fall asleep again after a night feed.”
Instead of turning on the room lights, use a night lamp for night activities. So that bubba can differentiate day from night, she advises letting them sleep in a room that has day and night curtains.
“Use day curtains in the mornings and afternoons, and the night curtain only in the evenings,” she suggests.
“Bright light keeps a baby wide awake and causes disruption of their sleep. Consequently, it will take a longer time for them to fall asleep again after a night feed.”
2. Swaddle baby well
As most babies will fall asleep when they are well-fed, Lo notes, “By swaddling them to feed at night, you can put them back in the baby cot without waking them up.”
During the day, Lo recommends that you don’t swaddle baby during feeds. This helps your little one differentiate between day and night feeds, so that they will fall asleep faster after a night feed.
3. Avoid interacting too much with your baby
While it is tempting to chat and play with your baby during or after a night feed, doing so stimulates them, such that it’ll be that much harder for them to fall back to sleep.
She advises that you wait for a baby to exhibit hunger cues before feeding them at night. Don’t set an alarm to wake them up for feeds, unless your doctor has advised you to do so, as this will stimulate your kewpie.
Loud talk at night will also interrupt bubba’s sleep, so, keep your voice low if you are talking to your spouse or someone else.
4. Change your baby’s diaper before feeding
Warning mothers to refrain from changing a nappy after a feed, Lo explains, “Some babies will wake up after a diaper change at night, so let your baby sleep after feeds without changing their diaper.”
5. Burp baby well after feeding
Given that your mini-muncher is getting all their calories by drinking, they will naturally gulp in a lot of air and become gassy.
Also, swaddle your baby well before burping as this will help them to fall asleep quickly after you have winded them, she recommends.
6. Cluster the evening feeds
Your baby might demand several short feeds close together over a few hours ― usually in the evenings ― to fill up their tanks for the night ahead. This is known as cluster feeding.
Lo says, “Feed baby well if he shows signs of hunger during the evening. This is to prepare a baby for gaining more calories before they sleep, so they get a longer stretch of sleep at night.”
She adds, “If you’re unsure whether your baby’s frequent hunger is due to any other issues, do call a lactation consultant or talk to your doctor for advice.”
To make cluster feeding easier for you, try to get more rest during the day, so you aren’t so tired in the evening. Do also refuel by eating well and getting adequate hydration by drinking lots of water.
Feed baby well in the evening if they require cluster feeding (more common in the late afternoon or early evening). Filling them up with milk for a few hours usually means a longer sleep at night.
7. Get everything ready before bedtime
Lo points out, “The longer you drag out tending to your baby during night feeds, the more awake he becomes, especially if he continues crying.”
Therefore, make sure to assemble everything you need in advance. This includes nappies, dry towels to clean up any mess, as well as comfortable nursing wear to change into if spillage occurs.
Cutting down on feeding prep time means more precious sleep for you, so set out what you need well ahead of time.
Tips on weaning baby at night
Night weaning your little one has no fixed schedule as every baby is different, Lo explains. “Every baby will be ready to wean from night feedings at different time periods.”
As a general guideline, babies can sleep around six to eight hours at a time by 4 months. By the fifth or sixth month, they might be able to sleep about eight hours a stretch without a feed, she adds.
She offers useful tips on weaning your baby from night feeding:
* Nurse baby more during the day. By getting more calories in the day, your baby will naturally need fewer feeds at night.
* Feed baby well in the evening if they require cluster feeding (more common in the late afternoon or early evening). Filling them up with milk for a few hours usually means a longer sleep at night.
* Dream feeding (feeding baby while they are still asleep) might be another way to stretch a night feed for some infants.
* Minimise distractions when you nurse during the day as your baby is likely to drink less. They will subsequently make up for this by feeding more at night.
* Engage family members to handle baby at night if they wake to comfort suck. They might then require fewer night feeds.
* Observe your baby’s hunger cues and feed accordingly. Gradually shorten your breastfeeding session, or feed on one breast during the night when you notice baby is not sucking because they are hungry. Mums can also reduce the amount of milk bottle-fed babies consume gradually.
* Establish a bedtime routine. Not only will baby find the routine comforting, it will become her signal that it’s time for a good night’s sleep. A routine may include the singing of nursery rhymes, a story-telling session, a warm bath or a tummy massage, followed by a full feed before bedtime.
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