Breastfeeding When Baby Sleeps for Longer Periods
Here's what to do to make sure your milk supply stays up, even when your baby doesn't!
Maintaining Your Nursing Motivation as Sleeping Patterns Change
Though every baby is different, many newborns often begin sleeping for longer stretches between 2-4 months postnatal. While most won’t sleep through the night for 8 hours or longer until about 6 months postnatal or thereafter, longer stretches of sleep can be both a blessing and a challenge! If you’re like many moms, you may want to jump for joy at one less overnight feeding and a little more uninterrupted sleep. However, this can also be a challenging time that often requires extra breastfeeding encouragement to continue maintaining your breast milk supply. Remember, breast milk is produced on a supply-and-demand basis – this means that if you opt to not replace a skipped overnight feeding with a pumping session, your body will recognize that you are expressing less milk and will then adjust by producing smaller volumes to meet a less-frequent demand.
Staying motivated to regularly pump, even during the night and after your baby begins sleeping through what would have been a nursing session, will help you continue to provide him or her with breast milk for as long as you choose. Additionally, many babies’ sleep patterns do not develop on a linear path. Though your little one may sleep for longer stretches around 2 months old, they may start waking up overnight more frequently when going through a growth spurt or after starting to teethe. While this can be frustrating and may feel as though your baby is regressing when it comes to proper sleep, this is all normal; continuing to breast milk feed can provide your little one with exactly what they need to get through it.
Find Breastfeeding Encouragement to Keep You Going Strong
#1: Replace Skipped Nursing Sessions with Pumping Sessions
As your baby’s stomach grows, the need for feedings every two hours or less naturally decreases. This is because his or her stomach can now hold more milk, so they don’t need to nurse or take a bottle as often. Some moms decide to slowly eliminate nighttime feedings one by one as this happens, while others opt to replace these nursing sessions with pumping instead. By shifting your focus to regular pumping, your body is being told that these nightly feedings are still necessary – ensuring that you continue producing breast milk and minimizing the likelihood of decreased milk supply unless or until you begin eliminating nighttime feedings or pumping sessions altogether. Only you know what’s best for you and your baby and when the right time is to wean. Your breastfeeding journey is unique and every drop that you are able to provide is meaningful!
#2: Remind Yourself of All the Breastfeeding Benefits
A great source of continued breastfeeding encouragement is reminding yourself of all the great health benefits that breast milk feeding provides to you and your little one. For example, did you know studies show that for every 12 months a mom breastfeeds, she lowers her breast cancer risk by about 4.3%? Researchers have even discovered that ovarian cancer is more common among mothers who do not breastfeed. In fact, in a meta-analysis of five prospective cohort studies and 30 case-control studies, mothers who never breastfed were 32% more likely to develop ovarian cancer*.
In addition, continued breast milk feeding is also excellent for your baby. It helps prevent them from becoming overweight or obese later in life and strengthens their immune system, resulting in lowered risks of ear infections, allergies, and respiratory and digestive issues. Keeping a list of the benefits that breastfeeding provides can be a great motivator to continue nursing and pumping through challenges, as your little one grows, and eventually as he or she requires fewer feedings.
We understand that it can be difficult at times to maintain nursing motivation, especially as your baby continues to develop and their sleeping patterns change. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help from loved ones and connect with other new moms on our Facebook and Instagram pages for additional breastfeeding encouragement! No matter how long or short your breastfeeding journey may be, you’re doing a great, important job for your little one and yourself.
*Luan NN, Wu QJ, Gong TT, et al. Breastfeeding and ovarian cancer risk: a meta-analysis of epidemiologic studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;98(4):1020 – 1031.