*This is a guest post
In a perfect world, every new mum would have a night nurse. And if not a night nurse, at least a husband willing to help out between the hours of 10 pm and 8 am. But the reality is that those frequent overnight interruptions that are the hallmark of new parenthood usually fall squarely on the shoulders of the still-healing new mother, especially if she’s breastfeeding. Here are some ideas on surviving the night feeding shift during the early months of motherhood when you’re the sole overnight caregiver and milk-maker.
1. Keep the baby in your room
While co-sleeping (sleeping in the same bed as your baby) isn’t generally recommended by doctors, rooming with your baby is. It’s preferable to have your baby sleep in your room for at least the first six months, if not the whole first year. This serves the nursing mother well – you don’t even have to get out of bed to feed the baby overnight! There are plenty of pieces of gear on the market designed to facilitate safe but close sleeping,), but a good old-fashioned Pack-n-Play will do the trick, too.
2. Have a mobile changing station by your bed
This can be as fancy as a cute plastic caddy or as simple as a stack of nappies on your nightstand. Keep everything you might possibly need for overnight nappy changes within your reach so your feet don’t even have to hit the floor when your little one wakes. Not only are you exhausted from multiple nighttime feedings, but you’re also still sore and recovering from childbirth. The less you have to get in and out of bed, the better. Make sure you have a good stockpile of nappies, wipes, nappy cream, extra pajamas, burp rags, a nasal aspirator, and extra pacifiers easily available to you. You might not need them all every night, but it’s better to be over-prepared than caught off guard.
3. Consider learning to breastfeed on your side
If you learn how to nurse while reclining on your side (with your baby lying parallel to you), it will allow you to lay down and rest a bit during overnight nursing sessions. However, it’s important to note that some experts recommend not co-sleeping with your baby due to an increased risk of SIDS. If you feel like you are so exhausted you are likely to fall asleep while breastfeeding in this position, do not use it. This breastfeeding position simply allows mothers to conserve their energy and remain a little more comfortable while nursing, however if you feel like you can’t stay awake, choose a position that will help you stay alert.
4. Load up your Netflix queue
Let’s face it: babies don’t always just nurse and go back to sleep. Sometimes they stay awake for extended periods of time during the overnight hours – and that means you’ll be awake, too. Prepare for those overnight snuggle sessions on the couch by loading up your DVR or Netflix queue in advance – that way you don’t have to sift bleary-eyed through hundreds of viewing options while still in a fog of sleep. Having something interesting to watch will help you pass the time and keep you awake, too.
5. Ask for help during the day
Sure, not everyone can breastfeed your baby – especially overnight. But they can help out with housework, cooking, and child-minding during the day. Don’t feel like you have to “do it all” and don’t hesitate to ask for help once or twice a week if you need it. Use the time to rest, read a book, or do whatever you need to do to take care of you.
To sum it up
When you’re breastfeeding a newborn, the night hours are the hardest. New mums can feel lonely, unsupported, and helpless. As their child’s sole source of food, they don’t have a choice but to wake several times a night. Finding ways to shorten the duration of the night waking and getting creative about preserving energy and rest will help a breastfeeding mum survive the exhausting early weeks. Though it feels like it may never end, I promise you, it will.
Jenny is just another mum trying to do her best. She loves making lists and helping others find what they are looking for. You can find her blogging about her struggles with breastfeeding, breast pumping tips & more at Mum Loves Best and on Pinterest.