Breastfeeding Series Part 6: Night Nursing

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Hello! Last week, I talked about the overwhelming topic of pumping! This week, I’m talking about “Night Nursing”. I have so much to say on infant sleep and society’s poor understanding of child development, but this post will focus on infant sleep as a part of breast feeding. …and it is a big part of breast feeding. As I said before (in Part 1 of this series), I had little knowledge and unrealistic expectations when it came to breast feeding. That statement is also true for baby’s sleep.

Before I jump into my journey with Owen’s night nursing, I’d like to share some information about co-sleeping and how important it is to breast feeding. Co-sleeping is shown to increase breast feeding success, it is biologically natural for infants and children, and it increases the amount of sleep for mama (the links in the previous sentence outline each of these benefits of co-sleeping). If I had to admit my biggest regret from Owen’s infancy, it would be putting him in his own crib in a separate room. Since then, I have learned so much about co-sleeping and what is developmentally appropriate for our little ones. I even tried returning Owen to our bed with us, but he has grown to enjoy spreading out on his own. We did move his crib into our room, in hopes of nurturing this dependent stage as best as we can. Please do all that you can to look into every available option for your family, because you can’t make an educated decision without knowing what your choices are. This goes for any parenting decision, not just sleeping arrangements.

 

I plan on discussing our journey with sleep in the future, so I don’t want to give too much away! In relation to breast feeding: it has always been clear to me that Owen needed nourishment throughout the night, even after the point that they recommend “babies can go all night without feeding”. I have often had times of confusion when I read about the magical, mystical land of “sleeping through the night”. Even worse, I have had so many moments of frustration in the middle of the night, when I’m “touched out” from nursing and want to scream. I’ve gone through many stages of adjusting eating habits, trying to foster good sleeping habits, and trying to asses if my child should be sleeping more. At the end of all of those shenanigans, I realized that I always knew what Owen needed: to nurse throughout the night. Bottom line. Regardless of my personal desires to sleep all night and regardless of all the recommendations for getting a baby to sleep all night, my baby needed me. I read a lot about teaching your baby to go to sleep on their own and about creating “good habits”, etc etc etc. Again, I knew my child needed to nurse, whether it was supposedly a “bad habit” or not. He needed to nurse. So…we nursed. And we still nurse at night. At this point, Owen wakes up and nurses at least once every night.

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The best cure for my nighttime frustration has been reading up on gentle parenting advice and gentle sleep advice. I’ve heard a lot of remarks about how we should parent our children (as does any new parent!) and most of them involve controlling their behaviors, but gentle parenting makes a lot more sense to me. As an educator, the goal is always to guide children and it’s no different for my own child. Having resources that aligned with my own logic has been such a relief in my parenting journey, especially during frustrating experiences like night nursing.

I still have moments of frustration, mostly due to my half-asleep-brain being incapable of logic and understanding at 4 a.m. Like I already said, the best way to calm my frustration is always with knowledge. (…must be the teacher in me!) As my understanding for Owen’s sleep behaviors grew, so did my patience. I learned that newborns are biologically designed to wake up and feed. I learned that nursing a baby to sleep wasn’t a bad thing as long as you were comfortable doing it. I learned that breast milk contained higher levels of melatonin during the night, which promotes sleep. That’s right, night nursing helps your baby sleep. Read even more information here!

There are so many different resources out there to help you better understand and feel comfortable with night nursing. As frustrating as it can be, use everything you can to gain knowledge and gain patience in the process! Follow my blog or come back next Monday to read about the ever controversial topic of “Nursing in Public”!

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