When you have a baby, you’ll never sleep the same way again. Sorry, but this really is the truth! Expect to get up at night to feed your baby for at least the first few months or until he or she is used to eating solids. Some babies can just feed and go right back to sleep. Others, though, can wake up in the middle of the night, stay awake for several hours, or be very difficult to get back to sleep. How you handle night time wake-ups and feedings can really affect how well your baby can stay in the “zone” for sleep.
In this article, we’ll give you our top 10 tips for making nighttime feeds a lot more manageable.
1. LISTEN FIRST
Babies, especially when they are very young, can be very noisy when they sleep. In their sleep, they grunt, wiggle, snort, and cry. If your baby is making noises when you wake up, don’t jump out of bed right away. Listen to see if they’re just snoring or snuffling in their sleep.
Often, we jump up at every sound our babies make, which wakes them up by accident. If your baby isn’t crying, just listen to see if they need you or if they’re just wriggling around between sleep cycles.
2. LIGHTS OFF
Keep the lights off when you’re taking care of your baby at night. If you need light to see what you’re doing, you can use a red night light, the light from your phone, or let some light from the hallway come into the room. Your baby’s body clock will think it’s daytime if they’re exposed to light at night. This will make them want to stay awake.
Do not watch TV while you are feeding your baby at night. TVs give off blue light, which can stop both you and your baby from making melatonin, which makes it hard to fall back asleep.
3. WHITE NOISE
This can be a controversial topic, but hear us out. We recommend using white noise to help your baby settle down and sleep, and to keep the white noise going when you’re feeding your baby. By keeping up their “sleep noise,” they will stay sleepy and in the right mood to fall asleep right after their feed.
4. KEEP THEM WARM
If you are swaddling your baby, keep them swaddled during their night feeds. Or, if your baby is older, keep them in their sleeping bag. If you need to change their nappy before or during their feed, wrap them up again or put them back in their sleeping bag right away. This makes it easy to put your baby back in their bed after feeding and calming them.
5. AVOID NAPPY CHANGES
You shouldn’t change your baby’s nappy just because they’ve woken up. Only do it if it needs to be done. A baby’s nappy can usually go for a few hours without being changed, even after a milk feed. Changing a baby can wake them up and make it hard for them to go back to sleep.
If you do need to change your baby’s nappy, the best time to do so is before you feed or in the middle of a feed, so your baby still has time to get sleepy again during the rest of the feed. For younger babies who might be too tired to feed well, changing their nappy in the middle of a feed is also a good idea. Changing their nappy can wake them up just enough to let them finish their feed.
6. DON’T FORGET TO WIND YOUR BABY
Babies have to burp after every time they eat, even at night. If your baby falls asleep while being fed or is put back to bed without a good burp, they may wake up again 15 to 20 minutes later or have trouble falling back to sleep. Wind is a big reason why babies wake up early in the morning. If you try to wind your baby and they don’t burp, keep trying, however tempting it is to lie them back in their crib.
7. MINIMAL STIMULATION
Try not to give your baby too much stimulation at night. They need to learn that nights are for sleeping. Newborn babies often have trouble telling the difference between day and night. This is made worse by a lot of talking or activity at night. Newborns are easily stimulated. Even the sound of a voice is enough to wake them up so they can check out what’s going on. Your baby doesn’t need games or tickles in the middle of the night. Save these for the day, when you want to keep them awake!
8. READ OR LISTEN
Very young babies can take a long time to feed at night, so be ready. Have a good book on your phone, iPad, or Kindle so you can read it while you’re feeding your baby. This also gives you a chance to relax and take a break, which will make the hours of feeding feel less like work. You could also use headphones to listen to music or podcasts while feeding at night. Keeping calm will help your mood and make it easier for you to go back to sleep if you wake up.
9. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
If you’re breastfeeding, make sure you drink water when you have to get up in the middle of the night to feed your baby. Keep a water bottle next to the chair you use to feed your baby so you don’t forget. If you need a snack at night, try not to choose something with too much sugar because it might keep you up. Bananas are a great choice because they have an enzyme called tryptophan, which helps people sleep. Don’t forget that your comfort is just as important as your babys and ensuring that you are sitting in suitable chair where your back is supported and in an optimal feeding position. We recommend a nursing chair that is designed with all this in mind, such as the Babymore Lux nursing chair which is a firm favourite amongst new parents when breast or bottle feeding their baby.
10. PAY MORE ATTENTION TO YOUR BABYS SLEEP
If your baby wakes up a lot at night and/or stays awake for long periods, you might want to take a closer look at what’s going on in their day. This kind of waking pattern can mean a baby is either too tired or not tired enough. Changes to how your baby sleeps during the day may be all that’s needed to stop them from waking up at night.
If your baby is over 4 months old and wakes up every two hours at night, it could be because they just want to be fed and go back to sleep.
At Babymore, we know how tiring it can be to get up every night, but this quiet time with your baby in the middle of the night can also be very special. Just remember that it does not last forever. When your baby no longer needs you to put them back to sleep, you will probably feel relieved at first. After all, it means you can get more sleep! But don’t be surprised if you feel a little bit nostalgic one day too.