Experts | Newborn Sleep and Breastfeeding Part 1

Today on pocketnannies we are lucky enough to have Lorna from Orchard Green Parenting guiding us through those first few days after bringing baby home. 

If you talk to the various newborn experts, or read a lot of books and blogs, you could easily come away very confused indeed! Everyone seems to contradict each other and they each have their own priorities. Breastfeeding experts tell you to feed on demand round the clock, take your baby to bed with you and interpret anything other than deep sleep as a sign of hunger. Sleep experts tell you to feed by the clock, put your baby in their own bed and never, ever feed them to sleep. So is it possible to have a baby who breast feeds effectively and also sleeps well, or do you have to pick one? Luckily for breastfeeding mums everywhere it is more than possible to have both, if that’s what you want! Of course no one approach is right for all families and you might not want to exclusively breastfeed, or you might prefer to bed share or baby wear. But if you want to have a baby who sleeps in their own bed, and who also breast feeds, these tips should get you off to a good start.

In the very first days, before your milk comes in, you do need to feed your baby very frequently. This is not the time to worry about a routine or stretching the times between feeds but there are a few things you can do to make life a little easier in the long run:

  • During the day don’t let your baby go for longer than three hours between feeds. They may well wake up before then anyway (and must be fed sooner if they are hungry) but if it gets to three hours wake them and offer a feed.
  • At night let them sleep longer if they want to, and try to keep things a little calmer and quieter if you can. At home, keep the lights dim and avoid doing anything like turning on the TV.
  • As soon as a feed is finished (and you have changed your baby’s nappy etc) swaddle your baby and settle them back into their bed. In the first few days they will likely be very sleepy but do put them back to bed even if they aren’t totally asleep yet, you can rock the Moses basket or pat their tummy to reassure them. Of course, do pick your baby up if they get upset, but try to put them down before they get into a deep sleep if you can.
  • The time for play is just before you think your baby may be ready for a feed. Get them up then and let grandma and grandad have cuddles or show your baby the trees outside the window.

If you can follow this pattern at least most of the time it will help your baby to realise that they sleep in a bed, and not in someone’s arms. It will also help to start moving them towards a pattern of feeding more in the day and sleeping more at night. Don’t expect miracles in these first few days, and do be sure to feed your baby as often as they need even if that’s every hour. All you are doing now is making the first small steps down the path to an emerging routine, setting the pattern for breastfeeding and eventual good sleep.

Come back next week to hear how the routine develops in part two.

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