If you’re reading this, I am going to assume you’re breastfeeding mama, is in desperate need of sleep, but you aren’t sure if you can have the best of both worlds. You’ve probably worked so hard to establish a breastfeeding relationship – I know first-hand how much time and energy it takes! With that time and energy, you and your little one might be lacking sleep and feeling all the feels that come with sleep deprivation. I also know first-hand how exhausting and overwhelming that is.
I know you probably have some concerns and questions around breastfeeding and sleep training, and I promise we will buzz right on into that! But first, I want to share how being sleep deprived can impact your breastfeeding relationship.
Running on a lack of sleep contributes to:
- Irritability and impatience: If you’re a mama who might be struggling with breastfeeding and also isn’t sleeping, you might not be willing to continue your breastfeeding journey.
- Decrease in milk supply: Chronic sleep deprivation can impact milk supply due to the increase in cortisol levels.
- Hyperarousal: It can be extremely difficult to nurse your baby if they are figgity, irritable, and easily distracted. They might not latch well or have the ability to latch long enough to get a full feeding.
- Snacking and snoozing: When baby is fatigued, chances are they aren’t getting full feeds. This looks like feeding for a few minutes, then baby falling asleep, and then feeding for another few minutes when they wake up. Not only do babies sleep better when they have a full belly, but it also promotes an adequate nursing relationship between you and your little one.
- Mom not getting a break: If you’re a mama who is nursing every hour on the clock, you also aren’t getting a break. For some mamas, this can really affect their mental health.
It might’ve taken so much effort and commitment to get to where you are so I completely understand if you have some concerns. So let’s focus on you and get to the bottom of them.
Here are some common themes I’ve heard from mamas I’ve worked with:
Will my milk supply drop if I sleep train my baby?
Breastfeeding is a supply and demand process. If any feedings are weaned or pulled during the night, then yes, it could very well impact your supply. BUT, here’s what you can do to compensate for night weaning:
- You can lengthen nursing sessions or add extra feeds throughout the day to compensate.
- You can keep a feed during the night – no, we don’t discourage night feeds over here! It is possible to feed your baby during the night, but not be awake every hour!
- Pump before you go to bed. This will tell your body that it needs to make more milk, is a great option if you want to work on your freezer stash, or makes a bottle for the next night.
Every mama is different, but typically at the 3rd or 4th month your milk supply will regulate. If this is around the time you plan to sleep train, you might think that your supply is decreasing. Know that this is normal! You won’t feel as full or engorged as you used to and this is simply because your body is beginning to produce exactly what baby has been eating.
Will I still be able to feed on demand?
You should never be told that you can’t feed your baby or to wean feeds before a baby is ready. My approach when it comes to feeding on demand is quite simple – is baby actually hungry and feeding? This looks like big, open jaw movements and consistent sucking and swallowing. When this turns into a light suck with little-to-no swallowing (also known as a flutter suck), your little one is now latching for comfort versus hunger reasons. This isn’t a bad thing, nor do I discourage it! However, it’s important to know that is can help baby into the first stage of sleep — drowsy. So yes, you can absolutely feed on demand, but if you are trying to break a feeding to sleep association, I recommend not feeding right before nap or bedtime.
What if my baby eats better at night?
Those great night feeds would shift to happen during the day. I have noticed a trend that once baby is sleeping better during the night, they eat way better during the day. This is because baby wakes up in the morning with an appetite since they weren’t snacking all night long.
How am I supposed to know if my baby is eating enough?
If you are concerned about how much your baby is eating, try pumping for 24 hours and offering bottles. This way, you will know approximately how much your baby is eating and if they are getting enough calories.
Here is a quick reference for how much your busy bee “should” eat. Remember that all babies are different and this is simply a guide. Your little one might eat more or less and that’s completely fine! As long as they are maintaining their curve and are happy and healthy.
- 0-3 months: 8-12 feeds in 24 hours, 1-3 nighttime feeds (14-42oz)
- 4-6 months: 8-6 feeds in 24 hours (18-32oz)
- 6-12 months: 4-5 feeds in 12 hours and (18-32oz)
- 12 months and up: 1-3 feeds in 12 hours (8-15oz) along with 3 solid meals
When do babies stop feeding at night?
All babies are different! Can you believe that some babies stop wanting a feed during the night at 3 months old?! If this happens, then amazing! But I would never recommend to wean any night feeds before your little one is ready. If a baby is healthy and maintaining their curve, then by 6 months, most babies are capable of sleeping through the night without a feeding. Here is more information about how much sleep your little one needs both during the day and at night.
Will sleep training affect our bond?
Absolutely not! There is definitely something that is so special about breastfeeding. It does create an emotional bond between mom and baby, but bonding and attachment doesn’t only come from breastfeeding. Know mama, that you don’t have to sacrifice you and your baby’s sleep in order to have a secure attachment.
Here are other ways you can build a secure attachment and bond:
- Practice baby-wearing,
- Make eye contact during the day when you both are happy and rested
- Talk and sing to your baby
- Respond to their cues and needs
- Practice skin-to-skin
- Incorporate massage into your bedtime routine
I want you to know…
That no matter how you choose to feed your baby, you can absolutely help them form great sleep habits.
I would love if you could read this amazing testimonial from a mama I worked with who successfully breastfed and sleep trained her busy bee.
“We have struggled with sleep from day one with our 6 month old. He was sleeping on our chest, in the carrier or I was nursing him to sleep. Sometimes I would nurse him back to sleep throughout the night every hour! I did not think it was possible to sleep train my baby as we tried ourselves a couple of times. I liked Kyana’s approach and knowledge and I knew she would be able to offer what I was looking for. After only a few nights our baby made huge progress. After only a few weeks our baby is sleeping through the night and naps are a breeze. We have reclaimed so much of our lives as parents and our baby is so much happier through the day because he is well rested. I cannot thank Kyana enough for helping us. Working with her was truly life changing!”
My passion is to help parents and their babies get the sleep they want and deserve. I want you to feel confident navigating your little one’s sleep and trust your instincts. If you have any questions or if you’re looking for personalized 1:1 support and want to know how we can turn your Busy Bee in a Sleepy Bee, send me an email or book a Sleep in Your Hive Consult. I would love to chat with you!