By Yvette Stephens, Doula
The Maya's Nest
When I breastfed my twins at night, it was in good part because the idea of getting out of bed to prepare bottles sent a dread through my tired bones that maybe could only be matched by unlocking my door during the zombie apocalypse! Little did I know, I was in fact not only getting more rest than my bottle-feeding counterparts (a recent study shows breastfeeding parents get an average of 40-45 mins extra sleep per night, over their bottle-feeding counterparts in the first three months postpartum – Woah! That’s a lot of sleep for a new mama! *1), but building my supply and helping my babies to know night from day sooner!
As a doula, supply is a hot topic brought up often- how to get it, increase it, maintain it. My first question to women having supply issues is, “Are you nursing at night?” At night, our bodies produce more prolactin, the hormone that is responsible for breast-milk production. There is simply more milk there to be had at night. Also, if we’re going all night without feeding (or pumping), we are sending that signal to our bodies to produce less milk for later, affecting that supply-demand cycle long-term.
Melatonin, the great sleep hormone, and tryptophan (that thing that makes you sleepy after a turkey dinner) are both in abundance in evening / night breast milk, and help with establishing a pattern of sleeping longer at night and being up more during the day. Melatonin also relaxes the smooth muscle tissue of the intestine, helping those babes with fussy tummies to get a bit more rest. Basically, science shows us that human milk is packed with goodies for getting babies to sleep better and longer! *2
Common hurdles to night nursing are that latch isn’t yet good, we can’t find a comfy position or we are worried about baby’s safety, and often we’re leaving it too long to get the help we need! Trouble-shooting these issues with your doula, or, when needed a professional lactation consultant so you feel confident and can really relax while feeding will help you reap the most restful benefits of your night time feeding.
Let’s face it, none of us is exactly enthused about night-time feeding but armed with the facts about the benefits of more rest, better supply, and better sleep rhythms, (and sometimes some practical help to get things started) we can feel more positively about our nocturnal parenting adventures.
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