Many mums are exhausted after the birth of their newborn and the constant needs of a baby. Many mums wake up in the early days feeling as though they have not slept at all. Sleep deprivation is real and is one of most difficult adjustments for many parents. Understanding the importance of night time breastfeeding may help you cope at this challenging time.

Night time Breastfeeding is a natural way to help babies to sleep and provide nutrients for optimal growth and development.

The milk producing hormone Prolactin is highest at night and early morning. Milk production works on a supply and demand system; the more milk is removed, the more milk is produced. Breastfeeding overnight keeps your supply robust to meet the needs of a growing baby.

Newborn tummies are small and need to be fed often. They may feed 8-12 times in 24 hours. Research shows that babies consume 20% of their milk volume overnight which is a huge amount of their daily requirement for growth and development.

Many babies have their day and night time mixed up as their own circadian cycle is not developed at birth.  Your baby will not produce Melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone, for many months. Breastmilk in the evening contains Melatonin. These levels fall and rise according to mums’ circadian cycle. Breastfeeding can help develop babies’ own sleep-wake cycle; however this will not be developed until after 2 months of age.

One of the most important physiological reasons for night time breastfeeding might be to help reduce sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Frequent night waking prevents babies entering deep sleep.

Evening and night time breast milk is rich in Tryptophan (a sleep- inducing amino acid) and other amino acids that are important in the synthesis of serotonin. Serotonin is vital for brain function and development, and that makes the brain work better. Also, it helps with sleep-wake cycles. The higher level of fat in night time breastmilk also helps with developing brains.

Breastfeeding mothers get more sleep. Research has shown that mothers who breastfeed exclusively at night slept an average of 40-45 minutes more than parents that formula feed their babies. It may not be a lot but these extra minutes are a bonus to mums dealing with sleep deprivation. Also, at night getting a baby to the breast is much easier than preparing a formula feed.  Mums get back to sleep quicker as all she requires are her breasts. The milk producing hormones also help mum relax, which may induce a more restful sleep.

When a baby is born it faces a massive change from a dark, warm, secure womb into a cold, bright and noisy world. Night time breastfeeding provides the comfort, closeness and security the baby needs to help adjust to life outside the womb.

Mothers have been night feeding babies since the beginning of time. You are not alone



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