The most difficult times faced by many parents with a newborn are the night time feedings. Many struggle with sleep deprivation coupled with the endless cycle of feeding day and night. Some mothers are already exhausted during pregnancy and post-delivery.

Sleep deprivation is a part of motherhood. Our babies are birthed so immature they require this constant twenty four hour care and feeding to survive.

Understanding the importance of night time nursing may help you cope with this.

It is perfectly normal for baby to want night time nursing. Newborns are not able to distinguish between night and day and their own circadian cycle does not kick in until three months of age. It is perfectly normal for your baby to need night time feeds (though less frequently) through the first year and even beyond.

Their tummies are small, the size of their clenched fist. Therefore, they need to feed frequently to keep it filled in order to grow and develop a rapidly growing body and brain.

Prolactin, the milk producing hormone, is at its highest level at night so these feeds keep your milk supply robust. Also, frequent emptying ensures the breast are well drained and maintain mums supply

Woman have different breast storage capacity i.e. the amount of breastmilk a breast can hold. This can influence how frequently you feed your baby .

Night time nursing not only provides nutrition but the closeness and physical contact all babies need to thrive. By meeting these needs you are helping your baby develop a sense of security, trust and self-esteem.

Sleep-waking patterns vary from baby to baby.  Some sleep for longer periods, others in short burst for a few minutes or a few hours. They will sleep during the day and night. Sleep patterns will change as the baby grows from newborn to toddlerhood, and sometimes for no apparent reason.


  • Try and sleep when your baby sleeps or naps during the day.
  • Learn to breastfeed lying down or laid back nursing as you will be able to rest while they are feeding.
  • Ditch the clock as you will fret less. If the clock is out of sight there is less chance of getting panicked and counting the minutes until the next feed.
  • Night time is for sleeping. Keep the blinds down and the lights dimmed. Keep noise levels down with minimal distractions. Be boring and speak softly. Learn to recognise your baby’s early feeding cues as a crying baby is hard to feed and settle. Change nappy only if required or half way between the feeds
  • Day time is for living. Get up, open the blinds and get on with your day. Interact with your baby; give them rich sensory stimulation by talking singing and going out and about with them. When baby is napping keep them close there is no need to put them into a dark quiet room.
  • Keep them close by practising safe co-sleeping or investing in a co-sleeper that attaches to the side of the bed. This makes it easier to catch earlier feeding cues. Research also shows it reduces the risk of SIDS when baby is sharing the same room.
  • Consider wearing pjs or a top that opens down the front for easy nursing access. No need to be pulling up or down a top. Ditching the bra overnight may be helpful as well
  • Have all your essentials close by during the night will make it easy to access. Include items such as nappies, wipes, change of baby clothing and towel. Water and even midnight snacks if you are feeling thirsty and hungry
  • Keeping your baby awake during the day will not help them sleep better during the night. An overtired baby is much more difficult to get to sleep. Napping is important during the day; just follow baby cues.
  • This will not last forever and in time you may miss these solitary times just baby and you.

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