It is common for a baby to be fussy at night, especially breastfed babies. After having been tapped all day, mom’s milk supply will be naturally lower in the evening. Unfortunately that’s the time when baby is getting ready for sleep and wants to cluster together several feedings in preparation for (hopefully!) a long sleep cycle. He may be frustrated that the milk is not flowing as fast as he’d like. When the breasts are full of milk there’s more internal pressure and the flow will often be faster than when the breasts are less full, such as in the evenings. This slower flow can make even the most patient of babies be fussy at night.
You can imagine it this way: think of a hot summer day. You’ve become thirsty from playing with the kids and want a drink of water, but rather than go in the house, you throw caution to the wind and turn on the watering hose to get a drink. You drink more than you normally would because that cool, fresh water tastes so great and because you’re really thirsty.
Now imagine instead of producing a good flow, the hose is kinked and the water is flowing really slowly. It’s faster than a drip, but it takes a full minute to get a mouth full. You get really frustrated at how slow the water is flowing because you’re really thirsty and it tastes so good.
That’s a lot like how babies feel in the evening. They’re really hungry and want to bank up a lot of calories for night time, but the milk is flowing frustratingly slow. It is flowing, but baby is drinking the milk as it’s being made. It’s a slow process and a demanding or impatient baby will become very fussy at night.
Add to this the possibility that baby may be tired from a long day and feeling overstimulated and you can easily understand why he may be fussy at night. Here’s what you can do to fend off the fussiness:
- Continue to breastfeed baby as often as he indicates. He may have just finished breastfeeding 30 seconds ago. That’s ok. Just put him back on. All this extra stimulation will tell your body that it needs to pick up the production of milk.
- Switch breasts each time he gets fussy. This one trick may make nighttime fussiness a thing of the past.
- Resist the urge to give a bottle. If you give a bottle and don’t pump that same amount of milk near the same time when you give the bottle, your body will not know that it is not producing enough milk. Without that “knowledge” your body will not make more milk for the next evening and you will be in the same situation, only a little worse. To keep your milk supply strong, don’t give bottles unless you’ve been directed to do so by a health care professional because of baby health problems such as baby not gaining weight.
Work on increasing your milk supply in the evenings and soon baby will not be fussy at night.