Night Time Feeding

Why They’re Essential for Maintaining Your Milk Supply

Some very helpful dads offer to take care of the night time feeding, (sometimes called “giving relief bottles”) so that mom can get some much needed rest. All mom needs to do is to pump the milk during the day for the night time feeding. Since she’s still removing the same amount of milk each day it shouldn’t affect her milk supply, right?

Wrong.

While this is a wonderful offer from a well-meaning dad or relative, it is a recipe for disaster for the mother’s milk supply. Here’s why:

  1. It is important to not go long periods of time without removing milk. This tells the body that the demand for milk has gone down and supply should diminish accordingly.
  2. Prolactin – the crucial milk stimulating hormone – is naturally higher at night when you sleep. There is also a surge of prolactin in response to baby breastfeeding and is also stronger during a night time feeding. Therefore, pumping during the day to equal the night time feeding is not actually equal because your prolactin level will drop.
  3. When the mother is sleepy and relaxed, milk tends to flow more easily which makes milk removal easier. Removing more milk tends to increase milk production.
  4. If you go a whole night without removing any milk, your levels of the negative FIL hormone will rise drastically. FIL tells your body to shut-down milk production.
  5. To avoid FIL you could get up and pump each time daddy is giving the relief bottle, but that defeats the whole purpose and nobody gets a full night’s sleep. And a well rested dad or other relative will be more helpful during the day!

Keep your milk supply intact and keep up with night time feeding!

Tips For Night Time Feeding

  • Try not to resent needing to get up with your little one. Think of this temporary time, as a gift to your baby. Mother’s who fight night time feedings tend to feel more tired in the morning than those who give themselves over to this short term need.
  • Keep an early bedtime for yourself and try to get a nap in the next day.
  • Experiment. Some mothers find that they feel more rested if they just bring baby to bed with them and nurse while side-lying, and just sleep while baby nurses. However, some mothers find they are not able to allow themselves to go into a deep sleep, or get truly comfortable with baby in bed with them, and they find it better to get up and be fully awake and ensure that baby is actively nursing the entire time, and then return to bed after nursing is done.

    Try both and see which works best for you. Please note however, If baby has had any difficulty with latching on, or is having difficulty with weight gain, it is highly recommended that you sit fully upright and try to stay awake for the duration of the nursing session and ensure that baby maintains a proper latch for the entire night time feeding – side-lying nursing can be difficult to get a proper latch, and if you are drifting to sleep it is difficult to ensure that baby is maintaining a proper latch the entire time. As baby gets sleepy the latch may weaken and he may get used to the feeling of a poor latch. Also, for weight gain, it is important to ensure that baby is actively nursing, and to use hand compressions at every breastfeeding opportunity, not just night time feedings. 

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