5 Cool Things No One Ever Told You About Nighttime Breastfeeding

Mother Kissing Toddler's CheekThe world is full of tired parents… and the Internet if FULL of message boards with posts from worried and exhausted parents seeking information about whether their babies are normal and what they “should” do about all the night-waking their babies do.  Bookstores have entire sections dedicated to baby sleeping, authored by so-called “baby sleep experts.”  And, big-box retailers stock these books next to all sorts of gadgets from specialty swaddling blankets to sound machines, knowing, from market research, that desperate and sleep-deprived parents will fill their cart full of anything they think might improve their baby’s sleep.  Impulse shopping at its finest.

But, what do we really know about night-waking, breastfeeding babies and why they might be waking up to nurse when all we want them to be doing is sleeping?  Of course, there are the basics of why babies nurse frequently.  But, with this post, we thought we’d compile some of the cooler, less publicized things science tells us about nighttime and breastfeeding so that you, the exhausted moms of Chicagoland, might be able to look at nighttime breastfeeding in a whole different way.

So, without further ado… here are 5 Cool Things No One Every Told You About Nighttime Breastfeeding:

1) Did anyone ever tell you that…. studies have shown that breastfeeding moms actually get MORE sleep than their formula-feeding counterparts?  Yes.. you’re tired, but you did read that correctly!  According to one study, breastfeeding parents got 40-45 minutes more sleep per night on average during the first 3 months postpartum.  (Source)   Over a 3 month period, that is A LOT more sleep!  And, research also tells us that all that extra sleep is very important for mom’s mental health and serves to decrease her risk of postpartum depression. (Source)

2) Did anyone ever tell you that… in lactating women, prolactin production (prolactin is the milk-making hormone) follows a circadian rhythm?  Studies have shown that breastfeeding women’s prolactin levels are significantly higher at night, particularly in the wee hours of the morning.  Babies often want to nurse at night because quite simply, there’s more milk at night! (Source) Aren’t our babies smart??

3) Did anyone ever tell you that… babies are born with no established circadian rhythms?  They can’t tell day from night, and they take several months to develop their own cycles.  They also do not make their own melatonin (a sleep-inducing hormone) for much of their early life.  But, guess what has plenty of melatonin in it?  Your nighttime breastmilk!  (Source) So, scientists actually think that melatonin-rich nighttime breastmilk helps babies develop their own circadian cycles and helps them eventually learn to sleep longer stretches at night.

4) Did anyone ever tell you that…. in addition to melatonin, your evening and nighttime breastmilk is rich with other sleep-inducing and brain-boosting substances?  The following is an excerpt from an article authored by University of Notre Dame early-childhood researcher, Darcia Narvaez, PhD:

Parents should know that breastmilk in the evening contains more tryptophan (a sleep-inducing amino acid). Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, a vital hormone for brain function and development. In early life, tryptophan ingestion leads to more serotonin receptor development (Hibberd, Brooke, Carter, Haug, & Harzer, 1981). Nighttime breastmilk also has amino acids that promote serotonin synthesis (Delgado, 2006; Goldman, 1983; Lien, 2003). Serotonin makes the brain work better, keeps one in a good mood, and helps with sleep-wake cycles (Somer, 2009). So it may be especially important for children to have evening or night breastmilk because it has tryptophan in it, for reasons beyond getting them to sleep.  (Source)

5) Did anyone ever tell you that… breastfeeding at night can be important for keeping a mom’s long-term milk production steady and strong and may actually mean less pumping during the day for working moms?  See, the lactating breast knows how much milk to make based primarily on how frequently it is emptied; these are the laws of supply and demand, which are based on the natural world’s 24-hour clock… and not just during a mom’s waking hours.

The number of times an individual mom will need to empty her breasts to maintain long-term milk production has been called her “Magic Number.”   If a mom is not nursing enough times in a 24-hour period to meet her Magic Number, her body will eventually down-regulate milk production and her supply will be reduced.  For working, nursing mothers, more breastfeeding at night means more nursing sessions in a 24-hour period, which in turn could mean less pumping sessions needed while mom is at work while still achieving her daily Magic Number.

These basic dynamics apply to older babies, who may still need nighttime nursing, too!

So, there you have it!  5 cool things no one ever told you about why your baby is (still) waking at night to nurse.   Did you ever think, when you hear your baby rouse at 2:00am, that they are actually giving you the gift of MORE sleep, lowering your postpartum depression risk, building and developing their brains, possibly reducing their risk for long-term mood disorders,  developing their own circadian cycles, getting more milk when your supply is highest, ensuring your long-term breastmilk supply, AND giving you an opportunity to pump less at work?    Hopefully, now you will.    Sleep, tight mamas!

Editor’s Note — sleep researchers are turning up some cool information about adult night-waking too.  It seems that the normal, biological state of human sleep might be very different than what we think it is.  More here and here.

162 thoughts on “5 Cool Things No One Ever Told You About Nighttime Breastfeeding

  1. Cool indeed! I love how current research is corroborating what mothers have always instinctively sensed–the benefits of breastfeeding. What an amazing collection of cool facts!

  2. My 4 month old, exclusively breast-fed baby has been sttn (10-11hr) for over a month now. I’ve been concerned that he’s sleeping too much, and now this article concerns me even more. Is he missing out on needed nutrition??

    1. Oftentimes babies go through phases of sleeping a lot at night and then doing more night waking. 4-5 months is a common time for babies to change their sleeping patterns. Is baby naturally sleeping in these long stretches or have you instituted sleep training to get him to do this? If it’s his natural rhythm and he’s gaining weight well and seems generally happy, I wouldn’t worry about it. Babies that are allowed to eat on demand regulate their own intake.

    2. My older daughter slept through like that from about 2mos on. We did nothing to make her sleep longer, that’s just how she was (she’s 3 now and has always been healthy and sleeps well!) My 7m/o still wakes 2x/night to nurse… different kids sleep differently!

    3. Absolutely not….he’ll let you know if he is experiencing a deficit( growth…weight etc). They need that much sleep anyhow. seems to me your milk is doing something right- “Did anyone ever tell you that…. in addition to melatonin, your evening and nighttime breastmilk is rich with other sleep-inducing and brain-booting substances?” Don’t sweat it. Enjoy some sleep of your own.

    4. Dear Sara, My daughter who was breast fed exclusively slept 10-11 hrs per night almost from birth, of course she never napped during the day but that’s another topic. Today she is 20 yrs old on a Dean’s Scholarship at Northeastern University majoring in Behavioral Neuroscience and minoring in Chemistry and Spanish. She plans to go into Genetic Counseling and Research and maybe pursue her doctorate. My point is even a baby sleeping the night through can get enough nourishment to grow up to be a successful adult!

    5. my lo slept through at 2.5 months cause he sucked his thumb. I too was worried and was advised to ”dream feed” him but I never did. I let him sleep when he wanted and he’s a 13 month old healthy, still breastfeeding toddler now. He eats solids like a champ and is happy and healthy. I don’t regret letting him (and me) get some sleep. The whole crux of this article is letting babies do what comes naturally so I think if sleep comes naturally it should also be considered normal and healthy.

    6. Sara, if he is growing and peeing/pooing regularly, you have nothing to worry about. Bubs might be an awesome drinker and getting lots of milk from you during feeds. Only be concerned if not growing well.

  3. Wow! Some amazing info there 🙂 I’ve known about some of it, but it’s nice to see it compiled in one place! I’ve nursed my first until 24 months and my 19 month old is showing no signs of stopping anytime soon!

  4. I know that when I started sleeping with my baby we were all much happier. I got so skilled I didn’t even have to turn over to change sides, I’d just lean into her so she could get to the higher breast. Breast milk is magic.

    1. To each their own. But the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend sleeping with your baby in bed. It is a SIDS risk factor, and many a baby has died sleeping in bed with their parents. I understand that it is more convenient and the baby may initially sleep better close to you…..but is it worth the risk?

      1. Many more babies have died in their cribs. Research by Professor James McKenna from the Notre Dame Mother-Infant sleep lab has shown that cosleeping done safely actually reduces rates of SIDS. Research of world cultures where bedsharing is the norm has corroborated his findings. There are safe and risky ways to share a bed with an infant, and parents should educate themselves. I highly recommend McKenna’s book “Sleeping With Your Baby” for more information. Kellymom.org is also a good source for further information.

      2. Sandra, I think you have it backwards. Countries where sleeping with children is the norm have a much lower incidence of SIDS. Also, one of the treatments for SIDS is to mechanically rouse the baby during the night. This happens naturally when sleeping with a baby. Also, from reason alone, it makes no sense that a mammal would sleep apart from its helpless infant. We slept with all 5 kids. It made our lives and the baby’s better.

      3. There’s a huge difference between co-sleeping and simply sleeping with your baby. Look at the stories of babies that have died as a result of “co-sleeping” and you’ll most likely find other factors involved such as mom was drinking that night or took sleeping pills, vaccinations right before death, etc. Co-sleeping actually has rules, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. Sadly, many parents don’t do the proper research. When done PROPERLY, co-sleeping is perfectly safe.

      4. No breastfed babies have died by bed-sharing when it’s done in a safe manner, following the same rules as crib sleeping. No thick blankets or pillows, stuffed animals, etc in the bed; and neither parent under the influence of drugs/medications/alcohol. The so-called ‘co-sleeping deaths’ have all been formula-fed babies and/or had a parent under the influence of something and/or involved an unsafe sleep surface like a couch or easy chair. A breastfeeding mother’s brain chemistry changes to support her waking more often at baby’s movement and small sounds of hunger. It’s how we survived as a species before Graco.

      5. ^^What they all said. Co-sleeping turned out to be the way my newbie slept best, and consequently I slept more/better. When she stopped sleeping so well next to me, we tried the crib and she slept like a log. I’d say it’s worth the risk. Infants need to sleep A LOT for proper development. Mom’s need rest too–especially breastfeeding moms.

      6. Did YOU know that S.I.D.S. is often called crib death? It has very little to do with where the babe sleeps and all to do with how the baby sleeps (blankets, air to hot, medicated parents…)
        Please don’t let your fears dictate your parenting style. If you choose not to co-sleep, that is great.. Its not needed to beastfeed

      7. There is actually very little good evidence of an increased risk of co sleeping provided basic safety precautions are followed (don’t drink or smoke, use lightweight covers rather than a thick duvet, etc). Most instances where a baby has died through “cosleeping” have been where a parent has fallen asleep unexpectedly with a baby, not in situations where people have made a conscious decision to cosleep. Some studies even include falling asleep in a chair with a baby as “cosleeping”! The research which has shown an increased risk has largely failed to take account of these factors. One of the best studies I’ve seen that showed a small increased risk defined cosleeping in terms of the baby sleeping in the parent’s bed on the night they died, not where they routinely slept. This means the families may not have taken precautions to ensure the cosleeping environment was safe, and also doesn’t take account of the fact that the baby may have been taken into the parental bed that night due to being unusually unsettled (which might indicate there was something wrong that wasn’t picked up on).

        The one thing there is LOTS of solid evidence about is that putting a baby to sleep in their own room away from the parents is FAR more risky than them sleeping in the parent’s room (whether in bed with the parents or in their own bed), but you don’t hear much about that, do you?! Ironically some of the people most critical of cosleeping seem to be those who put their baby in a nursery from day one!

    2. This sounds great! However if you do it wrong (like I did) you can end up with inflamed ribs, which is very, VERY painful. It didn’t even happen until I’d been ‘leaning into’ my son for 6 months so I had no idea I was doing myself an injury. And it took 6 months of agony for it to calm down too. So beware! Lol!

    3. molodee…that’s awesome. and here I thought I was especially talented being able to feed from both breasts without turning over haha. Love it.

  5. my EBF 2 month old sleeps 6-7 hours throught the night.m, usually 12-6 or 7.. and has been since 2 days old.. this really concerns me about if she isn’t waking for a nightly feed.

    1. If she is “on schedule” with her weight gain it isn’t important that she is waking up to eat at night. Weight gain or lack of weight gain is one of your primary indicators of whether your baby is eating enough.

    2. I agree with Heather; if weight gain is on track that’s OK. As long as she’s gaining well that means she’s making up for it in other places, especially if she’s cluster feeding before bed. Midnight counts as “nighttime”!

  6. I didn’t have my milk in for the first week of my daughters life but I did breastfeed my daughter once it came in and I had noticed a difference.

    1. Linda – so glad that breastfeeding is working out for you. However waiting until your milk “comes in” is a common misconception and mistake that moms and hospital staff often make. Moms have colostrum from the moment they give birth (sometimes before!), and that colostrum is all the baby needs if nursing is going well. Later, the colostrum will transition to a more milky substance, as the baby’s tummy gets bigger and they are able to handle larger quantities of liquid. A strong start to a breastfeeding relationship starts with feeding baby from the breast on demand starting in the first hours of life. Best of luck to you!

      1. Another thing to consider is that it often takes longer for milk to come in post-caeserean. (Sp?) I had 4 c-sections, and it took less time with each baby. I was nursing from the start (pumping with my first because he was in NICU). The body just responds more naturally to a natural delivery.

      2. Unfortunately, that’s not always true. I nearly died from HELLP syndrome when my daughter was taken via C-section under full anesthesia. I never went into labor, and my body was struggling with multiple organ failure. My doctors did not expect my milk to EVER come in, and it took a very dedicated lactation consultant and nursing staff to help me pump until I was strong enough to do it myself, and we had to use donor milk for many days, despite them placing her to my breast before I was even conscious, keeping her “in room” with me, and pumping around the clock (she was premature and too weak to suck efficiently, though we placed her on my breast many many times a day). For some of us, milk does NOT come in right away, even when we do everything we can. Not all of us got the magical delivery where the body does everything “right”. Despite all of that, I was eventually able to breastfeed successfully and have a happy, healthy breastfeeding 9 month old.

  7. Great article. I love to read facts that agree with what I just knew! Another big benefit of night time breastfeeding is that ovulation is postponed…nature’s way of spacing children.

    1. I would not count on breastfeeding for birth control. I work in Maternity and have seen women having another baby fairly soon because of this. It is often true that the menstrual cycle does not return for a longer period and you may not ovulate–if you are exclusively breastfeeding. But even though you have not gotten your period does not mean you cannot get pregnant, so don’t count on it.

      1. Yeah, and it isn’t ALWAYS postponed — I’ve breastfed exclusively the entire time (my girl’s eight months now), and I had my first period almost as soon as I stopped bleeding from the birth. It felt so unfair!

      2. If you’re nursing frequently, it’s less likely your body will return to fertility unless you’re genetically predisposed to be less sensitive to prolactin. Every woman is different! Every baby is different too — a 7 pounder who nurses every two hours for months will cause different hormonal input and fertility outcomes for its mother than an 11-pounder who sleeps 12 hours straight from birth.

        I nursed on-demand until my daughter was 24 months old. At that point, I night weaned her, dropping nursing from an entire 11-hour period (when there had previously been 2-3 nighttime nursings). I returned to fertility immediately, within two weeks, and got my period the next month. I work from home, cosleep, and my daughter was able to nurse a LOT. This is probably closer to the biological norm than the more typical dropped pumpings, supplementation, less frequent nursing, and early weaning that is common in the U.S. My great-grandmother told me this was similar to her lifestyle (co-sleeping, lots of nursing, nursing past the age of 2) and she had children spaced every 3 years like clockwork from when she was 20 to when she was 44. She just never got a period until the youngest was 2.

        The most important thing is to track your fertility signs. Talk about “you don’t need to have a period to get pregnant” is true, but you WILL have fertility signs — mucus, hormonal surges, temp changes — that you can track and use to your advantage. That, and if you want a blessed two years without a period — don’t night wean!

      3. I exclusively breastfed, cosleep, and have yet to night-wean my daughter (currently 14 months old). She still nurses probably 7-8 times per night on average, and many times throughout the day. From newborn to around 6 months she nursed almost constantly. She also never took a pacifier and only occasionally had a bottle of pumped milk if I was going to be away for a couple hours.

        Despite all of this, I got my period back at 8 weeks postpartum, and have had it regularly every 28-29 days since. My mom and sister both did not resume cycles until their children were almost 2 years old, and I admit I was expecting similar. I was extremely disappointed to get mine back as it was one of the things I was looking forward to about exclusive breastfeeding. It makes me wonder what in my physiology is so different from the norm.

    2. Ovulation may be on hold but fertility can return with very little warning. Please do not use lactational amenorrhea as a method of birth control unless you are totally fine with having unintentional closely spaced pregnancies!

      1. If you also track your fertility signs, you can get the best of all possible worlds — no periods, no abstinence, and when you start to ovulate again, you’ll know and can act accordingly. And that means no hormonal birth control to tinker with your milk supply.

        With both kids I got my cycle back at 9 months but didn’t get pregnant until 16 months with one, and still haven’t at 15 months with the other. I wouldn’t use this method unless I were prepared for an unexpected pregnancy, but so far it’s gone like clockwork.

  8. I only produce a good supply out of my right breast. Anyone have any tips on how to get my left producing again? My 7 mo old is EBF and did not favor one side to the other, my left just slowly stopped making milk until he did favor the right which made the left make less and less! Now if I do pump the right makes about 8 oz and the left maybe .5 oz. It’s not very pretty cosmetically either. ha ha But seriously- I havent minded it much because he is getting the milk he needs out of the right, however, I would like to even them out so it’s not so funny looking. I have one A cup and one D cup.

    1. If you’ll continue to pump that left side only while he’s nursing on the right, it, too, will balance out your supply. You have to “fool” that breast into thinking it needs to make more. Barring anything medical going on with that one, like a blockage or something, you should see an improvement in that one over time. Being consistent with it, pumping at every feeding time, should balance out “the girls” in time. I’m a mom of twins, and pumping consistently, even when one of my babies wasn’t able to nurse yet (preemies), helped me to keep my supply up in both breasts. With consistent pumping, drinking what seemed like gallons of milk and fruit juice a day, and nursing when they would let me at first, I was able to produce about 8 ounces on both sides at every pumping session. I always pumped till I was empty, after the babies had taken what they wanted, and my supply gradually increased over a couple of months. Had enough milk to put back in the freezer for when I started back to work after my sabbatical.

  9. Thank-you for this story. i work in a maternity unit, and many of the mothers get upset that their babies want to nurse more frequently at night–they comment that the baby has their days and nights mixed up.I try to explain why and that this is normal. Also, a lot of women ask for formula to supplement the baby with because they feel that they don’t have milk, or because the baby wants to nurse more frequently than they think they should. Women need to learn to trust their bodies to do what they need to do… and they will–if they follow their baby’s hunger cues and feed them on demand.

  10. Wonderful, informative post. My baby had an open bar all night and made heavy use of it, while I snoozed away, barely stirring when he’d let out his little eep to switch sides, and the hormones of breastfeeding would lull me quickly back to sleep. I never got more sleep in my life, as he nursed so intensely in the morning hours and refused to let me get up early. I thought it could work that way for most everyone, but I guess it’s more challenging for many.

  11. Night nursing is also a great cure for insomnia! There have been times that I’ve woken the baby to nurse because *I* can’t get to sleep. I always conk out within 5 minutes of letdown.

  12. I exclusively pump for my little one so should I be keeping the nighttime pumpings separate and only give him that at night?

    1. I pump exclusively too. It is recommended to give the corresponding pumped milk to the time it was extracted. But I won’t mess the baby up. I have noticed with my girl that if I give her the night pumped milk at night, she does fall asleep easier and faster.

  13. It definitely does not feel like I sleep more with my EBF baby than my formula baby! Formula baby slept through the night at 6 weeks. I’m 10 months with DS2 and he has not STTN once. He’s up at least twice a night. I long for the 12 hours straight through nights. Lol Obviously not enough to try formula feeding!

    1. But a newborn should not sleep more than 3-5 hours without eating. This is why breastfeeding reduces the risk of sids, because breastmilk digests in as little as 2 hours, blood glucose begins to drop, infant wakes. Formula can take up to 8 hours to digest, baby skips into deep sleep cycle, increasing the risk of apnea events.

    2. There’s no way you can really tell how much of a role feeding method has played in the difference in your kids’ sleeping habits; my 3 were all breastfed & all have had different sleep patterns. My eldest was difficult to get to sleep & often woke once or twice in the night but got better at sleeping through after the first few months, my older daughter slept through from only a few weeks old, and my youngest is not a great sleeper & wakes at least once most nights for a feed even at 19 months. Babies can vary so much in their temperaments & habits, even within families, that it can be impossible to be sure whether any particular thing has caused the differences between two babies. That’s why we have studies like the one mentioned above, where scientists look at the effects of variables across a large group, as the individual differences between babies cancel each other out and make it easier to see what has caused the different outcomes.

      1. My 9 year old was formula feed my 6 year old and 4 year old where bf for 3 months then formula fed I lost my milk supply sadly and my nearly 5 month old is bf and mine all woke during the night till past 9 months lol I just got my 4 year old back sleeping through a year ago lol thanks to tt I cant wait to be able to sleep 12 hours

  14. 4) Did anyone ever tell you that…. in addition to melatonin, your evening and nighttime breastmilk is rich with other sleep-inducing and brain-booting substances?

    Should say brain-boosting, thought you might want to fix the typo, great article otherwise, thank you!

  15. I work 7 to 6 M-F and my 13 month old is still nursing during the night and I am glab because I sleep fine 🙂 we co-sleep so is better i dont need to get up at all!!!! So i get a lot of extra sleep! 🙂 I love breastfeeding! I work for WIC and I try my best to encourage moms to.breastfeed, but is really hard sometimes because the hospitals are giving the bottle 🙁 and + some family member can interfere with moms decision.

    1. perhaps you could get the ok to print this and hand it out before they give birth sadly some moms will formula because anyone can do it for them Good Luck!

  16. Love this 🙂 I get so much stick for feeding my now one year old through the night. No one believes me that the mix of co sleeping and breastfeeding on demand ( even all night ) means I am honestly quite well rested. Xx

  17. I wish the getting more sleep part were true for me! For at least the first two months, my son wouldn’t sleep anywhere but on me and I was so afraid of rolling over on him that I didn’t sleep. Sometimes I got about an hour and a half nap, any more than that and I wouldn’t have gotten enough food to produce enough milk to satisfy the little guy.

    My son is now 1 1/2 and started to sleep through the night only about two months ago, if even that and half the time he still wakes up to nurse. Always when I’m about to fall asleep, but it does always worry me out if he doesn’t wake up at least once or by a certain time.

  18. I love this one… in addition to melatonin, your evening and nighttime breastmilk is rich with other sleep-inducing and brain-boosting substances. How cool is that?? This process is so amazing!

    I’d love to invite you to come link up this post (and any of your other favorited breastfeeding posts) on our blog: http://thirty-one10.com/motherhood/milking-it-you-want-me-to-do-what-to-my-boobs/

    We are compiling a list of posts as a resource for our pregnant and breastfeeding readers.

    If you ever are interested in guest blogging, give me a shout! 🙂

  19. Great article! I had low milk supply with my singleton and twins, and the fact that prolactin levels peak at night and that nighttime breastfeeding stimulates prolactin levels more was a huge factor for me — and helped me get through all those frequent night wakings and feedings, even when I was no longer cosleeping with my twins.

    It was REALLY hard for me to not pass off some of those nighttime feedings to my husband, especially with my twins, but I just could not justify it, knowing my milk supply was at stake (my girls also nursed better and more willingly at night, when we were having challenges during the day). I am pretty sure my nursing frequently at night was a key factor in our breastfeeding success, in fact!

  20. Forgive me, but I don’t get the thing about having to pump less. If I pump less at work, what do I send to daycare for my baby to eat while we’re apart? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for pumping less. I just don’t see having less pumped milk as a positive when I know he has to eat during the day.

    1. Tara – When you nurse more at night, the baby does not need as much milk during the day, thus less pumping for you! If you rely on baby to get all her food during the day, she’s going to be eating a lot more throughout the day. Does that make more sense?

      1. I’m interested in this as well. My guy is almost 4 months and used to sleep a good 5-6 hr stretch at night but now wakes 3-4 times. I’m exhausted as I returned to work about 5 weeks ago. He takes anywhere from 12-15 oz a day at daycare…he is there for about 10 hours a day. We don’t cosleep and due to his spitting up after every meal, I have no choice but to get up and feed him, then hold him upright for about 20 minutes before I can safely lay him down to avoid him spitting up all over the place. I’m sure this just normal for some babies, but I’m having a very difficult time with it. I really enjoy reading about why babies wake to feed…does that help explain why he used to sleep good and over the last 5 weeks (since I’ve been back at work), he does not? Is it because he gets less during the day than when I was nursing on demand at home?

    2. You may also want to make sure they aren’t overfeeding him at daycare. Many (most?) bottle fed babies are overfed. There are important cues for bottle feeding a breastfed baby.

  21. This is brilliant bad so reassuring. Making up bottles during the night can’t be much fun and obviously comes without the other benefits mentioned above. A great read.

  22. So if mom works evenings and the babysitter is giving breastmilk that is from the daytime, could that affect the baby with regards to going to sleep or not? When mom gets home from work and pumps at night, that milk is frozen for future use. Should that milk be used at bedtime because it contains what will help the baby sleep better?

    1. If the information given above is correct, then yes, the milk pumped at night should be better at getting the baby to sleep in the evening. Maybe you could label the expressed milk “night” & “day”?

  23. Hello, I would like to ask your permision to translate this article into Romanian, to be published on alapteaza.wordpress.com , the blog of the Asociatia Alapteaza Timisoara (Breastfeed Association in Timisoara, Romania), a group that supports breastfeeding moms in Romania. There is little information in Romanian on this topic and thjs article would be very useful! If you agree, I will send you the link when it is published. Looking forward to your answer!

  24. I am exclusively breastfeeding my baby boy who just turned 9 months this week. I Nurse him right before bed time and a few times during the night.. I nurse him soon as he awakes. All four of my babies were the exact same… could not go too long with out nursing.. even close to a year old. I love my babies and if it’s what they need I am happy to do that for them. But I keep getting told that my babies should not need to nurse that often. Is there something I am doing wrong? Maybe change my diet? If so, please help I am very willing to listen.

  25. Not one comment regarding bottle rot, AKA nursing bottle mouth? Any thoughts on wiping the mouth out after nursing? Btw, I work in the dental field and personally breastfed my child and an advocate for breastfeeding for many reasons.

    1. i always wiped my breast-fed babies’ mouths clean with a washcloth during bath-time- neither one of them have any tooth decay or cavities- they are ages 4 and 2. also, i have read that because of the distinct form of the human breast nipple while in the infant’s mouth, the milk does not pass through the same way it would through a bottle nipple- when milk is taken in through a baby bottle, it basically fills the whole mouth with milk- even coating the teeth and gums while, when milk is taken in through the breast, it is basically stream-lined directly to the back of the mouth and down the throat without even touching the teeth or gums. nature always has it’s way, that’s why it’s best!

  26. This is so comforting to know! I have twins and it seems like most nights they wake to nurse almost every hour! I thought I was doing something wrong or not producing enough for them even though the doctor said they are both growing magnificently. I’m exhausted, but it’s definitely a comfort to know my sweethearts are getting the best nutrition and all they need from my breast milk! 🙂

  27. I call b.s. on breast fed babies sleep more at night! My girl was up more during the night than the day! I believe in the fact they don’t know day from night, but I got less sleep during the night than the day so I don’t find that first “fact” to be true at all!

    1. I think this fact is stating how much more breastfed babies sleep at night in comparison to formula-fed babies…not how much a breastfed baby sleeps during the night vs day.

    2. My gal is 10 month old still waking up 2 to 5 times per night to nurse! And next morning I have to work, not sure if this is healthy for her getting not enough rest. Wonder how soon she will sttn.

      1. Every baby is different. I know plenty of kids who didn’t sttn until well after turning one, and they are happy healthy kids. Follow your child’s lead. If baby is growing, happy and developing normally, you have nothing to worry about!

  28. I think it makes a lot of sense. I ebf my 4 month old son & we can nurse for the same time period during the day (& he’ll sleep maybe 20 mins) as I do at bedtime & he’ll sleep maybe 4-5 hours. I’ve always wondered why. Neat!

  29. I’m needing help then!!! My baby is 4 1/2 months old and still is getting up every two hours to eat!!!! What am I doin wrong!! All I’m doin is bf at night!

  30. This is interesting but.. I don’t care what any body says it was much easier to get out a boob with ready milk in the middle of the night than to mess with mixing and bottels and tempature and bla bla bla you have to do with formula

  31. Those sound like good reasons to learn to nurse in the side-lying position so that Mommas can get rest while night nursing and/or cosleeping.

    Another cool thing is all that night waking to nurse is keeping the baby from falling so deep asleep that he/she forgets to breathe. It’s protecting against SIDS.

  32. Hi, I couldn’t find an email to contact you, so I’ll leave a comment in hopes you’ll see this:

    I translated your article to Hebrew and posted it on my site. At the bottom I added a blurb about your organization and links to your homepage and to this post.

    Since posting it on Thursday, March 20, it has been read over 15,000 times.

    If there’s anything else you would like me to add to the translation, please let me know.

    Thanks for providing such valuable information,

  33. This post makes me slightly insane. It’s way oversimplified and not true to every breastfeeding relationship. I’ve never given formula to a child of mine, have no intention of ever so doing, but nothing in this post applies to me. Bedsharing would be dangerous in my house (we both roll over a lot in our sleep. trying to sleep wiht a baby has ended in near-disaster for us). I have oversupply. My babies have always spit up when they eat more than they want, which wakes them up and makes them angry. We both work full time. You know what works for us? limiting nighttime nursing as of 4~ months. Not night weaning entirely — my babies do that on their own schedule — but not comfort nursing. Using pacifiers. Everyone should do what is right for his/her family. This article is not helpful to families like mine. Limiting night time feeding can, in fact, EXTEND ones breastfeeding relationship in circumstances like mine — if I had kept feeding my first baby as often as he wanted, without a little CIO at 6 months, I would have weaned WAY earlier than I did (he was almost 2) because it was not sustainable. I was a zombie and becoming depressed from lack of sleep. Not to mention the fighting with my husband. The best thing we ever did for our children and our marriage was some sleep training and partial night weaning. It’s not for everyone, but please don’t assume that EVERYONE must follow this advice or necessarily fail at breastfeeding.

    (breastfeeding is hard enough without making it harder than it has to be).

    1. This article wasn’t saying that one strategy should or does work for everyone. I’m sorry you misread that. Similarly, sleep training at an early age can have disasterous consequences to a baby’s weight gain and a mom’s supply. Glad it worked for you, but it is not a strategy we suggest. Nancy Mohrbacher’s info graphic on storage capacity is an excellent illustration on why nightweaning under a year is not a good idea for everyone: http://www.nancymohrbacher.com/blog/2014/1/17/infographic-on-breast-storage-capacity.html

      1. What about night weaning under a year of age if the baby does it on their own? All of mine stopped waking to nurse by 4-5 months. And I followed their cues. I usually had to get up to pump a couple times for a while but eventually wasn’t engorged at night & I nursed them all past their first birthdays (they all self weaned around 15 months).

      2. Hi Amanda!

        If a baby nightweans early their own, continues to gain weight well, and mom isn’t having any troubles pumping or keeping up with milk needs during the day then it is likely a few things are going on. 1) You likely have a larger breast storage capacity — likely larger than most women and 2) your children are not in the statistical norm. This is fine, of course, but just not as common — so don’t brag to your tired mommy friends. Buy them a cup of coffee instead. 😛

        PS — Sometimes it is also a normal pattern for babies who slept through early on to pick up nightwaking in older babyhood due to development or teething or because they are older babies. It’s all good.

  34. My baby is exclusively breastfed. She’s 9 weeks. She’s been giving me longer sleep periods – like we go to bed at 10pm and she’s usually still sleeping by 2am. However I wake up in pain and extremely engorged. Often leaking through my nursing pads and bra. Sometimes I wake her up to feed and sometimes I will let her go a little longer. She will feed for a few minutes on each side then ends up falling asleep and I have to go pump for relief.
    Am I supposed to keep pumping it out if she’s not needing it? It’s super painful but I am also starting work back on Monday so I am also building supply.


    1. Your body will adjust, and her sleep schedule may change at any moment, so enjoy these long stretches while they last! Can you just hand express to comfort when you’re feeling full and avoid all the work of the pump? YouTube has some great videos.

  35. Hi,my baby is one year old.i feel motivated my baby after reading the artictle above.i have stop bf four months back…but i still give him to suck to put him to sleep…can i nurse him at night now and is it possible to increase my breastmilk.

  36. My 5-month old daughter is 100% breastfed. She only woke at night the first month. She then started sleeping 10-12 hours every night. However, my first 3 kiddos were not like this. They slept anywhere from 3-8 hours. Every child is different. Stop worrying. You’re doing great Momma!

  37. This makes me feel a little better, but I’m still tired & would like more quality sleep at night! My 8 month old still wakes about 3-5 times a night. I’m not sure that he’s necessarily hungry though (his longest stretch might be 3-4, maybe almost 5 hrs). So I don’t know if I should always nurse him when he wakes up. It’s getting exhausting for me because he sleeps in his own room & I don’t really want him in our bed. We used to do that, but it’s not ideal for us (no room in bed).

    1. That does sound tiring, Christy. At this age, it’s totally possible that he needs the food at night. That age in particular is so active during the day, they sometimes forget to eat! What can you do to make this situation (that is temporary) work for you? If you don’t want baby in bed with you, what about side-carring the crib to your bed? That way you don’t have to get out of bed to feed and you get more sleep.

  38. this article is perfect and I have a serious question. My son is 7 months on (on the chunky side-not fat-hes seven months old!) He is exclusively breastfed who, due to his increased hunger, started eating some foods. He nurses 6-10 times a day but does not sleep at all through the night. I mean wanting to suck, wakes up 3+ times a night to nurse. Other than obviously not getting much sleep and being exhausted, I don’t mid it. It calms him, we bond and he is only little once! when I took him to his ped. she said that he should not be nursing at night at his age and that I could try letting him fuss or leaving the room because he is smelling me… haven’t heard this so what is the issue with continuing to nurse him when he wants it at night??

  39. For me breastfeeding at night is the easiest part of feeding, and the most enjoyable. Although we do co-sleep in side lying position which makes it a lot easier, and being that I don’t have an issue with falling asleep while feeding.

    I actually look forward to the end of a long day with my sweet LO, so for me this is makes so much sense.

    Good read!

  40. The article states the MOMS who breastfed get more sleep than those who do not. But babies also do as they do not need to fully wake to suckle at the breast, or they are doing what is known as dream feeding. Formula feeding requires waking up to make a bottle, the baby being attentive to drink from the bottle, and getting the baby back to sleep after burping etc. And of course, SAFE co sleeping makes all this even easier 😉

  41. Reblogged this on Birth Babies & Breastfeeding By Design and commented:
    “Did you ever think, when you hear your baby rouse at 2:00am, that they are actually giving you the gift of MORE sleep, lowering your postpartum depression risk, building and developing their brains, possibly reducing their risk for long-term mood disorders, developing their own circadian cycles, getting more milk when your supply is highest, ensuring your long-term breastmilk supply, AND giving you an opportunity to pump less at work?…”

  42. I love that ! Need to get ahold of hubby’s phone so I can pull off photos of me fast asleep with Lolly nursing in bed next to me.
    Once the initial learning period was done I wouldn’t need to be awake for more than 5 minutes to change nappy, put baby on boob then go back to sleep. I’d naturally wake up after she’d fed back to sleep and just pop her back in the bassinet beside the bed so I could snuggle hubby and stretch out without worrying about baby

  43. My third baby is a month old and since 5 days old has been sttn. She will go anywhere from 5 to 8 hours straight without waking up. But will nurse every 2 hours during the day.

  44. Nice post… however I am concern that if I let my 6 month old baby sleep 6 or 8 hours straight my milk supply will drop…. I EBF my baby so I am terrified of having a low milk supply. These nights he has been sleeping longer withouth a feeding (it varies, maybe from 11 pm – 4 or 5 am, or from bedtime 6:30 – 3 or 4 am) so I find myself waking up at 3, 4 or 5 am wondering if I have to pick him up when he stirs a little bit so he can have a ‘snack’ and I can have some peace of mind that my milk supply will not drop…. Any suggestions ladies?

    1. Thanks, Pam! There is a wonderful post that we’ve linked to in the article that speaks about each individual mom’s “magic number” that you might find helpful in answering your question. In short, if you are meeting your daily magic number, which for most women is around 8 milk removals per day (but some women need more), your milk supply will hold steady! https://breastfeedingusa.org/content/article/magic-number-and-long-term-milk-production

  45. My youngest will be two in a month and stil breastfeeds about every two hours at night so I for sure don’t feel like the more sleep thing is true. I’m anxious to wean her because I have not slept a full night in two years but also I’m worried about “breaking” that bond. It has to happen though so hopefully it goes smoother than I think it will.

    1. Hi Crisstina! We sure remember those sleepless nights and long days! Many families find that beginning to gently nightwean their toddlers from breastfeeding is a normal and important part of their breastfeeding relationship. There is no time when a family “must” decide to do this after the first year, of course. The ‘right’ time is different for everyone. If you’d like to look over some resources and information on nightweaning, be sure to check out the nightweaning section of our Nighttime Breastfeeding FAQ: https://breastfeedchicago.org/nighttime-breastfeeding-faq/#nightweaning

    1. It is possible, and it’s a wonderful way to keep up that lovely bond with your baby if pumping during the day is difficult due to a work or school schedule or other separation. However, remember that making milk is a supply/demand process so you may not maintain a full supply for your baby if you are only breastfeeding during 12 hours of a 24 hour day. Kellymom has some info on partial breastfeeding and combofeeding here: https://kellymom.com/ages/weaning/wean-how/weaning-partial/

  46. Thank you for the great article! There tend to be more articles on “sleep training” than on the topic of “how it is totally normal to feed your child at night and nurse to sleep”. I am a mother of a 12-month old and I often nurse him to sleep, I don’t feel bad anymore and don’t listen to “experts” that teach how to make children fall asleep on their own, like controlled crying.

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