Night feeding newborn: Dr Kate Johnson sets 10 rules that will ensure a good night’s sleep for all.
Night feeds are an inevitable aspect of early parenting! It is completely normal for your newborn to wake often during the night to be fed.
It’s a good idea though to help them start to differentiate between night and day.
By following a few simple set of rules you can help each night’s feed to be as relaxed as possible and then hopefully you’ll both be able to get back to sleep ASAP!
1. Keep the lights off
To make it clear it’s not daytime, and to create a sleep-inducing environment, try to keep the lights off.
If you have a dimmer switch turn it down so you can just see or use a night light.
2. Avoid stimulating your baby
Talking or playing with your baby will keep him awake and stimulated, when he should be ready to fall straight back to sleep.
If he’s unsettled after his feed, wait to see if he’ll settle himself and if need be do some soothing in the cot such as shushing or patting.
Try to avoid picking him up unless he’s really upset or needs a change.
3. Only feed when hungry
If your newborn doesn't ask to be fed, try and leave him to wake himself up when he’s hungry – this is usually every two to three hours.
The maximum your newborn should go without a night feed is five to six hours so that he’s getting enough nutrients and putting on weight.
However, if your baby was premature or has weight issues, then you will need to be waking and feeding at regular intervals overnight.
Check with your GP or Maternal and Child Health Nurse if you’re unsure.
4. Make sure you burp your baby
Just like you would in the day, it’s important to wind your baby after each night feed.
Trapped air in his stomach will leave him feeling uncomfortable and may lead to tears, which you want to try and avoid at 3am.
5. Only change your baby if necessary
Changing your baby’s nappy may wake him up, so avoid it unless it really necessary.
The exception to this rule is if your baby falls asleep in the middle of the feed, it may be worth trying to change his nappy half way through to wake him up for a proper feed.
6. Be organised
Have everything you need during your night feeds in the same room as your baby.
A feed can take a while, so it’s a good idea to have some water, nappies and anything else you may need to hand.
If you’re bottle feeding, you can speed up the process by having clean bottles and the formula ready to go.
7. Hide the clock
As tempting as it is to look at the time, watching the seconds tick by will make you realise just how late it is and how little sleep you’ve had.
Plus it won’t help you get back to sleep after you’ve finished the feed.
8. Ask for help
If you’re really struggling, ask your partner to help with the feeds – he could give expressed milk in a bottle.
Alternatively, while you may still need to get up and express, you’ll be able to go straight back to sleep after and let the other person soothe your baby back to sleep.
9. Get comfortable
Given how exhausting those early weeks are its good if you can rest as much as possible.
Invest in a comfortable chair that you can sit in while feeding your baby.
10. Avoid caffeine
While it is widely considered safe to drink small amounts of caffeine while breastfeeding, babies have different tolerances to its stimulating effects.
Try to avoid caffeine later in the day so you don’t have a wide awake baby in the middle of the night!
Kate graduated from the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) in 1997 and a Ph.D. in 2001. Kate has since worked, lectured and written extensively about sleep and done further study in the field, including undertaking Postdoctoral fellowships in the Human Sleep and Neuroscience Programs at Stanford Research Institute and the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.