Q: When can I expect to get more than three hours of sleep at night with my breastfed baby? She is now 2 weeks old and I plan on going back to work when she is six weeks old. I do, however, plan on pumping my milk at work, but will I be getting more sleep at night by then?
A: Babies tend to stretch out their periods of sleep as they grow and mature. Breast milk digests very quickly, so it is not reasonable to expect that they will sleep long periods at a time when they are growing rapidly, and when their stomachs are so small in the early weeks. I cannot predict for you whether or not your daughter will be mature enough to sleep longer stretches by that time. Babies are so unique. She may still need night feedings for quite some time.
Many mothers find that they are able to get a lot more sleep when their babies are small by sharing sleep with them. Some mothers make their beds safe for the baby (no waterbeds, no spaces the baby can slip into, no pillows or heavy puffy covers near the baby). Mothers should not take sleeping aids or strong pain medications if they plan to share sleep. Most put the baby on the outside of the bed, placing the bed tightly up against the wall or with a tightly fitting bedrail on the outside of their bed. For many mothers this is “having your cake and eating it too.” The baby continues to benefit from nursing frequently and being close and cozy with mother. Mother doesn’t have to get up at night and gets more sleep. Babies of working mother particularly like this arrangement, because they get extra snuggle time with mom that they may have missed during the workday. This is not an option that all mothers would choose, but many mothers do. Talk to other working, nursing mothers and ask them to share their experiences.
Enjoy your baby!
By Ann Calandro
BSN, RNC, IBCLC Lactation Consultant