But I Need Sleep!

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What is the number one question people ask new parents? Is your baby sleeping through the night yet? How is your sleep? How are you surviving? Are you tired?!!

“Um. Yes. I am tired. Thank you for bringing it up. That is super helpful. I could have spent the last 10 minutes sleeping instead of answering your stupid questions!!!!”

Parents ask me all the time the same question… When will my baby sleep through the night? Do I need to continue waking my sleeping baby for feeds? My family told me to never wake a sleeping baby. Is it ok to the let the baby “cry it out” or self soothe? My aunt said she will watch the baby this weekend so I can sleep. Is that ok?

Let’s talk about it!!! And quickly so you can go take a nap!!!

A mom needs on average at least 6 hours of sleep every 24 hours.  That is not all in a row, but rather cumulative. Maybe a 2-hour nap here, 30 minutes there. Who knows, maybe four hours happens and you feel like a brand-new person!! But the 3 things we know that help increase milk production are: rest, water and breast stimulation. Notice how the first word was rest! You must rest to allow your body to heal and recover so that you can continue to be able to safely care for yourself and your baby. But how is that even possible?

First things first. I know people will say all the time, “Sleep when the baby sleeps!” But that can be challenging when we are trying to shower, eat, take newborn photos, care for another child, work or even have an adult conversation with a friend that brought you a meal. If you were working outside of the home, Monday-Friday, traditional office hours 8-5, and kept busy on the weekends, there is a good chance your baby was playing in your tummy most nights while you were sleeping and slept while you were busy. Maybe you noticed a lot of activity and kicking 12a-6a. One way we can catch up on sleep is to PLAN awake time from 12a-6a, and some strategically placed naps throughout the day. Maybe a nice morning snooze from 6a-9a, followed by a delicious cup of hot coffee? (Yes. Caffeinated beverages are safe for breastfeeding moms, 1-2 cups per day…that does NOT mean a Venti! Just your standard 8-ounce cup.) Next nap could potentially happen around 2pm, a time when most of us tend to experience some sluggishness anyway. I think siestas are a fantastic idea!! Finally, be ready for bed around 7 or 8pm at the latest. This is a great time for your significant other to relax in for some serious bonding time with the baby. They deserve some snuggles too! If your teeth are brushed, you have your pajamas on and you are in your bed, chances are you will be able to fall to sleep soon after you feed your baby. The oxytocin that helps release your milk is the same hormone that can put you right into a deep recuperative sleep. Remember that feeling of crampy, sleepy, thirsty that you feel when breastfeeding? This is the sleepy section!

I know sleep is one of the biggest struggles of new parents. Remember…this is not forever. This is very temporary. Your baby has a teeny-tiny tummy and a great big brain that needs glucose. Feeding your baby small frequent meals is ideal. I promise, they will hit toddler-hood and sleep for 14 hours in a row…just in time to help you plan the next baby!!!

Invite your baby over to your house for dinner...

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When I first walk in a room to work with a new mom and her breastfeeding infant, whether it is in her hospital room or her couch at home, I can almost instantly assess what the challenge is. Most often it is the latch. How many times do we hear that? Make sure the baby has a good latch!! Well how do we do that? Part of the problem is pillow positioning, hand positioning and posture. Sounds too simple, right? Well, when a new mom is feeding her baby, she gets this ginormous dose of oxytocin, which can help relax her and make her sleepy as she continues the feed. If a mom is holding her newborn up to her breast, as the feeding goes into 10, 20 or even 45 minutes, what is the likelihood her arm is still going to have the baby at breast level?! By creating the perfect space to feed her baby, 2 pillows or 7, breastfeeding pillow or foot stool, we can make sure the baby is in line with the mom’s breast. How often is your infant laying on the pillow and you find yourself leaning forward to place your nipple in your baby’s mouth? We are so accommodating as mothers. Let’s say our nipple lays a little lower and to the left, but baby is in the middle. We will try anything to compress the breast and take our nipple to our baby! But that can be part of the problem!!! When you let go of the breast, that nipple wants to start sliding back to the lower left. So you may end up holding your breast the entire feed! Then you find yourself staring at the clock because your wrists are going to sleep and you feel strain in your shoulders. Bring your baby to you! Make sure that wherever your nipple is, your baby’s mouth is. They should be in the same field, so that when the baby opens their mouth wide, you can gently and VERY QUICKLY bring your baby on to the breast. This allows the baby to create that vacuum needed to pull the milk through efficiently and without causing you pain. Your comfort is the most important. When you go on a trip you hear, "place the oxygen on yourself first before placing oxygen on your children." This same theory holds true in breastfeeding. Before you start feeding your baby, go empty your bladder. Grab your water and a snack. Have your Netflix remote handy and your phone. And make sure you have all the pillows you need, or breastfeeding pillow of your choice, so that you can be comfortable and prepared for that feeding. Taking simple steps to insure your comfort can sometimes make all the difference in the world for a positive breastfeeding experience.