Babies wake up at night to eat. It happens. Here are some night feeding tips to help you stay more positive about being up repeatedly at night and/or get back to sleep quicker.
1. Mentally prepare: you WILL be getting up at night
The first suggestion seems obvious, but I was not mentally prepared for sleep deprivation with my first child. Prior to having children, I was getting 8-10 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night, at least. Sometimes, I would even take naps after work! Then, I had my first daughter. I was lucky to get 2 or 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep during the night, and it would take me all day just to bank 7 or 8 hours of sleep total! It was a shock to the system!
Within the course of her first year, I realized that my body really only needs 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep to function. You’ll be amazed at how much less sleep you actually need to make it through the day. Your mind just has to adjust to the idea that you aren’t going to get a lot of sleep for a few years, and that’s okay. (Yes, I did say years. Every time you have a new baby, it starts you right back to square one when it comes to sleep.) Since I accepted that fact with my second child, I was much less disappointed about being up in the middle of the night. I knew it was coming and that I could make it through on less sleep.
2. Don’t stimulate your baby
There are several things in this category that you want to avoid. The first being don’t turn on any lights. I would recommend keeping a night light on in your child’s room. This will allow you to keep them in a sleepy state during your night feedings, and it will help them go back to sleep faster.
After the initial I’m-coming-to-get-you eye contact, avoid eye contact. Believe it or not, that actually wakes baby up more! Remember, you want them to go back to sleep quickly. The less stimulation, the better.
Try to avoid talking or singing to your baby during this time. Once again, these things stimulate baby. The only exception to this is if your baby is in distress. For example, if your baby is sick or teething, singing or talking softly to a crying baby may help him or her calm down. Otherwise, mum’s the word.
Know your child. If I lightly rubbed Big C’s back, she would relax more. That helped her get back to sleep after a night feeding. However, when I did the same thing to Little C, I was surprised to find that she jerked awake. Patting or rubbing her back just irritates her and wakes her back up. See what your baby likes and go from there.
3. Breastfeed–the milk’s always the perfect temp!
I breastfed both of my babies until they were 7 or 8 months old. The nice thing about breastfeeding is that the milk is always with you. It is the perfect temperature for the baby, and it is easy on their tummies. They feel comforted and connected with you whenever they nurse. Wear nighttime nursing bras and shirts that make it easy to breastfeed when you are sleepy in the middle of the night.
Maybe you feel like the moms in the Johnson and Johnson commercials who look so peaceful and happy about being up in the middle of the night with your baby. If so, then you can just skip on to suggestion number 5. However, if you are like me and enjoy sleeping, here is a tip for lessening your irritation about being up in the middle of the night, again, and again, and again.
I discovered eBooks on my tablet! If you have a tablet and a library card, you can check e-Books out for free through your local library. My tablet reading app has a night-reading setting that makes the back screen dark and the words light, so it never kept my daughter from going back to sleep. With Little C, I was on maternity leave for 2 months. During that time, I read 17 e-Books! It was the most fiction I had read after I became a mom, and I loved every minute! In fact, it gave me something to look forward to regarding being up in the middle of the night. With my first daughter, I remember just feeling depressed that I was awake. I would dwell on how tired I was and how much I wanted to go back to sleep. This made the night feedings seem even longer. Time flew while I was reading with my second daughter. Before I knew it, she was done eating and asleep!
5. Only do a diaper change if it’s necessary
Think about this. If your child sleeps all night, are you going to wake him/her up around 1:00 in the morning to change their diaper? No. So, if they wake up at 1:00 in the morning, do you have to change their diaper? In my opinion, it depends on your child.
Big C was a terrible sleeper. She struggled to go down for the night, woke up easily, and had trouble falling back asleep. Changing her diaper in the middle of the night just woke her up even more. Instead, I bought her high-quality night diapers that were built to last for all-night wetness, and I let the diaper stay until morning. Doing this actually helped her and I get more sleep, and it didn’t hurt her at all.
Little C is a great sleeper. She goes down easily, sleeps through loud noises, and has longer stretches of sleep. I can change her diaper in the middle of the night, and it doesn’t keep her from going right back to sleep after she eats. As a result, I usually do change her diaper in the middle of the night.
6. If using bottles, prep for the long haul
I weaned both of my girls around 7 or 8 months. However, they still got up to eat during the night. Big C rarely got up for a night feeding. At 8 months, she was sleeping with us and sleeping all night. When she happened to wake in the middle of the night, I would go downstairs, warm up some water, and prepare a bottle. Doing this in the middle of the night took about 4 or 5 minutes in addition to actually feeding her the bottle. Little C was different. At 8 months, she was still getting up to drain an 8 oz bottle around 1:00 and another around 5:00. There was no way I was going downstairs to do all that each time. Instead, I would prepare as much as I could in advance. I measured out the formula into two bottles and put on the lids. In two separate bottles, I measured out the hot water I would need. (The water would gradually cool throughout the night. In fact, the 5:00 bottle was downright cold!) I placed these bottles next to the nightstand by her crib. When she woke in the middle of the night, I got her from her crib, changed her diaper, poured the water into the formula bottles, shook them up, and fed her. She would go right back down after the bottles, and in no time, I was back to sleep. If you have a frequent night feeder and you aren’t nursing, I highly recommend preparing as much as you can in advance.
7. Accidents happen–be prepared
Little C is notorious for peeing mid-diaper change. This soaks her clothes and requires an outfit change each time. As a result, I always keep an extra set of pjs tucked into the top cubby of the changing table for a quick swap. The last thing you want to do is mess around digging out extra clothes in the middle of the night or making loud noises while you do it. If you have an extra set on hand, this situation becomes less of a big deal.
Each night I had three goals. I wanted my baby to get as much sleep as possible. If they woke up, I wanted to meet their needs quickly and quietly so that I could get as much sleep as possible. When moms and babies are well-rested, everyone has a better day!
Q: What suggestions do you have to make night feedings more efficient?