Breastfeeding FAQs: Sleep - Yours and Your Baby's
Breastfeeding is a natural thing to do, but it still comes with its fair share of questions. Here's what you need to know about making nights easier for you and your baby.
Where Should My Baby Sleep?
Experts recommend room-sharing for at least the first 6 months of life, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Here are some ideas:
- Put a bassinet, play yard, or crib next to your bed. This lets you keep that desired closeness that makes it easier to breastfeed at night. It also lowers your baby’s risk of SIDS.
- Buy a bassinet or play yard with one side that is lower, which attaches to your bed. This allows you to be next to your baby without the chance of rolling over onto your infant.
Don’t let your baby sleep in the same room as someone who is smoking.
- Don’t let your baby fall asleep on a product that isn’t specifically designed for sleeping babies, such as a sitting device (like a car seat), a feeding pillow (like the Boppy pillow), or an infant lounger (like the Dock-a-Tot, Podster, and Bummzie).
- Don’t use products or devices that claim to lower the risk of SIDS, such as sleep positioners (like wedges or incliners) or monitors that can detect a baby’s heart rate and breathing pattern. No known products can actually do this.
- Don’t use products that are weighted, such as a weighted blanket, sleeper, or swaddle.
- Don’t use products that have not been approved by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) as meeting federal safety standards for infant sleep products
How Should My Baby Sleep?
Always place your baby on the back to sleep, not on their stomach or side, to help lower the chance of SIDS. When babies can roll over easily from front to back and back to front, it's fine for them to stay in the sleep position they choose.
When picking out bedding for your baby, keep these tips in mind:
- Use a firm sleep surface. Cover the mattress with a sheet that fits snugly. Make sure your crib, bassinet, or play yard meets current safety standards.
- Do not put anything else in the crib or bassinet. Keep plush toys, pillows, blankets, unfitted sheets, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, and bumper pads out of your baby's sleep area. Make sure there are no items within reach that could pose a hazard to your baby, such as cords, ties, or ribbons.
- Dress your baby for the room temperature, and don't overbundle. Watch for signs of overheating, such as sweating or feeling hot to the touch.
How Can I Make Nighttime Feedings Easier?
To make nursing in bed more comfortable, keep a donut-shaped nursing pillow on or near your bed or use a "husband" back pillow with arms on each side.
Keep the room dimly lit and any noises (talking, singing, etc.) to a minimum. This will help your baby realize that nighttime is for sleeping — not playing — and can help your baby fall back to sleep sooner.
My Baby Falls Asleep While Nursing. What Can I Do?
Newborns often fall asleep at the breast, especially after feeling satisfied from a feeding. (You'll know if your baby isn't nursing if you don't hear swallowing sounds, like little clicks, or see the jawbones moving.)
If you think your baby is asleep and hasn't finished nursing, here are some tips to try:
- Undress your baby and rub their back.
- Tickle your baby’s feet.
- Burp your baby.
- Change your baby's diaper or switch to the other breast.
- Gently compress (squeeze) or massage your breast at the end of feeding to encourage your baby to drink more.
Babies who latch on wrong may fall asleep at the breast. If this happens, break the suction and reposition your baby onto your breast to include both your nipple and areola. You can break the suction by slipping your finger in the side of your baby's mouth (between the gums) and then turning your finger a quarter turn.
After you've broken the suction, try to burp your baby and switch to the other breast.
Is it OK to Nurse My Baby to Sleep?
In the first few months of life, it's practically impossible to keep a nursing baby awake who is satisfied with a full belly. But as babies grow, encourage them to sleep on their own. To do this:
- Put your baby down for naps and bed slightly awake. This teaches babies to get used to falling asleep on their own.
- Create a familiar and relaxing bedtime routine. Bathing, reading, and singing is soothing and signals an end to the day.
- Be consistent with the bedtime routine. Eventually, babies associate these steps with sleeping.
- Offer a pacifier. Experts recommend giving a pacifier at naptime and bedtime to babies under 1 year old to reduce the risk of SIDS. Only give a pacifier after breastfeeding is established, so no sooner than 3 weeks of age. If your little one doesn't want a pacifier, don't push it.
When Will My Baby Sleep Through the Night?
Breastfed newborns' longest sleep periods are generally 2–3 hours — this is about how long their small bellies can go between feedings. If newborns do sleep for a while, they'll probably be extra-hungry during the day and may want to nurse more often.
And just when you think that sleeping through the night seems like a far-off dream, things start to get a little easier. At 3 months, a baby averages a total of 5 hours of sleep during daytime naps and 10 hours at night, usually with an interruption or two. Most babies this age sleep "through the night," meaning a 5-6 hour stretch. But every baby is different, so don't be surprised if your baby sleeps more or less than others.
Will it Hurt My Milk Supply to Let My Baby Sleep?
Letting your baby sleep for longer periods (usually at around 3 months of age) isn't going to hurt your breastfeeding efforts. Your body readjusts your milk supply based on when you nurse and how much your baby needs. Some babies will sleep through the night early but will make up for it during the day, so your breasts will accommodate that.
As your baby matures and starts taking solid foods, the need for breast milk will decrease and your body will adjust for that too.
- Pregnant or Breastfeeding? Nutrients You Need
- Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding
- Nursing Positions
- Burping Your Baby
- Breastfeeding FAQs: Supply and Demand
- Breastfeeding FAQs: Some Common Concerns
- Breastfeeding FAQs: Getting Started
- Helping Your Baby Sleep (Video)
- Safe Sleep for Babies (Video)
- Sleep and Your 1- to 3-Month-Old
- Sleep and Your Newborn
- Sleep and Your 4- to 7-Month-Old
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995- KidsHealth® All rights reserved.
Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.