Ask Amma

How can I help my baby sleep at night?

In How on 15 November 2014 at 8:00 pm

My baby wakes up 10 times at night, nursing even when she is not hungry.  How can I peacefully help her sleep at night?

Mother of a 10 month old in Chandigarh

As they say with every phase of breastfeeding, این نیز بگذرد‎, or “this too shall pass.” 

Often it is just when we have figured out how to handle a given situation that it passes, leaving us wondering if it would have passed anyway or our efforts made any difference at all.  Sometimes what we thought was a problem was actually a solution to some other problem we did not recognize.  Once solved, it passes. There could be a good reason for waking up so frequently, or for nursing even when not hungry.   Sometimes babies comfort-nurse to help build up supply. And as you know nursing nourishes both body and mind.  Sometimes when fighting an illness or preparing for a growth spurt they go through nursing marathons.  The cause is not always evident to us, but they are responding to their own bodily signals.  The growth spurt may be physical, intellectual or emotional.

Still, it is our nature to be curious, so here are some questions that might help you help this pass:

Does she remain asleep while nursing?  Are you able to nurse lying down, without waking all the way up?  This not only allows you to get more rest but also maintains an environment of sleepiness in the room.

Do you wear clothes that allow baby to latch on by herself, without fully waking either of you up?

Is she getting enough awake-time during the day?  While babies do need naps in the daytime, very long naps, especially late in the afternoon may lead baby to be more wakeful at night.

Is she getting enough nursing time during the day?   Some little ones, especially as they get more mobile, get so busy during the day they forget to nurse and  find it more worthwhile to do it at night when not much else is going on.

Is she getting enough work, talk and play time during the day?  In other words, during the day, is she active enough to get hungry enough to eat enough and get tired enough to value the opportunity to sleep?

Does she go to potty during the night?  I wonder if the frequent waking indicates a need to go to the potty.

Do you use a sling?  This can allow her to cuddle with you and observe the variety of people places and activities you engage with throughout the day.  “To fill her cup,” so to speak.  Also to remind her to nurse during the day.

When does she go to sleep for the night?  One piece of advice that helped me was to start the night routine just around sunset time.   This is easiest in seasons (and latitudes) when the sun sets between 6-8 pm.

Waking every hour is a lot, and I am guessing it will pass, but I would not expect long stretches of night sleep.  Nursing every 2-3 hours is still quite normal – if we accept it as normal, it is sometimes easier for us to sleep through it or fall back to sleep easily.

Night nursing is very important, especially as we make more milk at night.  If people around you are questioning the value of night nursing, it can make you wonder if it needs to be corrected, but in fact it is normal and healthy for little ones to nurse at night.

As they say of sleep, I hope you are able to sleep when your baby sleeps.  It’s surprising how often we forget to do that.  Learn to work while baby is awake and you will not have to miss chances to relax when baby is asleep.

More on breastfeeding and weaning:

Is it true that you are still …

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