NIGHT FEEDS

Master the art of fill­ing up your young­ster with milk and get­ting the pair of you back to sleep, pronto!

Mother & Baby - - CONTENTS -

Master the art to fill­ing your child’s belly for restful sleep

At first, your baby can’t tell day from night, so whether it’s two o’clock in the af­ter­noon or two o’clock in the oh-so-early hours of the morn­ing, he just knows that he’s hun­gry, and you know that you need to feed him. Sit­ting up in the dead of night with your lit­tle one as he feeds makes for some mag­i­cal bond­ing mo­ments, but it can also be very de­mand­ing. So how do you make the most of those lovely parts? We’ve got some tricks up our sleeve to make night-time nurs­ing go smoothly, whether it’s by breast, bot­tle or a com­bi­na­tion of the two.

Put him to bed awake

How you put your baby to bed at bed­time will have a sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect on how eas­ily he falls back to sleep after a night feed. The im­por­tant thing is not to feed him to sleep and then pop him into his cot asleep, but to give him his evening feed be­fore, or as part of, his bed­time rou­tine, so you lay him down when he’s drowsy but still awake. That way, he learns to fall asleep with­out any as­sis­tance from you. And when it’s time to go back to bed after a feed at three o’clock in the morn­ing, that’s a skill that re­ally helps! “It’s never too soon to start a bed­time rou­tine,” says sleepand-feed­ing ex­pert Lyn­d­sey Hook­way. “You may not see im­me­di­ate re­sults, but if you pro­vide the same cues in the same or­der be­fore each and ev­ery sleep, over time your baby will be able to pre­dict what will hap­pen next.” And while you might worry that sep­a­rat­ing milk from sleep means that you’ll be feed­ing your baby 10 min­utes ear­lier, so he might feel hun­gry 10 min­utes ear­lier too, you’ll prob­a­bly find that he drinks a lit­tle more be­cause he’s more awake.

Of­fer him some sen­sory cues as he nears the end of his feed, by stroking or gen­tly pat­ting him, and softly ‘shush­ing’ him

Get comfy

Pre­pare your space for a com­fort­able night’s feed­ing be­fore you go to bed. As a breast­feed­ing mum, you may pre­fer to lie in bed: “It’s fine to breast­feed ly­ing down, in a safe po­si­tion,” says Lyn­d­sey. “But if you’re bot­tle-feed­ing, you’ll need to sit up.” Prop your­self up with plenty of pil­lows, or po­si­tion a sup­port­ive chair close by. And keep cush­ions and a warm blan­ket or dress­ing gown to hand. “Keep a lit­tle caddy of night-feed­ing essentials close by,” says Lyn­d­sey, “so you’ve got a muslin, bot­tle of wa­ter and lip salve for your­self and a spare baby­gro in case of ac­ci­dents.” And think what else would help you cre­ate an area that makes you feel nur­tured and looked after.

Re­spond sooner

Think­ing it might be a good idea to stretch the time out be­tween night feeds, even by a few min­utes? It can be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. “A baby who is very hun­gry and up­set will be more dif­fi­cult to feed and set­tle,” says Lyn­d­sey. “And then he may only take a small amount of milk be­fore fall­ing asleep—which means he’ll wake sooner for his next feed.” In­stead, turn de­tec­tive and work out what your baby does be­fore he starts cry­ing in the night. “These cues in­clude wrig­gling around, smack­ing his lips or suck­ing on his tongue, putting his hands in his mouth, kick­ing his legs and mak­ing small noises,” says Lyn­d­sey. Once you’re lis­ten­ing for them, you’ll soon wake when you hear him shuf­fling about. “It’s al­ways eas­ier if you re­spond when your baby shows early signs of hunger,” says Lyn­d­sey.

Keep quiet

It will be eas­ier to set­tle your baby back to sleep after a night feed if you avoid over­stim­u­lat­ing him. “Keep the lights off, and in­stead use a night­light that doesn’t emit blue light, which can in­ter­fere with the pro­duc­tion of mela­tonin, a nat­u­ral hor­mone that reg­u­lates sleep cy­cles,” sug­gests Lyn­d­sey. “Stay calm and con­fi­dent, and avoid talk­ing to your baby. Just stroke him gen­tly and look into his eyes with­out en­gag­ing in lots of chat­ter.” Keep dis­rup­tion to a min­i­mum by only chang­ing his nappy if you re­ally need to, or if you’re par­tic­u­larly wor­ried about nappy rash. There are other ways to re­duce the faff too. “Con­sider using ready-to-feed for­mula milk at night if you’re bot­tle-feed­ing, which will save you hav­ing to boil the ket­tle to mix for­mula, then cool­ing the milk,” Lyn­d­sey adds. “You can keep car­tons of milk by the bed, along with ster­ilised bot­tles. And if you’re using ex­pressed breastmilk, this can be left at room tem­per­a­ture for six hours, or up to 12 hours in a cool bag. Your baby doesn’t need warm milk in a bot­tle— room tem­per­a­ture is fine.” In all this quiet, comfy calm, it can be a chal­lenge for you to stay awake for the du­ra­tion of the feed. Re­sist the temp­ta­tion to flick through so­cial me­dia or switch on the TV, as this is likely to leave you both too stim­u­lated to get back to sleep af­ter­wards. “Try softly sing­ing a lul­laby, or plug­ging in head­phones to lis­ten to mu­sic or an au­dio book in­stead,” says Lyn­d­sey.

Tell hunger from habit

A tiny tummy needs fre­quent re­fills, so it’s only nat­u­ral that a young baby will wake through­out the night to feed. This can be tir­ing, but it helps if you re­mind your­self that you’re fu­elling his phys­i­cal and emo­tional de­vel­op­ment each time you’re roused from sleep. “Your baby’s brain is grow­ing at an im­mense rate,” ex­plains Lyn­d­sey. “The pri­mary source of fuel for this com­plex growth is sugar, the best source of which is the lac­tose in milk. And his brain will grow more dur­ing the rapid eye move­ment sleep that’s com­mon in the early hours of the morn­ing.” Your baby also re­lies on feed­ing for emo­tional com­fort as well as nu­tri­tion. And this means that, as he gets older, it can be tricky to work out whether he’s wak­ing be­cause he’s hun­gry, or if he

sim­ply wants a cud­dle. “Night feeds are cer­tainly nec­es­sary up un­til six months,” Lyn­d­sey says, “but it’s hard to be spe­cific about what he’ll need be­yond this. It’s normal and nat­u­ral that he’ll feed more at night when he’s go­ing through a de­vel­op­men­tal phase, so the fre­quency of feeds may in­crease again dur­ing times of growth and change. And it’s per­fectly normal for a baby of up to 18 months to need a night feed.” So how can you tell if he re­ally needs those feeds? “If he is wak­ing and hav­ing a seem­ingly ef­fec­tive feed, you should as­sume that he is hun­gry,” says Lyn­d­sey. “If he feeds half-heart­edly or for just a minute or two, whether breast or bot­tle, then he’s not hun­gry,” says Lyn­d­sey. “But be­fore you drop that feed, do con­sider whether he still needs the feed for com­fort, per­haps be­cause he is teething.”

Ease back into sleep

There’s a sim­ple trick that re­ally works for help­ing a baby back to sleep after a night feed. Of­fer him some sen­sory cues as he nears the end of his feed, by stroking or gen­tly pat­ting him, and softly ‘shush­ing’ him. Con­tinue these cues as you hold him up­right for a few min­utes to wind him, and then as you gen­tly place him back into his cot. “Your baby will start to as­so­ci­ate these ac­tions with fall­ing asleep, rather than the feed it­self,” ex­plains Lyn­d­sey. “An­other clever trick is to pop a body-tem­per­a­ture hot wa­ter bot­tle into his empty cot as he feeds so that the sheet stays warm, re­mem­ber­ing of course to re­move it be­fore putting him back in.” If you’re breast­feed­ing, then your body gives you a help­ing hand to speed you back to sleep. The hor­mone oxy­tocin and other neu­ro­trans­mit­ters are re­leased into your blood­stream as you feed your baby, in­duc­ing a sense of sleepy re­lax­ation in both of you. If you’re bot­tle-feed­ing, then be proac­tive and fig­ure out what helps you drop back off into dream­land: sim­ply breath­ing slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth, and count­ing your breaths, works won­ders.

Cher­ish the mo­ment

Sit­ting up at night can be an iso­lat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, but re­mem­ber that you are not alone. “Tell your­self that you are join­ing mil­lions of lov­ing par­ents around the world, all do­ing the same thing at that very mo­ment,” says Lyn­d­sey. It can re­ally help if your part­ner is shar­ing the re­spon­si­bil­ity of night feeds, whether that means tak­ing turns bot­tle-feed­ing so you get to stay in bed some­times, or stay­ing awake with you if you’re breast­feed­ing. But it’s fine if you want to en­joy those mo­ments of hav­ing your baby all to your­self. Those peace­ful, mid­dle-of-the-night mo­ments with your baby can be­come some­thing to trea­sure, es­pe­cially if your time with him dur­ing the day is lim­ited. “Try to find some­thing about him that you haven’t no­ticed be­fore,” says Lyn­d­sey. “Study his face, his ear, his hand or nose, and marvel at how per­fect he is. And con­grat­u­late your­self on mak­ing such a beau­ti­ful lit­tle per­son!”

MEET THE EX­PERT is a sleep coach, lac­ta­tion con­sul­tant and a speaker and trainer at feed­sleep­bond.com Lyn­d­sey Hook­way

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