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 sleep- and-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.
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.