sleep and breastfeed (2023)

In this article

  • Should I nurse my baby to sleep?
  • How can I facilitate breastfeeding at night?
  • Would my baby sleep better with formula?
  • How can I help my baby fall asleep without breastfeeding?
  • My baby still wakes up to eat at night. What I can do?

Should I nurse my baby to sleep?

Breastfeeding and sleep often overlap in the first few weeks, when the baby spends more time sleeping than awake. Taking a nap in the middle of a feed and waking up to get more milk soon after is normal for newborns.(NHS 2018).

You can continue to nurse your baby to sleep and feed your baby to sleep through the night for as long as you like. Many mothers find that nursing to sleep, especially at night, is a great way to stay close to their baby and spend uninterrupted time together.(Health Conference 2018).

As your baby gets older and feeds less often, you may decide to stop feeding him so he falls asleep and gets used to being calm.(NHS 2018). Some parents find that if the baby suckles to sleep, she begins to bond the two(NHS 2018). This can make things difficult if you start trying to cut back on night feedings or put him on abedtime routine(NHS 2018).

If you want to encourage your baby to fall asleep without nursing, wait until he is at least three months old. At that point, he may be ready for you to start establishing a bedtime routine.(NHS 2018).

How can I facilitate breastfeeding at night?

Young babies get much of their food and fluid needs from night feedings.(Unicef ​​2017). Many will wake up three times a night (or more) by six months of age, so it's a good idea to do everything you can to make night feedings safe, easy, and comfortable for both of you.(Unicef ​​2017).

Your baby should sleep in the same room as you for the first six months, both day and night.(Unicef ​​2017). Dealing with nighttime awakenings may be easier if your baby is next to her, in a crib, bassinet, or crib next to the bed.(BASE sd). This is a three-sided crib that sits next to your bed, with the open side flush with the mattress.

Having your baby by your side makes it easier to reach. You won't have to get out of bed to feed him, and he may be half asleep. If you use a bedside crib, make sure it is securely attached to the side of the bed and that there are no gaps where the baby can get stuck.(BASE sd).

Keeping your baby close to you at night also helps you notice early feeding signs, such as fussing and thumb sucking. This means you can respond to her and initiate a feeding before she fully wakes up and starts crying.(Unicef ​​2017).

During a feeding, keep noises down and lights dim.(Unicef ​​2017). This will help both of you to fall back to sleep more easily after eating.(Unicef ​​2017). It will also help your baby get used to the difference between day and night.(Unicef ​​2017).

If you want to nurse your baby in bed with you, lie in the 'C' position to help keep your baby secure. The 'C' position is when you lie on your side, facing your baby, with your body wrapped around him in a protective C shape.(BASE ndb).

Place your forearm over your baby's head and place your knees under your baby's feet.(Unicef ​​2017). She probably lies in this position instinctively, as it helps her baby lie level with her breast so she can nurse.(Unicef ​​2017).

many parentsco-sleepwith your baby, even when you never meant to(BASE ndb). It is one of the ways to deal with restless nights and the demands of food(BASE ndc).

Sleeping next to your baby gives him the opportunity to nurse whenever he wants, without disturbing him too much. This usually leads to more feedings, which increases the supply of breast milk. Breastfeeding also releases hormones that help you and your baby feel sleepy and relaxed. You may hear co-sleeping and breastfeeding referred to as "sleeping on the chest."

Make sure you know how to sleep together safely. Never sleep with your baby in an armchair or sofa.(Lullaby Trust 2019). These are two of the most dangerous places for you to sleep with your baby, as he could get caught in the pillows if you fall asleep while holding him.

Keep in mind that although sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is rare, co-sleeping can increase your risk of it if:

  • Have you or your partner been drinking?alcohol, or have taken medicines that make you drowsy.
  • You or your partner smoke or use e-cigarettes, even if you never smoke in bed.
  • Your baby is less than three months old, premature (born before 37 weeks), or low birth weight (less than 5.5 pounds or 2.5 kg).
    (Lullaby Trust 2019)

Some experts also recommend avoiding co-sleeping if you're feeling particularly tired.(Lullaby Trust 2019).

Read our article onsleep together safelydiscover more.

Would my baby sleep better with formula?

Research shows that there is little difference between the total amount of sleep that breastfed and formula-fed babies get.(BASE s.d.). Your baby is unlikely to sleep better on formula, although there are some differences between breastfed and formula-fed babies when it comes to sleep. Breastfed babies are more likely to sleep in shorter bursts, sleep less soundly, and take longer to fall asleep during the night.(BASE s.d.). But they do benefit from the melatonin in breast milk, which helps them sleep.(BASE s.d.).

Getting up to prepare a bottle and turning on the lights to see what you are doing will wake you up more. It may be harder for you to go back to sleep without the sleep hormone in breast milk that helps you and your baby fall asleep. So if you feed your baby formula at night, she could end up getting less sleep than she would if she breastfed.(Doan et al. 2014).

You can try these ideas to help your baby sleep longer.

  • Cluster Power:In your baby's first few months, she will sometimes want to group feed. This means having many short feeds together. It is perfectly normal and often coincides with agrowth bud(NHS Start4life nd). Go with the flow and feed him on demand if you can(NHS Start4life nd). Once your milk supply picks up, things should calm down.(NHS Start4life nd).
  • Dream feeding or focal feeding:This is when you partially wake your baby for bedtime feedings, usually between 10 p.m. m. and midnight.(Pablo and others 2016). Dream feeding can help your baby sleep longer if you do it regularly(Pablo and others 2016). If you decide to try dream feeding, allow plenty of time after your baby's last feeding of the day. Otherwise, you may wake your baby to feed him when he already has milk in his tummy.

You can read our article abouthelp your baby sleep through the nightfor more ideas.

How can I help my baby fall asleep without breastfeeding?

During the first few months, your newborn will sleep and wake up during the day and night. As he gets older, your baby may start to have a regular night schedule. She is beginning to understand that night is bedtime.

you can help your babylearn the difference between day and night(NHS 2018). During the day, keep things bright and loud and get out when you can.(NHS 2018).

At night, before bed and during night feedings, keep the lights low and try not to over-excite your child. Keepdiaper changeat night at minimum too, if you can(NHS 2018).

Around three months, many babies begin to settle down to sleep (but not all!)(St James-Roberts and others 2015). Around this age, you can try putting your baby in abedtime routine. Whatever you decide to include in your routine, make sure you do the same things in the same order every night. This will help your baby understand what is coming next. It won't be long before she begins to associate these activities, like a warm bath or a bedtime story, with sleep.(NHS 2018).

Try to put your baby to sleep when he is sleepy but still awake, such as after a feeding.(NHS 2018). You can give your baby his last feeding before his bedtime story orLullaby. This will help you separate eating from sleeping.(NHS 2018).

For starters, your baby may cry if he is awake when you put him to bed. She can help him learn to calm down by comforting him when he cries at first.(Blünden 2013). But, as the days and weeks go by, the idea is to gradually get him used to sleeping without you. You can do this by gradually reducing the amount of time you spend with him and by changing the things you do to calm him down.(Blünden 2013).

For example, you might start by stroking your baby to sleep, and then move to gently stroking him while he sleeps in his crib. The idea is that eventually your baby can fall asleep without you in the room.(Blünden 2013). As soon as your baby canfall asleep aloneat bedtime, you may find it easier to calm down when you wake up during the night.

As your baby approaches six months, he will be much more efficient at nursing and experimenting with his first foods. He will also become more physically active as he learns new and exciting skills, such as rolling over and sitting up.

All of this means that your baby is ready to sleep for longer periods during the night.(St James-Roberts and others 2015)and can last longer between feeds. As your baby gets older and starts eating solid foods, she will likely start to go without night feedings as well.(NHS 2017).

There will be times when your baby's sleep pattern will change. Just when she thought his son was sleeping regularly through the night, hesuddenly start to wake upevery few hours! It doesn't necessarily mean you're hungry. Many factors can cause a well-slept person to start waking up again, from teething to growth spurts to illness.(NHS 2018). Be patient and wait for it to pass. Soon he'll be back to sleeping through the night.

My baby still wakes up to eat at night. What I can do?

To help everyone rest, you can share part of the night care with your partner or a family member.(NHS 2018). Here are some things a nursing mother doesn't need to do.(NHS 2018).

  • giving a bottleexpress milk(NHS 2018). You can try this after the first six weeks, when your baby learns to breastfeed.
  • Windingand settle after a night feeding.
  • Getting up and dressing your baby after the first feeding in the morning so they can go back to sleep, especially on weekends(NHS 2018).

If you're still having trouble getting enough sleep, check out our article ondeal with sleep deprivation, or looking for a different onesleep training methodthat suits you and your baby.


BASE no. Cribs with sidecars, cribs by the bed and shared beds. Source of information on baby sleep. [Accessed November 2019]

BASE ndb. How parents share a bed: information for health professionals. Source of information on baby sleep. [Accessed November 2019]

BASE ndc. Bed sharing and breastfeeding: information for health professionals. Source of information on baby sleep. [Accessed November 2019]

BASE snd. Sleep and feeding method. Source of information on baby sleep. [Accessed November 2019]

Blunden, S. & Baills, A. 2013. Treatment of behavioral sleep problems: questions for parents. Journal of Sleep Disorders: Treatment and Care, 2(2), 1-7.

Doan T, Gay CL, Kennedy HP and others. 2014. Nighttime nursing behavior is associated with more nighttime sleep among first-time mothers one month postpartum.J Clin Sleep Med10(3):313-9 [Accessed November 2019]
The confidence of the lullaby. 2019.The Lullaby Trust: base de [Accessed November 2019]

NHS. 2018.Help your baby sleep.NHS, Health A-Z. [Accessed November 2019]

NHS. 2017.stop breastfeedingNHS, Health A-Z. [Accessed November 2019]

NHS Start4life. n/A. Breastfeeding: Your Questions Answered. NHS, Start of 4 lives. [Accessed November 2019]

Paul, I et al. 2016. INSIGHT Responsive parenting intervention and infant sleep. Pediatrics. July 2016; 138(1) [Accessed November 2019]

St James-Roberts I, Roberts M, Hovish K, et al. 2015. Video evidence that London babies can go back to sleep after waking at night, as well as sleep for prolonged periods, by 3 months of age.Pediatrics J Dev Behav36(5): 324–329. [Accessed December 2015]

UNICEF 2017. A guide for caregivers on caring for your baby at night. [Accessed November 2019]

Show referencesHide references


How many hours of sleep does a breastfeeding mom need? ›

Sleep experts agree that adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night to function properly. Newborns, however, sleep about 16-20 hours in a 24-hour cycle, but this sleep is disrupted with waking every 20 minutes to few hours - making it virtually impossible for a new mother to get those 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Is my baby getting enough milk if she falls asleep? ›

Some babies empty the breast in just a few minutes and fall asleep satisfied. You can usually tell that your baby has had enough when: you've heard gulping or swallowing while nursing. your breast feels less full after your baby has detached.

How do you dissociate sleep and breastfeeding? ›

How to stop breastfeeding to sleep. Try introducing new sleep associations or a new bed time routine. Replacing breastfeeding with a bath, warm drink, reading a story or rocking your baby to sleep takes more effort, and bed time may take longer that way than by breastfeeding, but it works for some families.

How do I know if I am eating enough while breastfeeding? ›

Signs of Poor Nutrition Postpartum

You may not be getting enough to eat as a new mom if you find yourself experiencing any of the following signs and symptoms: Feeling sluggish, lack of energy, and chronically fatigued. Recurring headaches. Lethargy.

Can I go 8 hours without breastfeeding at night? ›

Ultimately, if your baby has reached its birth weight and you're pumping enough milk during the day, it's okay to sleep eight hours without pumping at night. Keep in mind there is an adjustment period for your body as it begins to acclimate to the decrease in overnight milk removal.

Will sleeping 6 hours affect milk supply? ›

Letting your baby sleep for longer periods during the night won't hurt your breastfeeding efforts. Your growing baby can take in more milk during the day — and that, in turn, means longer stretches of sleep at night. Your milk supply will adjust to the new routine.

How do you know if your breast is empty? ›

How do I know whether my breasts are empty? There's no test or way to know for sure. In general, though, if you gently shake your breasts and they feel mostly soft and you don't feel the heaviness of milk sitting in them, you're probably fine.

Why is SIDS risk higher at 2 months? ›

SIDS is most common at 2-4 months of age when the cardiorespiratory system of all infants is in rapid transition and therefore unstable. So, all infants in this age range are at risk for dysfunction of neurological control of breathing.

Do underfed babies sleep less? ›

Signs that a baby is underfed or underfeeding include:

He fusses when put down. He demands full attention. He has trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep.

How quickly do breasts refill? ›

Despite views to the contrary, breasts are never truly empty. Milk is actually produced nonstop—before, during, and after feedings—so there's no need to wait between feedings for your breasts to refill.

Do soft breasts mean no milk? ›

Your breasts feel softer

This happens as your milk supply adjusts to your baby's needs. The initial breast fullness reduces in the first few weeks. At around 6 weeks, breast fullness is completely gone and your breasts may feel soft. This is completely normal and has no effect on your milk supply.

How fast does breast milk replenish? ›

If you're pumping for a freezer stash or to store milk for a future separation from your baby, try pumping shortly after you finish nursing – maybe 15 to 30 minutes. That way, your body will have an hour and a half or so to replenish breast milk for your next nursing session.

What happens if I don't eat enough when breastfeeding? ›

Your body requires more calories and nutrients to keep you and your baby nourished and healthy. If you're not eating enough calories or nutrient-rich foods, this can negatively affect the quality of your breast milk. It can also be detrimental for your own health.

What happens when a breastfeeding mom doesn't eat enough? ›

When you are nursing a baby, your body needs extra calories to make breast milk. Reducing the amount of food you eat, whether on purpose or by accident, can affect your breast-milk production, make nursing more difficult and derail your breast-feeding efforts entirely.

How much should I be eating while breastfeeding? ›

An additional 330 to 400 kilocalories (kcal) per day is recommended for well-nourished breastfeeding mothers, compared with the amount they were consuming before pregnancy (approximately 2,000 to 2,800 kcal per day for breastfeeding women verses 1,600 to 2,400 kcal per day for moderately active, non-pregnant women who ...

Can you eat too little while breastfeeding? ›

In fact, eating too few calories may impact your breastmilk supply. Aim to consume a minimum of 1500 to 1800 calories per day, depending on your individual needs. Any less than this and it may also be more difficult to get all the nutrients your body needs while nursing.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Ms. Lucile Johns

Last Updated: 16/08/2023

Views: 5623

Rating: 4 / 5 (61 voted)

Reviews: 84% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Ms. Lucile Johns

Birthday: 1999-11-16

Address: Suite 237 56046 Walsh Coves, West Enid, VT 46557

Phone: +59115435987187

Job: Education Supervisor

Hobby: Genealogy, Stone skipping, Skydiving, Nordic skating, Couponing, Coloring, Gardening

Introduction: My name is Ms. Lucile Johns, I am a successful, friendly, friendly, homely, adventurous, handsome, delightful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.