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Food & Health

5 Tips To Deal With Sleep Deprivation When Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding provides many benefits for both mother and baby. However, waking up to nurse the baby can affect the amount and quality of sleep received, which can affect your ability to provide the care your baby needs.

Benefits of breastfeeding

If you can, it is best to exclusively breastfeed your newborn for at least 6 months. This is because breast milk provides many benefits for your baby, such as the ideal amount of nutrients and antibodies that nourish and protect against various viruses and bacteria.

When breastfeeding, you are:

  • Providing your baby with important antibodies
  • Reducing the risk of your baby developing illnesses and diseases
  • Promoting healthy weight gain and preventing childhood obesity for your baby
  • Promoting cognitive development in your baby

In addition, breastfeeding has benefits for mothers too:

  • May lose more weight than mothers who don’t breastfeed
  • Experience quicker involution (the process of the uterus contracting to regular size)
  • Have a lower risk of depression, cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis
  • May experience a pause in menstruation

5 Tips to deal with sleep deprivation when feeding on cue

As a new mother, sleep becomes a precious luxury as having to breastfeed on demand can take its toll as the amount and quality of sleep get disrupted. Breastfeeding on demand can be exhausting, but things get easier 4 to 6 weeks after you give birth. But until then, here are 5 tips to help you breastfeed your baby on cue, while managing sleep deprivation:

#1 Take a nap

Naps can be surprisingly restorative when sleep is in short supply. The human brain can adjust your sleep cycles, and ensure that you sleep more deeply when you’ve been sleep deprived. This means a few 30-minute power naps can help to reverse many of the ill-effects of severe sleep deprivation.

#2 Take in natural light

Expose yourself and your baby to as much natural sunlight during the day and avoid bright lights in the home at night. This is because the human brain uses light cues to tune its “inner clock”. Keeping to natural light patterns will help you to preserve healthy circadian rhythms, making it easier for you to resume regular sleeping patterns as your baby matures. Natural sunlight also helps your baby develop his own sleep rhythms.

#3 Ask for help

You don’t have to do it all. Get your partner, relative, and friends to pitch in anytime you feel overwhelmed. Consider expressing your breastmilk and allow someone else to feed your baby while you enjoy a well-deserved nap. Whenever help is available, don’t waste the free time you have by completing other household chores or running errands. Take advantage of opportunities like these to rest and catch up on your sleep.

#4 Share a room with your baby

You can place a bedside sleeper or bassinet in your room to keep your baby within arm’s reach. This way, when your baby awakens at night for feeding, you won’t have to leave your room to tend to your baby. The minimal disruption will make it easier for you to provide night-time feedings.

#5 Try baby-wearing

Carrying your baby in a holder strapped to you helps you breastfeed on demand. You are more likely to notice when your baby begins showing signs of hunger. In addition, research shows that babies who are included in their mother’s day-to-day activities are quicker to adopt mature rhythms of waking and sleeping. This means baby-wearing can help your baby develop the habit of sleeping for longer stretches of time during the night and this gives you the sleep you need too.

Lactation experts encourage all new moms to breastfeed exclusively the first 3 to 4 weeks. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of your baby’s age. Supplemental feeding may lead to a decreased milk supply and also increased chances of baby developing “nipple confusion,” a condition where your baby prefers sucking milk from a bottle over human breast.

Mothers need to weigh these risks against the risks of severe sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation parents are more prone to accident and at higher risk for developing postpartum depression. Having an occasional 3 to 4 hour breastfeeding break is unlikely to impede your breastfeeding success, so do not hesitate to accept that offer from a friend or relative to babysit once in a while, to catch up on that much needed sleep.

If you have more questions about breastfeeding, make an appointment with your lactation consultant, or write in to us.

The original article was first published on Health Plus. Republished with permission