August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. I would like to take this opportunity to share some of the wonderful benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child.
Not only does breastfeeding provide a unique bonding opportunity, a mother’s breastmilk offers antibodies that can help protect her baby from illness. According to womenshealth.gov, research suggests that breastfed babies have lower risks of such illnesses as asthma, childhood obesity, ear infections, eczema, diarrhea and vomiting, lower respiratory infections, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and Type 2 diabetes.
Breastfeeding can also provide many health benefits for mothers. According to healthychildren.org, “mothers who breastfeed recover from childbirth more quickly and easily. The hormone oxytocin, released during breastfeeding acts to return the uterus to its regular size more quickly, and can reduce postpartum bleeding. Studies show that women who have breastfed experience reduced rates of breast and ovarian cancer later in life. Some studies have found that breastfeeding may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease including high blood pressure and high cholesterol.”
Feeding Your Infant
Newborns can eat up to twelve times in a 24 hour period. It’s best at this young age to feed your baby on demand as their nervous system isn’t mature enough for a feeding schedule. Additionally, feeding on demand is a good way to help establish your milk supply. You can often pick up your baby’s hunger cues before they start getting upset. Look for increased alertness and/ or rooting around for your breast.
Breastfeeding and Sleep Training
When it comes to sleep, breastfed babies can sleep as well and as long as bottle fed babies. However, breastfed babies are more likely to fall asleep while being fed. This is a wonderful feeling having your baby fall asleep as you nurse, but it can also create a strong nurse/sleep association. As your baby gets older, practice waking your baby after nursing and putting him down drowsy but awake, or have dad or a caregiver put him down. This will help your baby learn how to self-soothe.
After the age of two months, babies eat more during the day and can sleep longer intervals at night. If your baby wakes within a couple of hours of eating, try singing, shushing, rocking, replacing a pacifier, rubbing or patting, before offering breast or bottle. It’s easy to always default to feeding, but it may not be necessary. Teaching your baby new skills is a wonderful goal to have.
A baby’s sleep habits can change due to growth spurts and milestones. It’s very tempting in the night to begin feeding if they suddenly start waking. Try to resist doing this as it can become habit forming, and lead to even more night wakings. Instead, use the same soothing techniques suggested above, or offer a bottle of water if all else fails.
If your baby begins to drop a night feed, pump at the time your baby would normally wake and then gradually wean. If you stop abruptly this could affect your milk supply as well as cause discomfort. Likewise, nightly pumping may be necessary when your baby begins to give up night feedings.
Bonding With Dad
Within the first few weeks of life, try offering a bottle so your baby can get used to it. Have dad do the feed. This will allow you to get some extra rest, encourage bonding between dad and your baby, and introduce your baby to self-soothing skills.
A mom’s ability to breastfeed is one of life’s amazing gifts. Breastfeeding not only provides your child with a healthy start to life, but the soothing routine helps to settle your little one into a good night’s rest. In addition, finding the right balance between feeding times and sleep schedules can help your little one build healthy sleep habits.
Once your baby approaches the age of four months, you can begin to put your baby on a sleep schedule. For some babies this is not an easy transition, and you may find you need help. As your Pediatric Sleep Specialist, I know your baby and family situation is absolutely unique. Understanding your baby’s sleep issues as well as your parenting philosophy and style, I will create a customized sleep plan to get your entire family sleeping again. If you think you and your family could benefit from a Child Sleep Specialist be sure to review my sleep success plans or contact me for additional information.
Please let me know if you found this information helpful.
Angela Walsh is a Family Sleep Institute, Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant and the founder of Babes in Sleepland. She helps sleep deprived babies, children and families, get back on track and get the sleep they need and desire. To learn more about Angela and how she can help you, visit her website: babesinsleepland.com. Also get sleep tips, the latest research on baby and child products, and be part of her weekly Q and A at her Facebook page: Babes in Sleepland.