When babies are first born, they can’t sleep through the night. Even if they could, it wouldn’t be healthy. A newborn baby needs nighttime feedings. They need to nurse every two to four hours. Their little tummies can’t digest enough breast milk or formula to tide them over any longer than that.
Needless to say, this can lead to some very sleepy mommies. This is especially true if you are breastfeeding your baby.
Until you train them, most babies have very little sense of night and day. When they feel hungry, they’re ready to eat. So, when is it OK to start making baby sleep through the night and wait until morning to eat? How do you train a baby to wait until the sun comes up for the next feeding?
First of all, it’s important to realize that there’s nothing wrong with nighttime feeding. If you’re doing OK with it, and don’t have any desire to make baby wait for the sunrise, don’t feel like you’re doing him a disservice by nursing him whenever he’s hungry. The vast majority of babies eventually figure out it’s more fun to be awake during the daytime. They will naturally start sleeping through the night sooner or later.
With that said, there comes a time when parents need a little sleep, too. It’s OK to make an older baby wait until morning for the next feeding, provided you’re feeding him enough during the day. Here are some suggestions for helping baby transition from viewing mommy as the 24 hour diner to understanding that Mom’s all you can eat buffet has closing hours:
- Try to give baby a good feeding right before bedtime. If you have to, wake baby up for a feeding right before you go to bed.
- Let dad take a turn helping baby get back to sleep (especially if you are breastfeeding).
- Sleep in another room. Whether you move baby to his own room or sleep in the living room for a few nights, baby won’t see you when he wakes up. Many babies will wake up less frequently if nursing is not readily available.
- Say no. It won’t hurt your older baby to be told no occasionally. Of course, you’ll want to stay firm but calm when you do this.
- Talk with your baby. By the time your baby is a year and a half old, he understands short, simple sentences. He understands words much sooner. Tell him nighttime feedings are over. Make a habit of telling him when you lay him down that he can nurse again when the sun comes out.