If you decide to breastfeed your baby, you will have to breastfeed on demand, both during the day and at night. Many young parents worry that their breastfed baby's night will be more difficult. They wonder how to get a breastfed baby to sleep, when he or she will sleep through the night, if breastfeeding has an impact on the sleep of the breastfed baby...
Indeed, it is often said that a breastfed baby sleeps through the night later than a bottle-fed baby.
So is this a fact or a false rumour? Is there a link between sleep and breastfeeding?
Is a breastfed baby's night more difficult?
This is a question that every young parent who breastfeeds their baby asks: why doesn't my breastfed baby sleep through the night?
In the womb, your little koko is constantly eating thanks to the umbilical cord. At birth, his stomach is immature and really small. It is therefore logical that a newborn baby needs to eat often and in small quantities, just like in the womb... And this is true regardless of the milk they consume (breast milk or infant formula). On average, babies suckle for 20 to 50 minutes and this 8 to 12 times in 24 hours.
Moreover, breast milk is easier to digest than infant milk. It takes about 1 hour for baby to digest breast milk, whereas infant milk takes 3 to 4 hours to digest. However, this difference in digestion time has no connection with the length of sleep of the breastfed baby! And nature is very well made as breast milk is nourishing and adjusts to the needs of your little koko throughout your breastfeeding.
Conclusion: sleep and breastfeeding are not incompatible. And the night of a breastfed baby is by definition no more chaotic than that of a bottle-fed baby.
Why doesn't a breastfed baby sleep through the night?
A newborn baby, whether breastfed or not, does not sleep through the night. On the contrary, here are 2 arguments that will motivate you to breastfeed your baby and that prove that sleep and breastfeeding are a perfect match...
- An American study measured and compared the sleep times of parents of 3-month-old babies. The parents of babies who breastfed in the evening and/or at night slept 40 to 45 minutes longer than the parents of bottle-fed babies.* According to this American study, breastfeeding helps baby sleep through the night.
- By the way, do you know what melatonin is? It is a hormone that we secrete and that helps us fall asleep. It also helps us synchronise our biological clock with the circadian rhythm (the 24-hour cycle to which most of our body functions are subject). Well, this melatonin increases in your milk at night. And just like us, it helps baby fall asleep and regulate his body clock! This is a good point to help your little koko to take a day/night rhythm...
When does baby sleep through the night with breastfeeding?
Sleeping through the night for a baby means sleeping for only 5 or 6 hours at a time... This is usually possible around 4 months. To give you an idea:
- At the age of 2 months, 25% of babies "sleep through the night".
- At 4 months, this increases to 75% of babies
- At 10 months, it is 90% of babies
And to achieve this long-awaited feat of sleeping through the night, your little koko must be able to :
- Distinguish between day and night (usually around 2 / 2.5 months)
- Store enough milk in his little stomach to meet his nightly needs (on average from 4 months)
Conclusion: it is difficult to know when baby sleeps through the night with breastfeeding. Whether breastfed or not, a newborn baby is nocturnal and the challenge is to help him get into his day/night rhythm.
How to help a breastfed baby sleep through the night?
- Your little koko is really hungry
- He just needs to be comforted
Breastfeeding without co-sleeping?It is questionable whether co-sleeping has an impact on the sleep of the breastfed baby.
It is clear that co-sleeping makes breastfeeding easier and the Leche League (a network and association that supports breastfeeding) advocates co-sleeping to facilitate breastfeeding. Indeed, the mother can respond more quickly, more easily and with less fatigue to the needs of her little koko.
Sharing the same room can also be a solution. As a reminder, the WHO (World Health Organisation) recommends sleeping in the same room as your baby for at least the first 6 months. The WHO is talking about room sharing here and not bed sharing.
It's up to you to observe your baby and understand his needs. Some babies need to be close to their parents. On the other hand, a baby who "smells" his mother's milk right next to him may more often demand the breast.
In the meantime, we wish your breastfed baby a good and long night! 🤱 💤
Photo credit : Alexandra Murcia
*Sources : “Breast-feeding increases sleep duration of new parents”, 2007, Kathryn A. Lee, PhD, RN, FAAN, School of Nursing/FHCN, University of California, San Francisco.