There's so much divisiveness in our parenting culture in how mothers feed their children. To some, breastfeeding is more convenient, but to others, formula-feeding is easier. So, who is right? Honestly, I have both breastfed and formula-fed babies, and can tell you both have positives and negatives. One thing's for sure, though, whether you breastfeed, formula-feed, combo-feed, or pump, babies need to eat around the clock, and that means you will become intimately acquainted with night feedings. I asked breastfeeding and formula-feeding moms to describe night feedings as they experienced them, and I think I may have discovered some common ground in the so-called mommy wars: a love-hate relationship with night feedings. Seriously, the struggle is real, regardless.
On one hand, night feedings mean quiet moments of baby snuggles and stillness that really only happen at 2:00 a.m. when no one else is awake. Plus, your baby is only little once (or so everyone tells you all the damn time) and there's something to be said for holding that little one in your arms as often as possible. So when my second baby was born, I cherished those moments. It was actually my favorite part of maternity leave. I loved being with him and catching up on reading or Netflix and just being, well, us.
On the the other hand, sleep is life. And OMG, I miss sleep. It seems like it doesn't matter what my partner and I do, either — whether we room share with our youngest or put him to bed in his nursery at night — I never get enough sleep. I'm always waking up at his every peep or having to walk across the house to feed him. So, as you can imagine, I am so ready for him to stop waking up to eat at night. I know logically that he probably doesn't need to eat, but I don't know how to quit when it's the only thing that puts him back to sleep. On the plus side, because we formula-feed I can share these late-night wake-up calls with my husband. At least both of us are tired, right?
So, if you breastfeed, formula-feed, or combo-feed your baby, and are ready to nod — or shudder — in commiseration, read on for some real stories of night feeding from moms who've been there and lived to tell the tale. Guys, we truly aren't that different, regardless of how we choose to feed our little ones.
"I hated them at first — for the loss of sleep — but I grew to appreciate, and to even enjoy them. I began to listen to podcasts and audio books during those intervals and subsequently increased my knowledge in some areas. It also allowed me to read some books I'd been meaning to read, and to have a bit of time where it was just me and a feeding, quiet baby. I have breastfed, combo-fed and formula-fed five babies."
"I breastfed, and loved night time feedings with my first. The house was quiet and there were no distractions. It was just me and him hanging out together. Those quiet nights are really some of my fondest memories of his first year."
"I breastfed and combo-fed. With my second, my husband took over one of the night feedings, for which I was grateful, but then I felt like I had to pump every time he fed a bottle because I was so freaked out that my supply would start to dwindle. The pumping made me miserable, and kind of defeated the purpose of his taking over that one feeding, but I kept doing it because 'oh no, don't threaten the supply.' Finally, I decided, enough, I'm just going to drop that pumping session and take some time for myself. Oh my god, I wish I had done that earlier. Nothing happened to my supply, but I was so happy to finally have that break."
"Night feeds for me were quite different, as a pumping mum. To start with, I tried feeding [my daughter], then settling her, and pumping after, but I ended up not getting any sleep, because by the time I was done, she needed to eat again. So, my husband ended up taking over the night feedings — I'd get up, warm up a bottle while he changed her, then I'd pump while he fed her."
"I have a love-hate relationship with night feedings. Our system is pretty simple. My husband changes her diaper, while I make the bottle, then I feed her most of the time. The interrupted sleep sucks, but it’s so quiet and peaceful (as soon as she has the bottle in her mouth, obviously). And it’s when I get most of my reading done. It’s not horrible, but I’ll definitely be glad when this stage is over."
"Twins. Breastfeeding. Refused to sleep on same schedule (and yes, I tried everything). I remember nearly nothing from the first six months."
"I have a 2-week-old and am in the thick of this right now. He's having trouble latching, so I'm exclusively pumping. This is great because it means dad can share the late night feedings with me! We switch it up, but generally I go to bed earlier and he either stays up or gets up for the inevitable midnight to 2:00 a.m. feeding, and then I wake up for the 4:00 am.m or 5:00 a.m. feeding. This works especially well because I wake up really needing to pump and get my biggest output of the day early in the morning. I'll give my son a bottle as soon as possible, put him back down, and then do my first pump of the day. Then we either all go back to bed with dad, or I decide I'm up for the day and make coffee."
"Breastfeeding/co-sleeping mom here. In the beginning, it's pretty much a nightmare. I never felt rested. No sleep at the hospital just segued into no sleep at home. With the first two babies, my partner would change a diaper and give them back for me to feed, but my kids never ever ever took a bottle so it was all on me. Until they were bigger, and I got the hang of side lying nursing, there were tears.
Luckily, I didn't have babies that couldn't be soothed. So, a few minutes of nursing they'd just go back to sleep. It was really hard, though, and I know lots of people say just suck it up, but I was so damn tired that just one feed and put down from someone else would have been a godsend. Oh well, though. I survived. So did they."
"I formula-feed and am really strict about my son sleeping in a separate sleep space, alone, on his back. His bassinet is next to my bed. He’s a really good baby but he has a really weak suck. When I’m sleep deprived and I go to get a bottle out of the fridge, come back, hold him while scared of falling asleep with him, and feed him for an hour or longer. I start to get really frustrated with how long it takes, despite how adorable he is. I just want to go back to sleep, and I sometimes resent how long he takes and how I wish it was safe to co-sleep."
"I have a breastfed 12-week-old, and night feedings are my favorite feedings, because although he wakes up two or three times, he'll nurse for 15 minutes and then fall right back asleep. He sleeps in our room, too, so I don't even bother turning on a light at night."
"Breastfed my first because I was afraid of formula. I just remember it being miserable. My postpartum depression was in high gear, my nipples bled, my nipples hurts, the stupid nipple shield made it all more complicated, and the baby woke every 1.5 - 2.5 hours. I was so sleep-deprived and unhappy. I watched a lot of Netflix to stay awake. I resented my husband for sleeping and yet wouldn’t let him give the baby a bottle. It was miserable until we sleep trained, and I started feeding him one to two times per night."
"Guilt-inducing, quite honestly. I combo-feed but typically nursed at night so I don't have to deal with making and heating bottles. I don't birth good sleepers, apparently, and each night waking is a reminder of that. I know I should be following all the sleep training rules, but extinction, pickup/put down, pat/shushing will just result in baby waking up 15-30 minutes later again. A feed will buy me two or three hours. So, I sit quietly in the dark contemplating all the things I'm doing wrong and hoping that the transfer to the crib will be successful this time."
"Mostly breastfed, but I went back to work and my husband stayed home (after 12 weeks) so night feedings were mostly his domain. I usually took the feeding around midnight, and he took the one around 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. I would describe them as mostly peaceful. Sometimes a relief. There were times when I woke up so engorged that I had to pump in the middle of the night, because I'd slept through a feeding or he'd awesomely handled it."
"I am breastfeeding my 9-month-old. I think night feedings can be enjoyable, but with a bad sleeper I struggled a lot with them, especially during the newborn phase. She was cluster-feeding so much at the beginning, and I barely got a break. I was glued to my smart phone in order to stay awake, and I probably made more than one bad online shopping decision as a result. I often felt so lonely, wondering if she was getting enough milk, if I was doing it right, and wondering if I would ever sleep again. Now that she is 9-months-old, I am hoping to finally night wean her. She still likes to feed two times a night, and I am thinking that it is more out of habit. So, while I don't have the feelings of doubt any more it's still not my favorite part of parenting."
"I'm a breastfeeding parent still nursing at 15 months and struggling to night wean. I've never been a fan of night feedings. I wish my partner could get up during the night sometimes, because I feel like I'd probably be less sleep deprived if we could have taken turns. I feel like I haven't gotten a full night of sleep since... well, since she was born. And the truth is that I probably haven't. Sometimes I'll try to let her cry, and it works sometimes. Other times, though, she just screams until I go to nurse her back to sleep. I think at one point I didn't mind night feedings so much, back when they were more necessary. Now, however, I do wish I had sleep trained her much earlier. I'm so tired from a year of doing this that I often fall asleep during them."
"I formula-fed, and night feedings were awful. I suffered from postpartum depression, and the constant waking (about every two to three hours) was torture. I have a neighbor who leaves his house at 4:45 a.m. (he has a Mustang, and it starts up loud), and I remember thinking, 'At least someone else is up with me'. My husband only really helped during the night on the weekends, when I was on leave. My little one also would spit up, while sleeping, so I would stay up a half hour after feeding her, which just shortened the time between the next night feeding."
"I felt that night feedings were where we really bonded. Me half asleep, baby asleep, no sound, just me and him and a bottle having a cuddle. My boys were both great at settling back to sleep milk drunk after night feeds, and it always seemed to feel like a special like moment between us. Even through the sleep deprivation."
"For me, personally and as someone who puts sleep above all (seriously), night feedings sucked. When I breastfed, it sucked. When I formula fed, it sucked. Oh, and when I exclusively pumped it triple sucked. However, it's very short lived and once they sleep through the night, you kind of realize how special those middle of the night moments were."
"I was a breastfeeding mom. I struggled a lot with proper latch, so it wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience in the beginning. There’s so much pressure to keep going, so I felt like I didn’t really have a choice. It was exhausting. I used to glare at my peacefully sleeping husband and his useless nipples whenever I got up for what seemed like the millionth time to feed our daughter. Finally being able to night wean was such a relief for me. I’m a much better mom (and overall human being) when I get my sleep."
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