New moms probably don’t need reminding that newborns eat every few hours. As you feel yourself turning into a sleep-deprived zombie, you may start to wonder: How much should I sleep if I’m breastfeeding? Will all these wakeful nights affect your supply? Experts agree that while sleep may be harder than ever to come by, it’s still an important part of keeping a new mom healthy.
“Sleep is a hot commodity in the first few days and weeks after birth, especially when breastfeeding,” Maureen McCormick IBCLC, lactation coordinator at Northwell Health in New York City, tells Romper.
“Rest, decreased stress, and staying hydrated are all important factors in making and keeping a milk supply. But this is tricky, because the best way to make milk is to remove it often. Mothers should try to rely on short periods of rest throughout the day while feeding frequently in the beginning.”
McCormick adds that breastfeeding moms should ask for a lot of nighttime support from their partners or family members visiting to help out in the early days. Also, steal sleep wherever you can.
“Since Mom is the only one making the milk, support persons should do everything else in the beginning, like change, swaddle, burp, and soothe. Don’t look for long stretches of sleep; instead, take advantage of the short time in between feeds and rest. Once milk is established, try and offer more feeds during the day and in the evenings.”
Timothy J. Rafael, M.D., board-certified OB-GYN, tells Romper that while sleep is obviously important, not getting enough of it won’t tank your milk supply.
“Overall, sleep experts agree that adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night, and if you say that number to a nursing patient, she’s probably going to laugh at you in that she may not be getting nearly enough,” he says. “Regardless of breastfeeding, lack of sleep is a major stress for the mother and the mother’s partner in any pregnancy. As far as trying to maintain adequate milk production, the big thing is adequate caloric intake. The patient should be eating a well-balanced diet from 2,000 to 2,200 calories a day, and constantly expressing breast milk. Pumping or manual expression will maintain that milk supply as opposed to being concerned if you’re not getting 7 hours of sleep a night.”
If you’re a breastfeeding mama who desperately wants to sleep through the night, Rafael says not to fall into a common myth that switching to formula will give you more rest. Babies have to eat regardless of what they’re consuming, so it’s more about asking for help from those around you.
“Keep where the baby is sleeping right next to your bed. If possible, take daytime naps if you’re able to. Also, have partner assistance over the course of the night where a woman can pump and maybe have a continued period of sleep, and her partner and she can alternate nights as far as feeding. We’ve found there’s no evidence switching to formula improves maternal sleep, and the data we have suggests formula feeding doesn’t equate to moms sleeping more at night. They’re doing something amazing for their child and patients should be offered all the encouragement and support they need.”
Maureen McCormick, BSN, IBCLC, lactation coordinator at Northwell Health in New York City