Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding, the amount of information about the how, why, when, and OMG-this-is-the-only-way can feel a little overwhelming. Of course, when it comes to nighttime feedings, you have to be aware of one very specific thing — falling asleep while feeding because doing so poses a risk to your little one. But, man, you are flipping tired, so knowing how to stay awake for nighttime feedings can feel like an answered prayer. But are there any tricks, or do you just have to power through?
“Waking through the night for feedings and changing is one of the expected, yet hardest parts of a mom’s job,” E. Danielle Butler, a writer, speaker, and mom of two, tells Romper in an email interview. “Other life responsibilities compound the difficulty by requiring mommy to fight the urge to slumber while baby eats.”
As a mom of six, Katie Griffin says she distinctly recalls the fear attached to falling asleep while breastfeeding in the middle of the night.
“I would nurse the baby while sitting up in bed, leaning against the wall, and relying on my willpower,” Griffin, who is a registered nurse and the founder of Kopa Birth®, tells Romper in an email interview. “Exhaustion usually won over willpower! I would often wake in the middle of the night with a sleeping baby in my arms and a kink in my neck.”
Butler and Griffin both agree that somewhere in the midst of those late nights, they discovered strategies that can help other moms who might be navigating similar, sleepy waters.
Griffin says rule number one is simple: get out of bed. (OK, so maybe it's a little hard.) But bringing your baby to bed to breastfeed makes it “virtually impossible to stay awake when you're tired, lying in bed, and snuggled up next to your warm baby,” she says. Instead, she recommends getting up to sit in a rocking chair that will be much less likely to put you to sleep. Griffin also cautions that moms should avoid couches or comfy chairs to avoid posing a suffocation risk to baby.
“Consider also setting a five-minute, vibrating alarm on your smart phone or watch,” she says, adding that if your baby is still eating when the alarm goes off, then you should just set it for another five minutes. “While it might not keep you awake, it will help to wake you up if you accidentally fall asleep during a feeding.”
Butler says that a light snack also doesn’t hurt. If you are breastfeeding, then not only will something crunchy help replenish nutrients required for nursing, but it will keep your eyes open. Bottle feeding moms will find a little nosh will help them from snoozing too. You may also want to consider catching up on a book, Butler adds.
“If adjusting a light while maneuvering a book and feeding baby is too cumbersome, many of the electronic reading devices offer a 'night reading' option," she says. "The low-light will help you stay a bit more alert while not completely disturbing baby.”
Of course, if you are like Welmoed Sisson of Maryland, then she simply opted for a paperback book when she woke up to breastfeed her two children. "My rule was that I could only read this book during night feedings and when the baby was done feeding, I wasn't allowed to keep reading. This made me almost look forward to the 2:00 a.m. wake-up call!"
Music to your ears, right? Night feedings can be difficult, but they're necessary and your baby's safety is important. If these tips don't work, talk to your friends with experience so you can find something that works for you.