You dutifully (albeit begrudgingly) wake up in the wee hours of the morning to breastfeed your baby. You barely have one eye cracked open when you realize that your little one is still soundly snoozing in his crib. So… what do you do? Do you jump back into bed, or do you wake up your baby to nurse? And if you don’t wake up to breastfeed every few hours, will it ruin your supply?
Let’s just state the obvious: Leaving your warm, welcoming bed to breastfeed at the break of dawn isn’t exactly fun. So it makes sense that you might want to push the feeding schedule a bit to score more snooze time. (Really, who wouldn’t?) But whether you should sleep in or not comes down to the age of your baby, Darcy Sauers, a certified postpartum doula in New Hampshire, tells Romper. “During the first two weeks, it is very important that you wake your baby to feed every 2-3 hours at least,” says Sauers. “This will ensure that your baby is getting enough nutrition and not sleeping through the night and missing a feeding.”
Not only does this benefit your baby, but your boobs, too. After all, the more that you nurse, the more milk you’ll make. “During these first two weeks, your baby's frequent feedings are cueing your body to make plenty of milk,” says Sauers. “Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand, so the more your baby nurses at the breast, the more milk your body will make.” So even if you're beyond exhausted, you’ll need to nurse your newborn every 2-3 hours for those first few weeks to establish your supply and get your baby on a schedule.
But let’s say that you skip a feeding. Will it really matter? “Missing just one feeding shouldn't affect a mom's milk supply,” registered nurse and lactation consultant Andrea Tran, RN, IBCLC, tells Romper. “If her milk supply is not established, missing the same feeding a couple of nights in a row can, though.”
And if you miss feedings while your baby is still in the newborn stage, it can wreak havoc not just on his eating schedule, but your breasts, too. “Letting the baby sleep for more than 2-3 hours in the first two weeks of life can lead to low milk supply, engorgement (which can be painful and make it harder for baby to nap), and clogged ducts,” says Sauers. And if you’ve ever experienced engorgement, you’ll really have to weigh if it’s worth it to have rock hard boobies in exchange for an extra hour of sleep.
The good news is that once your baby is past the 2-week mark, missing a feeding isn’t as big of a deal. “Once breastfeeding is well established (meaning baby is more than 2 weeks old and is back to their birth weight, gaining weight well, and having lots of pee and poop diapers), then you can let the baby sleep for as long as they can at night,” advises Sauers. “It's still important to breastfeed every 2-3 hours during the day to help them learn to eat during the day and do longer stretches of sleep at night.”
As unbelievably tired as you might be, you'll just have to suck it up for at least the first few weeks of your child’s life while baby, well, does the same.
Andrea Tran, RN, IBCLC, a registered nurse and lactation consultant
Darcy Sauers, a certified postpartum doula in New Hampshire