Here's Why It's Harder To Breastfeed At Night

by Tessa Shull

Moms who embark upon the breastfeeding journey run into several new and difficult avenues that create questions. One major area in particular is the amount of exhaustion and frequency that come with breastfeeding at night. It can be overwhelming at first, and it's not uncommon to feel that breastfeeding is different or more difficult than expected. Especially taking into account lack of sleep and nighttime feedings, you may begin to wonder, "Is it harder to breastfeed at night?" Or perhaps you're just exhausted.

Exhaustion does actually play into the equation, however, of whether or not breastfeeding is harder at night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, when you've been awake for a long period of time, sleep/wake homeostasis tells you a need for sleep is accumulating and when it's time to sleep, while the internal circadian biological clocks regulate sleepiness and wakefulness. One of the strongest sleep drives occurs between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. and is stronger when you're sleep deprived. Because of this, sleep drive and deprivation can contribute to the difficulty of breastfeeding at night. Consider that it may take your body some time to adjust to its new sleep schedule and find ways throughout each day to get more rest to prevent feeling as tired.

According to New Parent, difficulty breastfeeding at night isn't just related to lack of sleep, but also because your body burns around 500 calories a day from breastfeeding alone. When you think back to a time you've started a new workout or a rigorous routine, you often find yourself much more tired in the evening and potentially the morning as well. In reference to your new breastfeeding routine and burning more calories throughout the day, it can making waking up at night and your ability to focus or think much more difficult. Again, it's important to remember your body will adjust to burning more calories. Consider grabbing an extra, healthy snack here and there to help fuel your body while it's breastfeeding.

Although there are a couple major reasons that contribute to the difficulty of feedings at night, there are key benefits to nighttime breastfeeding that may give you just the inspiration you need. According to Today's Parent, your body produces more prolactin at night, which means night feedings boost your milk production. In a study Breastfeed Chicago shared, breastfeeding moms also get more sleep than formula-feeding moms because there's less prep that goes into breastfeeding. So if you feel that breastfeeding in the night is harder than normal, you're not wrong, but there are benefits that easily counteract the difficulties.

If you're looking for more ways to take away from the exhaustion or new routine that may be contributing to your difficulty breastfeeding at night, the previous article mentioned from Today's Parent had some great suggestions: find a comfortable position to rest in while breastfeeding, and keep your baby close so you're not completely jolting yourself out of sleep to feed at night.