When a baby is born, it can be a challenge for parents to get them to sleep through the night. Breastfeeding is the best way to ensure that newborns get the nutrition they need and also helps them to sleep better. The first milk that comes in, known as colostrum, is packed with proteins and antibodies that help to nourish the baby and quench their thirst. Breastfeeding also helps to regulate the mother's prolactin levels, which is the hormone that encourages milk production.
It may seem like all you are doing is feeding your baby at first, but gradually you and your baby will settle into a pattern and the amount of milk produced will become more stable. As babies become more mobile and can turn from front to back and back again, it is okay for them to stay in whatever sleeping position they choose. It can be frustrating when you finish breastfeeding and go to sleep only for your baby to start crying or rooting. To prevent undernourishment, it is important to remember and encourage your baby to breastfeed every two to three hours during the day and every four hours at night.
As your baby gets older, they will start sleeping for longer periods of time, usually up to six or seven hours at night. Breastfed babies may have had more skin-to-skin contact which helps reduce their stress levels and makes it easier for them to sleep. This is when parents start expecting their baby to sleep through the night and compare notes with other families about infant sleep. The sooner mature milk arrives, the better your hungry baby will be breastfed and you may sleep longer.
It is a good idea to put your baby down for a nap or sleep when they seem sleepy but are not yet fully asleep. If newborns sleep for a while, they may be hungrier during the day and may want to breastfeed more often. If your baby has been breastfeeding all night, they will often sleep more soundly and for longer periods of time closer to morning. Breastfeeding at night is important because this is when more hormones (prolactin) are produced which helps increase milk production. Hahn-Holbrook and colleagues point out that an irregular “milk” diet could interfere with the development of a baby's circadian rhythms, contributing to sleep problems.
Therefore, it is important for parents to remember that breastfeeding their newborns regularly throughout the day and night will help them get the nutrition they need as well as helping them sleep better.