Surviving Middle-of-the-Night Feedings
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Reduce exhaustion and make it through the night
Feeding your baby can be a wonderful bonding experience, but Solo Moms can never get a break: you will always be on duty for nighttime feedings. When coping with little sleep, a full day, and possibly other little ones at home, it can be an exhausting and draining experience. Here are a few nighttime hacks that will make life easier for you and your baby during middle-of-the-night feedings.
Go to bed. It sounds easy, right? I’m a nursing Solo Mom, and getting to bed at a decent hour is the hardest part of my day. After my baby goes to bed, that is the time I work, eat, clean the house, and do any other activities I couldn’t get to during the day. My favorite, though, includes a glass of wine after a very long day. But on nights that I have listened to my inner voice and go to bed before 11:00 p.m., I have been able to cope much more easily with the many feedings during the night. Especially during the earlier months when I was awake every two hours. Sleep helps regenerate the body, and chances are you will be able to think more clearly, be happier, and have a better immune system to fight off colds and the flu. Plus some studies show that lack of sleep could have negative effects on your milk supply, and getting plenty of rest can help build it back up.
Start sleep training. Sleep training is tough but can be very effective. I wish I had started sleep training as soon as my daughter showed signs of needing some help in the napping and nighttime-sleep department. Once your baby is a few months old, you can start sleep training with your pediatrician’s OK. There are many methods: cry it out, often referred to as the Ferber method; no-cry sleep solutions; and more. Take some time to read about the many options while you are nursing your baby in the early weeks, and you could possibly look forward to more hours of sleep in your future.
Read, watch movies, and binge-watch TV. During the first three months of your baby’s life, feedings may be over an hour each, and you might want something to do while you are nursing or bottle-feeding. I found it helpful to have several books within reach, mostly on baby topics, so I could use the time to educate myself. Another favorite nighttime activity during feedings included binging on TV shows and movies, and becoming familiar with Netflix and several other streaming programs. It took my mind off of my lack of sleep, kept me awake, and helped pass the time. It was really helpful to wear headphones so I could hear what I was watching but not disturb her feeding.
Prepare bottles ahead of time. If you are not breastfeeding or choose to bottle-feed during the night, prepare your night bottles before you go to bed. The last thing you will want to do in the middle of the night is go down to the kitchen and prepare a bottle. Streamline your nighttime duties, and keep things simple.
Keep your breast pump close by. Some nights, my infant daughter would fall asleep mid-feed, and I couldn’t wake her. My breasts were partially full, and I didn’t want to lose milk by not emptying them. Pumping gave me quick relief while helping me stock up for later use. I would keep an insulated bag with a freezer pack by my bed at night so I wouldn’t have to go to the kitchen and then place the milk in the freezer in the morning.
Wear comfortable and nursing-friendly sleepwear. If you are nursing, good pj’s are going to be a very important aid to your sleep routine. If you have just had your baby and are still having night sweats, I recommend you leave one or two extra pairs of pajamas out near your bed. Put a towel down under yourself to keep the bed clean and dry. That way, you can easily put on fresh, dry clothing between feedings.
Nursing-friendly tops are great for getting your baby to the breast quickly and eliminating fuss during the night. Be sure to wear clothing that is not too tight, and don’t wear a regular bra to bed. If you need extra support, choose a cotton nursing bra or tank.
Find good nursing pads. As your breasts start to get used to larger amounts of milk and the ever-changing schedule of your feedings over many months, you will have periods of breast-milk leaking during the night. Find a brand of nursing pads you like to keep yourself dry.
Use an alarm clock. If you have an infant who loves to sleep and you need to keep him or her on a strict feeding schedule, an alarm clock will save you from missing your important date with your baby during the night. Set your phone alarm for every feeding, regardless of whether your baby is waking on his or her own during the night or at regular intervals. I tried this and recommend it—it gave me peace of mind knowing that I didn’t need to rely on myself in a sleep-deprived state to wake up at the correct time.
Call your friends overseas. Why not take advantage of the late-night hours and call your friends or family members who are living overseas? You will be racking up a lot of time in the nursing chair, and everyone will be so excited to hear about your little one and catch up on events.
What real-life hacks worked for you to pass the time during middle-of-the-night feedings?
Rebecca Cherry is an accomplished musician, writer, and creative seeker. She is enjoying her new role as a Solo Mom to her baby girl. You can follow her on Twitter at @CherryRebecca and Facebook at Rebecca Cherry.
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