Is breastfeeding and sleep really compatible?

(62 Posts)
mimmi91 Thu 03-Dec-20 15:13:30

Hello fellow mums!

How strange to be posting on Mumsnet again, last time I did was almost a year ago when I needed confirmation of a 2nd faint line on my pregnancy test grin

Anyway, I am now the proud mother of a 10 week old little girl. And obviously having problems with sleep hah!

I am dead set on breastfeeding, and did find it really hard in the beginning. However it’s now going really well, and I really enjoy not having to heat up bottles, and being able to bond with my baby etc.

However, I am really starting to wonder if breastfeeding is really compatible with us both sleeping properly. Speaking to other mums of 2-month old babies who are bottle fed, they now all seem to “go down” for naps at specific times, have set bedtimes at night, and sleep for super long stretches ; if not through the night!!!

My experience is so much more chaotic thus far... there is absolutely no routine to speak of, as she still eats at various times each day and night (I feed on demand), and I am therefore never able to “put her to bed” or “put her down” for naps. Most of the time she’ll just sleep in my arms after breastfeeding, and wakes up as soon as I put her down (be it in her sleepyhead or next-to-me bed). At night she’ll fall asleep in my arms while I eat dinner or watch TV, and I’ll then transfer her into her bed when I myself go to bed around 10pm. It’s impossible to put her down alone in there before then. In the middle of the night she’ll wake at least twice to eat, which I obviously find perfectly acceptable, but will then NOT accept to be put back down in her bed... so I’m always up most of the night popping her dummy back in, or stroking her face, until it’s time for her next feeding! I’m exhausted!!

I have such a strong feeling that it would all be so much easier if she were bottle fed... because I’d be able to establish a proper routine.

Hence my question ; is it at all possible to really get proper sleep while breastfeeding?! blush

OP’s posts: |
PlanDeRaccordement Thu 03-Dec-20 15:20:00

You didn’t mention the father, so forgive me if you are a single parent.
What we did for the night time feeds is I breastfed the baby, then woke up my DH and he did the nappy changes and walking them back to sleep. This was the only way to fairly split the sleep deprivation in half.
Plus at around the 10weeks is the age when I was back to work full time and so we were both working full time so it would not have been fair for me to do night time feeds by myself.

Dillybear Thu 03-Dec-20 15:49:19

I bf my DD (9 months) and she started sleeping through the night at eight months (we’ll see how long this lasts!!). I don’t know if breastfeeding helped her sleep much, but having to make up bottles in the middle of the night sounds even worse than getting up to breastfeed. I do know other mums who have ebf babies whose babies have slept really well for months, so from what I know it seems to be more to do with your baby than how you feed your baby.

In terms of a routine, my DD usually has a fairly reliable routine. It changes as she gets bigger and there can be pretty grim periods where nothing is quite right, but even from a young age there was generally a pattern and a rhythm.

So I don’t think breastfeeding is incompatible with routine or with good sleep. If you really want to bf then carry on. Ten weeks is still so little, it gets better and much more predictable.

Smallsteps88 Thu 03-Dec-20 15:52:57

Not In my experience and if I were to have another child I would bottle feed for precisely this reason. Lack of sleep drove me into a terrible depression and my life never recovered. For me BFing isnt worth that.

BumpLoading Thu 03-Dec-20 16:00:06

14 months in and still breastfeeding through the night confused sometimes once a night sometimes 3 times still!
However once your baby is older you can always look at night weaning if you want to (i probably should do this soon)
I've always found it easier just to pop baby on boob though when he wakes and that gets him straight back to sleep, no rocking or anything just sitting or laying down while feeding DS.

TommyKnocker Thu 03-Dec-20 16:07:12

I've got 3 children all BF, all three slept differently. DC1 slept loads, naps, through the night etc. I think it's down to individual babies, although I will say I was in more of a routine with DC1 anyway because I could focus on him more.

cooperage Thu 03-Dec-20 16:15:54

I BF mine and I really, really need my sleep!

I found the easiest way to cope when they were tiny was to make sure their biggest block of sleep coincided with mine.

So I'd feed as and when during the evening, with them napping or playing in the living room with me, but not put them to bed properly until I went to bed. This meant that I got a good chunk of uninterrupted sleep before the first night feed.

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vaccinationstation Thu 03-Dec-20 17:04:28

To be honest, in my experience, it did make a difference for me when I went from BF to combi fed. I think that some babies get "milk drunk" from breastfeeding similar to the effect with a bottle and get knocked out for a while, whereas others are more naturally snackers and this is harder to control when breastfeeding.

Of course, breast is best and everyone has different experiences, so I cannot speak for others. BUT scientific studies are pretty unanimous that breastfed babies tend to wake more in the early months, despite the post from PP (but lots on here will have BF babies who sleep through - it is just an average). I don't agree that we shouldn't acknowledge this because it will demoralise women - women should know this, rather than think they are doing things wrong on the feeding front. Rather, I think it is one more reason to celebrate those who do do choose to breastfeed despite finding it difficult.

A further milestone for me was weaning btw. I didn't push weaning for sleep purposes but DD took to food very quickly (mostly because she was bored out of her mind and it gave her something to do!) and really enjoyed her 3 meals a day, which gave her some structure and a bit more distinction in terms of night vs day (and it mitigated her snacking tendencies on the milk front because she would happily put away decent meals too!). Then she very reliably slept through. For us, it was actually a combination of age and probably having something more filling (she was and still is a 98th centile child for height, with hollow legs and I struggle to keep weight on, so breastfeeding her was a struggle for me).

It really is very variable though - whilst I think mine needed more sustenance in order to drop feeds (ie BF was totally doable for me on 8-10 feeds a day, but not on 5 daytime ones and a dream feed, which is what a lot of sleep schedules will advise) and sleep through and I was quite happy to do exclusive bf to 4 months, combi feed to 6 months and formula from then, every woman will have a different experience of breastfeeding and will weigh up how much she values continuing to breastfeed differently.

Don't torture yourself with comparisons - sleep is not a competition and you are not doing anything wrong (and formula necessarily won't make things magically better), but equally it is also fine to get to a place where you need to try something else for your own physical and mental health.

thisismycodename Thu 03-Dec-20 17:22:20

I honestly think at two months it doesn't make too much difference. Most two/three month olds wake in the night however they're fed. Both of mine did and one was BF and the other bottle! I'd wonder if at least some of the other mums of who claim their babies are in a set routine and sleeping through are exaggerating or even outright fibbing! Neither of mine went 'upstairs to bed' of an evening until they were five months ish.

However, in all honestly I do think that babies who are BF are worse sleepers as they get older. More babies sleep through later on and nearly all of them are doing it with some regularity by a year. The BF babies I know who are still going at that age categorically do not sleep well and wake multiple times. I know of some over two year olds who still BF through the night . Fine if you're happy with that, but it's not for me!

YellowPostItPad Thu 03-Dec-20 17:25:48

Yes!
Early weeks are always tricky as babies don't know that you want to sleep at night, but that is the same for breast or bottle fed.
Once they get a bit older breast feeding is so quick and easy. At the first sign of them waking for a feed, I used to just sit up on the side of the bed with my eyes half closed and just lift up my top and pop the baby on. The thought of having to go downstairs in the cold, make up and heat up a bottle then go and feed the baby who by that time would be screaming blue murder was something I never fancied grin.
I breast fed twins so I never let them hang around on the boob - I always had the next one to feed. At the first sign of them having finished, that was it - they were back in their cot so I could feed number 2 twin. I never let them use me as a dummy. It was quick to feed them.

Respectabitch Thu 03-Dec-20 17:26:04

I found that with cosleeping and breastfeeding I could pretty much literally feed in my sleep and would only have to be awake for a moment. Much less disruptive than getting up to take a bottle.

Both of my babies were ebf and settled into a routine fine by about 4-6 months. 10 weeks is still so early and you're always going to be getting up in the night then.

OakleyStreetisnotinChelsea Thu 03-Dec-20 17:38:26

Have a little look at Basis online, they have wonderful resources for parents and are world leaders in infant sleep research. Your lovely, lovely baby is designed to wake frequently. The time it takes for the tummy to empty of milk is about the same as a baby's sleep cycle how clever is that! Keep your baby close and feed whenever they want it. You are creating a happy, secure baby who knows that their needs will be met. Some babies sleep more than others but lots and lots of research into sleep and mode of feeding has shown that bottle feeding mums think they get more sleep than they actually are and actually when they look at the amount of times babies actually wake on a night there is no difference. Giving formula or solids makes no difference to night waking. It might make a difference to night FEEDING but not waking. And actually, breastfeeding mums get more sleep than bottle feeding! Of course this is all statistical and everyone will know a baby that slept all night from a week old and so on but honestly, that is the research. You are doing marvelously, don't compare yourself to others. Try to accept that you can't change your baby's behaviour but you can change how you cope with it so try to think of little changes you can make. That might be bed sharing safely, it might be a partner taking baby at 6am to let you sleep for a couple of hours or maybe ignoring the housework and signing down for a nap with your little one in the day. Whatever helps you. It will change, you will sleep again I promise.

OakleyStreetisnotinChelsea Thu 03-Dec-20 17:42:07

Oh and think of the difference between routine and schedule. A schedule has fixed times babies don't do fixed times. A routine will start to flow soon though, like baby has a bath followed by milk and snuggles, or she likes to sleep after a feed etc. You are still learning her habits and so is she.

pringlebells Thu 03-Dec-20 17:44:30

For me, no. I didn't have a positive experience. I wish I expressed and bottle fed breast milk, but that's just me!!!

If you feel like you want to do it, I'd always say give it a try

Twizbe Thu 03-Dec-20 17:50:45

How you feed a baby has nothing to do with how they sleep.

I breastfed both my babies. My eldest was combi fed and slept like your little one. My EBF daughter was sleeping 10-5 from about 9 weeks. Not having to make bottles during those night wakings was a god send.

Babies are meant to wake in the night to feed. Routines are great, but newborns haven't got a clue what time it is or what they should be doing.

You can start putting a rhythm to your day. Get up and dressed at the same time, go for a walk at the same time, you have your meals at the same time etc. That rhythm will transfer to baby and around 4 months you might find they develop a routine based on that.

Smallsteps88 Thu 03-Dec-20 17:52:49

How you feed a baby has nothing to do with how they sleep.

That’s rubbish and everyone knows it. formula takes longer for babies to digest and they stay full for longer so sleep longer during. That’s not opinion. That’s fact.

User0ne Thu 03-Dec-20 18:13:54

10 weeks is very early to be talking about any kind of routine. Remember until 10 weeks ago they had constant food via the umbilical cord.

2 ebf DC here and due a 3rd. Neither we're happy sleeping unless on me in the early days - a sling really helped me feel.like I could still do stuff. I also co-slept with both and learnt to feed lying down (took ~4m with dc1 and ~6weeks with dc2). My husband tells me that he would often wake in the night to find me bf while both me and DC we're asleep.

Formula takes longer to digest than breast milk and so tends to result in less frequent feeds. Babies also have a swallow reflex (they will swallow any liquid in their mouths to prevent suffocation) so a bottle fed baby will "take" more in a single feed than a bf one - because most bottles essentially trickle.milk into their mouths and they're biologically driven to swallow it whether they're full or not. These 2 things are probably why bf babies tend to feed more often.

I think that to get 8 hours sleep with a small baby I had to spend around 12 hours in bed. Maybe readjust your timetable to suit.

It does get easier.

Hirewiredays Thu 03-Dec-20 18:14:50

Three babies now. First mixed abs slept like a dream. Second bread fed and slept form 9 months; wonder weeks app said massive mental leap and he slept; and third is breastfed and is a dream sleeper. Depends on the baby!

ZolaGrey Thu 03-Dec-20 18:45:39

I co slept and after a while (I forget how long, it was ten years ago now), I slept with a boob out and she fed herself. I was semi awake and she sort of dream fed. I was ok with the sleep I got doing that.

Stepintochristmas Thu 03-Dec-20 18:58:11

Breastfed babies sleep badly. So many militant breast feeders tried to tell me otherwise, including the “official” literature. But there is an (understandable) drive to encourage breastfeeding so people don’t really talk about the lack of sleep. Everyone I know who breastfed had babies that woke frequently. Mine didn’t sleep through the night until he was over 2 years old. By comparison, with the exception of one baby, my friends with formula fed babies all got more sleep with their babies sleeping for long stretches and some sleeping through the night from a very early age.

Twizbe Thu 03-Dec-20 19:27:47

Smallsteps88

*How you feed a baby has nothing to do with how they sleep.*

That’s rubbish and everyone knows it. formula takes longer for babies to digest and they stay full for longer so sleep longer during. That’s not opinion. That’s fact.


Yes, but that extra effort can also disturb sleep. Think about it, if you have a heavy meal just before bed it can keep you awake.

Honestly, newborn baby sleep is luck of the draw and nothing else

Twizbe Thu 03-Dec-20 19:28:48

Stepintochristmas

Breastfed babies sleep badly. So many militant breast feeders tried to tell me otherwise, including the “official” literature. But there is an (understandable) drive to encourage breastfeeding so people don’t really talk about the lack of sleep. Everyone I know who breastfed had babies that woke frequently. Mine didn’t sleep through the night until he was over 2 years old. By comparison, with the exception of one baby, my friends with formula fed babies all got more sleep with their babies sleeping for long stretches and some sleeping through the night from a very early age.


Not all of them. As I've said many times, my combi fed son wasn't a great sleeper, my EBF daughter was amazing. Pretty regular naps and slept through my night from 8 weeks

Smallsteps88 Thu 03-Dec-20 19:30:18

Honestly, newborn baby sleep is luck of the draw and nothing else

This simply isn’t true.

Smallsteps88 Thu 03-Dec-20 19:30:41

What your own babies did is just anecdotal.

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