Why babies need Night Feeds: The world is peaceful and quiet and everyone is asleep, except for all the breastfeeding mothers in the world. Breastfeeding mothers know what it means to stay up late or wake up at odd hours of the night for a late-night snack which they may not even partake of. Truth be told, some will sit down on the sofa to feed the baby and dose off soon after with the baby on the breast and their cup of hot chocolate untouched on the coffee table or worse, the kitchen counter.
It may feel exhausting at first but nighttime feeds start feeling precious and something to cherish as you go along. You start seeing it as a special bonding session between you and the baby and nobody else can have such with the baby. As the baby grows older these feeds may reduce for different reasons. Some mums feel that they should end at a certain age (say a year) because the baby is already weaned by now and doesn’t need as much breast milk as before while others argue that as long as the child is still breastfeeding they should continue with night feeds too. Some books even say by 12 weeks your baby should be sleeping 12 hours straight with no feeds in between (if only the baby could read and internalize this!).
The information out there is definitely conflicting and sometimes outright extreme. Many will say that you shouldn’t be giving night feeds by about six to nine months because the babies don’t need it. However, let us take a closer look as to why your baby does need this nighttime nourishment.
You would think this is an obvious one, right? Your baby has a tiny stomach and this automatically needs refills as often as possible. That’s why breastfeeding mothers are asked to breastfeed on demand before the baby is weaned. Many assume that the baby’s breast milk needs reduce once they start eating solids but they don’t. An older baby is probably crawling or walking and generally busy discovering the world. He will most likely breastfeed for shorter periods during the day or be distracted during feeds. Since he still loves and needs breast milk, he’ll tank up at night when there are fewer distractions.
- Immunity and organ development
The human brain grows the most in the first years of life. Breast milk is a complete food and is great for the brain according to research meaning the baby needs as much of it as possible at this stage. Every developmental stage will require a little more nourishment.
Did you know that your milk adapts accordingly when your baby isn’t feeling well? Whenever your baby has caught a bug your milk adjusts to provide more nutrition and immunity so the child can get better faster. Try taking a sample of your breast milk when your baby has a cold and when they are all good and compare them to each other. You may not see a difference in content (because, well, nutritional analysis can’t be done with the naked eye) but you will definitely see a difference. Your baby will also find this the only palatable or comforting food during this time.
- Keeping your supply up
Supply is determined by demand and therefore the more you breastfeed the more your supply increases or at least remains constant. Night feeds work to your advantage especially if you have any condition that would impede milk production.
Prolactin is the hormone that aids the production of breast milk and also facilitates attachment and bonding. It also happens to reach its highest levels during nighttime feeds. This makes night feeds a little more than just nutritional nourishment. A lot happens in the background and you get to appreciate each other even more.
You need your beauty sleep of course because you’ll have a very long day without it so try and get the little one as many feeds as possible during the day. You could also try feeds closer to each other toward bed time. Also, enjoy night feeds while they last!