Sleep seems to be one of the biggest topics of conversation when it comes to newborns. While newborns can’t do sleep learning just yet, did you know that getting good, full feedings is one of the best things you can do to optimize their sleep beforehand?
In this blog, I’m going to talk about:
Go grab your hungry little baby and let’s jump right in!
Why should I be intentional about getting full feedings?
Everyone knows that newborns are very, very sleepy. So sleepy, that they’ll spend most of their time asleep when they are brand new! But did you know that nursing releases oxytocin?
Oxytocin is also known as the “cuddle hormone” because it helps you and your baby bond and feel connected to each other. It’s also a hormone that makes us feel sleepy. This is why it’s so easy for babies to fall asleep while they’re nursing and BEFORE they get in a good, full feed.
Here are a few reasons why getting good, full feedings is so important for your little one:
1. Babies naturally lose weight after birth
If your baby isn’t getting full feedings, it is possible for them to lose even more weight super early on.
2. Babies will compensate with “snacking”
If your baby isn’t getting full feedings, they’ll turn to frequent snacking.
3. Frequent snacking = foremilk
Foremilk is more watery breastmilk and has fewer calories. The good hindmilk is what we want our babies to get ahold of! Hindmilk comes in later while you are feeding and has more calories and fat to help sustain your baby for longer.
4. More frequent feedings = more frequent night awakenings
More night awakenings = less sleep for your baby AND you.
*Side note for mamas who want to introduce a bottle…
I say introduce the bottle at about 2 weeks. This will give you and your baby some time to adjust to breastfeeding while still introducing the new tool early on.
Click here to watch my favorite breastmilk storage hack on Instagram!
Oftentimes, babies who aren’t introduced to a bottle within the first few months don’t take to the bottle at all. This can really get tough if you ever have to be away from your baby for more than three hours.
The same goes for pacifiers! Pacifiers can be incredible soothing tools since babies like to suck more than they need to nurse. For tips on how to introduce a pacifier, check out this reel!
Click here to watch tips for introducing a pacifier on Instagram.
Remember, babies can be pretty clunky at first with their pacifiers and bottles. Don’t give up! If you feel like you’re struggling with the paci yo-yo, watch this reel for some tips.
Click here to watch tips to combat the paci yo-yo on Instagram.
How do I know if I’m getting a full feeding?
Just like when our babies are signaling to us that they are getting sleepy (sleepy cues!), babies also do things to let us know they are hungry!
Some common hungry cues include:
- Sticking their tongue in and out
- Smacking their lips
- Sucking on their hands
Click here to watch how to know when your newborn is hungry on Instagram.
So once you know your baby is hungry and you start the feed, how do you know if it’s a good, full one?
1. Keep track of the time you spend feeding them.
Brand-new babies can spend 20+ minutes getting full feedings. A nursing session lasting less than that might not be enough for your little one just yet. After their first month, this time should shorten, as they’ll become more efficient eaters.
2. Pay attention to their swallowing and sucking
Ideally, we want long, slow sucking with (about) a swallow once every five suckles. Tongue and lip ties can massively impact this! Watch this video to learn more about identifying tongue and lip ties and how to check if your baby might have one!
Click here to learn more about tongue and lip ties on Instagram.
What are the ways to ensure good, full feedings?
The number one thing you can do is keep your baby awake during the feeding. My favorite strategies include gently wiggling their arms, legs, and ears and even lightly tapping on their forehead.
Your baby might not love it (the nursing is making them so so sleepy!), but remember, we want them to have the opportunity to get that hindmilk!
Click here to watch more on how to get good, full feedings on Instagram.
I also like to focus on feeding before sleep instead of feeding to sleep. Our end goal is to get good, full feedings AND help lay the foundation for solid sleep skills.
With this in mind, you can start to work on feeding BEFORE sleep instead of TO sleep to help break the association…but don’t sacrifice your mental health over it!
If you want to work on breaking the feed to sleep association, try feeding/nursing before sleep time in a more busy and brightly lit area. Next, implement the strategies I mentioned earlier to help keep them awake. Once the feed is over, move to their sleep space and do your before-sleep routine.
Click here to learn more about feeding before sleep vs. feeding to sleep on Instagram.
*One more bonus tip!
Something else you can look into is trying a dream feed. A dream feed is when you wake your baby (usually right before you go to bed) for a feed. The hope is that by “topping them off” at this time, they will have a longer stretch of sleep than they would have if you hadn’t woken them up for the feed.
For some babies, this can work great, but for others, it doesn’t have the success we hope for. What usually ends up happening is that your baby is too drowsy to get a full feeding and they still wake in a few hours for a feed again. Also, it can disrupt their sleep cycle which does not result in a longer stretch of sleep.
That being said, you can totally experiment to see if a dream feed works for your baby!
If dream feeds don’t work, then what I usually recommend is to go to sleep as soon as your newborn goes down for the night. This is usually their longest stretch of sleep for the night, so it can be yours as well!
Click here to watch more about dream feeds on Instagram.
Recap on Getting Good, Full Feedings
Getting good, full feedings in the newborn stage is one of the best things you can do to optimize their sleep. It also helps in setting the stage for sleep learning at four months. My 0-4 Month Content Library has everything you’ll need for optimizing your newborn’s sleep AND laying the foundation for independent sleep initiation.
When it comes to feeding a new baby, there can be a lot of stress and unsolicited opinions involved. The truth is, there are so many different feeding options (breastfeeding, bottle, formula, combo, etc.) and different things to consider (your mental health, your goals, addressing any lactation-related challenges, etc.).
Here’s what I recommend you do:
Whatever works best for you and your baby!
Click here to watch more about the best way to feed your baby on Instagram.
If you are looking for any support in your newborn journey, we are here to help! We have plenty of consultation options and can provide you with as much support and troubleshooting as you need.