Hello günamüna community! Emily here. Have I mentioned how much I love to read? This week I would like to share one of the most helpful parenting tips that I learned from a book: Prioritize feeding your baby a full feeding, especially in the first few weeks of life. This will help your baby sleep better. Ask me how I know.
This advice came from one of my favorite books: On Becoming BabyWise, Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nightime Sleep, by Pediatrician Robert Buckname, M.D. and Gary Ezzo, M.A.
The book states that parents should “work on the single goal of providing a full feeding at each feeding. Mothers who work with their baby to receive a full feeding during the first week commonly find their babies naturally transition to a consistent 2 ½-3 hour routine within seven to ten days” (p. 74, 2020).
What is a full feeding? If you’re breastfeeding, exactly how long you need to nurse varies. For example, Darcy, my oldest daughter, nursed like a wild animal. She was only five pounds and always hungry; she emptied each breast in less than ten minutes. My second baby, Laney, takes her time. It takes at least 45 minutes to finish feeding her. So, a ‘full feeding’ for each of my girls is different, but the goal is the same: empty each breast. Typically 15 minutes on each side will do the trick. Your pediatrician or a lactation consultant can help you with this if you need further guidance.
A bottle is a little easier to measure. If you bottle feed your baby, a full feeding is simply the recommended amount of milk for your baby’s age.
A full feeding helps babies sleep because their tummies are full. If they consistently snack, babies will take shorter naps because their hunger might wake them up.
Full feedings are also great for your milk supply! (Score!) Empty breasts signals your body to make more milk, which in turn boosts your milk supply. Snacking, on the other hand, can decrease your milk supply because you won’t make as much milk if your breasts are consistently half full. (Trust me!)
One of my main goals with both of my daughters was to give them as many full feedings as I could to promote growth, a strong milk supply, and better sleep. The challenge to accomplish this task is to keep your baby awake long enough for a full feeding. This can be especially difficult for newborn babies.
Here are a few of my suggestions to help your baby stay awake for a full feeding:
Get Out of Bed
It's tough to keep my baby awake if I can’t even stay awake. When it’s the middle of the night and I’m exhausted, scooping up Laney and nursing her in the coziness of my bed is so appealing. However, staying awake in my warm bed at 3am is very difficult. So, I get my bum out of bed, pick up my hungry baby girl, and we head to the couch or rocking chair to nurse.
While I am nursing, (or bottle feeding) if I notice Laney is drifting off to sleep, I tickle her toes, play with her fingers, or stroke her cheek. Typically this does the trick to keep her awake long enough to finish eating.
Ask for Help
Moms seriously need a third arm. The first couple of months of breastfeeding are not easy. (Is anything about motherhood easy?) There is so much going on! You’re trying to get a good latch, massage out the knots, and hold your baby in just the right position. I often needed my husband to keep our baby awake while I nursed so that I could focus on a million other things. Or, if I was struggling to stay awake, his job was to keep both of us awake.
Water and Snacks
Newborns need to eat every two-three hours, no matter what time of day it is. I used to get up three or four times throughout the night to nurse. To prepare myself for each long night, I put a jug of water on the coffee table (breastfeeding makes me so thirsty!) and a few snacks. (Granola bars and bananas) Snacking helped me recharge and stay awake. (Plus, snacks make everything better.)
Undress Your Baby
If your baby is really sleepy, tickling their adorable little toesies might not do the trick. If it’s time to eat and you can’t keep your little angel awake, quickly undressing them or changing their diaper will almost always get them alert enough to eat.
It Doesn’t Last Forever
Laney is now four months old and keeping her awake for a full feeding is no longer a challenge. She nurses and sleeps on a routine (just as the book suggested she would) and only gets up once throughout the night. Every baby is different, but my secret to success is prioritizing a full feeding from day one.
Keep in mind that It is very normal for babies to fall asleep at the breast or bottle, so don’t beat yourself up if this happens. (And it may happen a lot!) Sometimes, when your baby is really upset, this is the best source of comfort. Laney recently received her four month vaccines, and afterwards the first thing I did was breastfeed; this helped dry all her tears, and then she promptly fell asleep. However, by regularly keeping her awake for a full feeding, I know she will nap better throughout the day and sleep better at night.
Both of my girls prefer to sleep in my arms. If I could, I would hold my babies night and day, even when they sleep. However, (contrary to popular belief!) moms need sleep too. Enter the günamüna Swaddle Sleep Bag. Laney is a great sleeper, and that credit goes to keeping her tummy full and using the günamüna swaddle sleep bag. When she can’t be in my arms, snuggled in her sleep bag is the next best place.
Love, Emily and the günamüna team