Night Weaning for Sleep Deprived Mothers
If you have taken my eCourse on Postpartum Preparation you will know that sleep is imperative to a healthy, thriving mother. Chronic sleep deprivation should not be underestimated in it's power. Sleep deprivation can exacerbate symptoms of postpartum depression (Stone, 2016) and can cause weight gain (Kaiser Permanente, 2016). A new study shows new moms are DANGEROUSLY exhausted for months (Daub, 2014). This isn't okay- new moms deserve more. For mothers who are up every 2-3 hours at night with babies over 6* months, it is extremely challenging. New moms are who 6 months into new motherhood and still not getting a single quality stretch of sleep uninterrupted, and who would LOVE that, may feel that a change is in order.
If it is on your heart to consider attempting to get more sleep at night, an option may to cut out one feed. Sometimes cutting out one feed is all a mother would like to do, and some would like to do full night weaning. Both have been successful in adding more sleep hours for the mother and both are completely reasonable for the mother to consider trying if she wants to.
To cut out one feed, the process can look the following:
- Have a conversation with your spouse that you will be cutting out one (or more, depending on your needs) feeds during the night. Prepare them with information ahead of time, and what you need from them during this transition.
- Feed baby as often as you can during the day. Talk to your pediatrician about amount of feeds and ounces baby should be getting at their age and weight.
- Decide the time that will be the cut-off point for you. Some of my clients have expressed satisfaction doing 11:00PM. Let's use 11:00PM for the example.
- Feed baby as often as you'd like and frequently before 11:00PM. If baby wakes up at 11:00PM or later, it is time to utilize alternative soothing methods (rocking, pacifier, bouncing on an aerobic ball, etc.)
- Decide on the alternative soothing method. Usually I recommend one of our postpartum doulas be here during the transition, but if you can send in your spouse to comfort and soothe during the blocked out time, it may be helpful. Sometimes this is easier if the person who usually does most the feeding, isn't doing the soothing during the time block. That being said, if it needs to be the mother doing soothing during the time block, that is okay, too.
- Create a time boundary that the soothing will be done. Some of my clients have started with 3:00AM and moved it back later until eventually getting to 6:00AM.
Night weaning or cutting out one feed during the night is not for everyone. This method is for those who are sleep deprived, and who want to take steps NOW to get MOM more sleep. Night weaning does not automatically mean the baby will be sleeping through the night. It does, however, guarantee the mother a block of time that she is not obligated to feed baby. Many times, this does create the routine of baby sleeping in longer stretches.
Think about your needs. What is most important to you here? If it is baby sleeping through the night, sleep training in a more formal method may be more appropriate. But if you are open to feeding baby at night, and just need some boundaries in place as to what time that can take place in, cutting out one feed may be a great place to start.
*This method can be done before six months as well. Six months is just a very agreeable time to do it, but it can be done with pediatrician approval prior to 6 months
Disclaimer: Seek out professional support and advice when needed. For breastfeeding mothers who would like to attempt night weaning or cutting out one feed, an IBCLC would be a great resource to work with. Seek pediatric advise on how many ounces/feeds per day baby should be getting at their current age. Postpartum doula support can help facilitate this transition for the whole family.
Daub, T. (2014). Sleep study shows new moms are dangerously exhausted for months. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/sleep-study-shows-new-moms-dangerously-exhausted-months/
Ding, K.Sleep deprivation and new parents Retrieved from http://consumer.healthday.com/encyclopedia/parenting-31/parenting-health-news-525/sleep-deprivation-and-new-parents-643886.html
Gamble, K. L., Filtness, A. J., MacKenzie, J., & Armstrong, K. (2014). Longitudinal change in sleep and daytime sleepiness in postpartum women Plos One, 9(7), e103513. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0103513
Kaiser Permanente/Harvard medical school study links lack of sleep to weight gain for new moms | science codex Retrieved from Kaiser and Harvard Study
Stone, K.Sleep deprivation worsens postpartum depression - postpartum progress Retrieved from http://www.postpartumprogress.com/sleep-deprivation-worsens-postpartum-depression