Endless feedings and interrupted sleep ... how to survive a newborn

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Wonderful, sure, but also quite tiring

: for new parents and especially for new mothers, the first months with a newborn are like this. Among the aspects that most undermine mothers and fathers certainly stand out altered sleep patterns - how often do we hear of very young children who have "exchanged night for day" - and the how often babies need to be fed, especially (but not only) when it comes to breastfeeding. The good news, however, is that surviving all of this is possible.

One feed after another ...

True: in the first weeks of life, breastfed babies can breastfeed very often, even 15 times a day or more. This is not the case for everyone, there are children who, from an early age, "settle" on a few feedings a day, but it is a fact that for others the request to latch on is practically continuous (or perhaps it is perceived as such).

The first thing to do in these circumstances is to reassure yourself: however tiring it may be, everything is normal. On the other hand, as the pediatricians Alessandro Volta and Ciro Capuano recall in the book Breastfeeding explained to fathers (Leone Verde 2022), a child may wish to suck “for various reasons and not only and solely because of hunger. He, sitting in his mother's arms and sucking, can console him from any fear and annoyance ", and what's more" he can sucking exercise and at the same time stimulate the breast to produce milk ".

Read also: Breastfeeding, the role of the father

Yes, because the production of milk by the mammary gland follows the question: the more the baby feeds, the more the breast is stimulated to produce milk. Even more so if this happens at night, when there is the physiological peak of prolactin, the hormone that stimulates lactation.

Because on request

That's why so-called demand breastfeeding is generally recommended. "Trying to impose fixed breastfeeding times on a baby in these early stages can be counterproductive," she explains. Chiara Losa, pediatric nurse and IBCLC breastfeeding consultant who works at the breastfeeding clinic of the Buzzi Hospital in our city.

"The 'fixed' feedings may not be sufficient for his needs - and then the baby will not grow adequately - or they may not be effective, because perhaps he is forced to latch on at a time when he is not hungry, and therefore he will breastfeed reluctantly. And then there is the risk of a reduction in milk production ".

Among other things, in recent years the idea has been gaining ground that even in the case of infant formula feeding it is advisable to feed the baby on demand. According to a guide to infant formula published by the Veneto Region, in this way the child will understand “the feeling of hunger and satiety and will learn to regulate his need to feed. This is important for his subsequent relationship with food, reducing the risk of developing overweight and obesity.

A point of view also taken up by the Ligurian pediatrician Alberto Ferrando, who in his book How to feed my son writes that "the bottle, as well as the breast, is given on request, both for the time and for the quantity". With rare exceptions, the little one "will eat when needed and will stop when the necessary amount of food is reached." On the other hand, the quantities of milk that are recommended on the packs based on age and weight are average doses, which for some children are exaggerated and others insufficient.

Read also: Artificial milk for the newborn, which one to choose. Doses, quantities and preparation

However, this does not mean that the baby should be breastfed as soon as he starts moaning or crying. The cry it can express other feelings and needs of the child in addition to that of being nourished and comforted: for example sleep, boredom, pain, discomfort, for example due to being too hot or cold or a dirty diaper. Depending on the circumstances, it may be worth checking whether there is anything else to fix before attaching the baby (for example, a diaper to change). And in any case, do not worry: after a few weeks you generally become very good at interpreting the baby's cry.

Little tricks to relieve fatigue

If adapting to your child's voracity can be tiring, here are some small suggestions:

  • do not hesitate to ask for help: to dad, relatives, closest friends. She tries to delegate the small daily tasks, so as not to be further "burdened";
  • take advantage of the "suspended" time of feedings to delight in the sight of your baby, but also to doze a little or maybe to read (or watch a TV series ...);
  • think all that it won't last forever. Weaning starts around five to six months, really in a flash. When dealing with lively and always on the move babies, many mothers regret those calm and peaceful moments spent heart to heart during the first few months' feedings.
Also read: 10 (semi-serious) things you can do at night when breastfeeding

Sweet (and impossible) to sleep ...

Are you dreaming of a good eight hours' sleep? Sorry to dismiss expectations, but in the first months of the child's life (er ... often even in the first years ...) it is not really possible.

"Not only in the first months but even in the first years of life, the nocturnal awakenings of children are physiological, because the little ones sleep differently than adults" explains Antonia Tomaselli, pediatric nurse and IBCLC breastfeeding consultant. "For example, they have a harder time getting into deep sleep, and that makes awakening easier."

Awakenings that can also increase in correspondence with the growth spurts of the child, that is, when the little one acquires new skills such as learning to crawl, walk, talk, be more autonomous and so on. “All of this involves a heavy emotional burden, which accumulates during the day and returns to the surface at night, facilitating awakenings. "Not to mention the fact that if the mother goes to work, waking up more often can be a manifestation of separation anxiety and that if the baby goes to the nursery he will tend to wake up more often because he gets sick more.

Read also: 10 Montessori tips to help your baby sleep

It might seem that knowing that the child sleeps little by nature is not very helpful, but it is not exactly like that: if you are aware from the beginning that these are the conditions, you tend to accept them more serenely. If, on the other hand, it is assumed that the child will surely sleep and then this does not happen, the disappointed expectation will be more difficult to swallow.


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Even in this case, however, here are some indications:

  • the most classic advice of all is that of rest when the baby rests: the linen to be ironed, the dinner to be prepared, but also the email to check or the chat with a friend can wait;
  • if a child sleeps from 16 to 20 pm, he may find it difficult to fall asleep in the evening, or to sleep long at night. In these cases it might be worth trying to wake him up a little earlier (in a very sweet and delicate way, or simply by exposing him to family noises), to see if this changes anything;
  • in case of nocturnal feeding (breast or formula) be careful not to wake the baby more than necessary, preferring silence and soft light;
  • in many cases the bedtime ritual is of great help: try to get used to it as soon as possible;
  • I know during sleep the baby moves, do not rush right away. It does not necessarily mean that he is waking up or that he is awake. Babies are very restless when they go from deep sleep to dreaming and this happens every 45 minutes. Don't pick him up right away, wait: maybe after a couple of grumbles he'll go on sleeping;
  • there are those who recommend a relaxing bath before bedtime, but be careful: bathing in the evening does not necessarily really relax. Indeed, as core body temperature increases it can have exactly the opposite effect. Better to propose it in the late afternoon.
  • evaluate what is best for you and your family without being too influenced by the judgments of others. Some parents may find it convenient to put the child to sleep in the bed (obviously with all the appropriate safety criteria to avoid the risk of SIDS or suffocation), others find it more comfortable to put him in a separate bed or, when he is older ( after the year), in another room.

Could giving the addition at night help make the baby sleep more?

The dry answer to this question is yes: an addition of formula milk in the evening or at night can make the baby sleep more, because with formula milk the gastric emptying frequency is higher and the baby wakes up less.

But beware: don't forget that the evening or night addition interferes with the milk production mechanisms, considering that the peak of prolactin, the hormone that promotes it, occurs precisely at night. Consequently, the use of additives leads to a reduction in milk production, which could be a risk for breastfeeding management, especially in the initial calibration phase.

  • breastfeeding
  • breast milk
  • breastfeeding
  • sleep
  • newborn rhythm
  • to cry
  • newborn 0-3 months
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