5 Cool Things No One Every Told You About Nighttime Breastfeeding

1) Did anyone ever tell you that…
Studies have shown that breastfeeding moms actually get MORE sleep than their formula-feeding counterparts? Yes.. you’re tired, but you did read that correctly! According to one study, breastfeeding parents got 40-45 minutes more sleep per night on average during the first 3 months postpartum. Over a 3 month period, that is A LOT more sleep! And, research also tells us that all that extra sleep is very important for mom’s mental health and serves to decrease her risk of postpartum depression.

2) Did anyone ever tell you that…
In lactating women, prolactin production (prolactin is the milk-making hormone) follows a circadian rhythm? Studies have shown that breastfeeding women’s prolactin levels are significantly higher at night, particularly in the wee hours of the morning. Babies often want to nurse at night because quite simply, there’s more milk at night! Aren’t our babies smart??

3) Did anyone ever tell you that…
Babies are born with no established circadian rhythms? They can’t tell day from night, and they take several months to develop their own cycles. They also do not make their own melatonin (a sleep-inducing hormone) for much of their early life. But, guess what has plenty of melatonin in it? Your nighttime breastmilk! So, scientists actually think that melatonin-rich nighttime breastmilk helps babies develop their own circadian cycles and helps them eventually learn to sleep longer stretches at night.

4) Did anyone ever tell you that…
In addition to melatonin, your evening and nighttime breastmilk is rich with other sleep-inducing and brain-boosting substances?

5) Did anyone ever tell you that…
Breastfeeding at night can be important for keeping a mom’s long-term milk production steady and strong and may actually mean less pumping during the day for working moms? See, the lactating breast knows how much milk to make based primarily on how frequently it is emptied; these are the laws of supply and demand, which are based on the natural world’s 24-hour clock and not just during a mom’s waking hours.

The number of times an individual mom will need to empty her breasts to maintain long-term milk production has been called her “Magic Number.” If a mom is not nursing enough times in a 24-hour period to meet her Magic Number, her body will eventually down-regulate milk production and her supply will be reduced. For working, nursing mothers, more breastfeeding at night means more nursing sessions in a 24-hour period, which in turn could mean less pumping sessions needed while mom is at work while still achieving her daily Magic Number.

These basic dynamics apply to older babies, who may still need nighttime nursing, too!

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