Each baby-mother pair is unique, and this uniqueness affects the baby’s need for night feeding. According to the CDC, mothers with small breast storage capacity who try to sleep train their babies have their milk production slowed down along with their baby’s growth, leading to night feedings of 8 months and beyond.
Have you been told that your baby doesn’t need to breastfeed at night past a certain age that often varies by the adviser’s theories? Well, science tells us that in many ways, this isn’t the case.
And why is it so? Mothers and their babies are different irrespective of age, and these differences affect the baby’s need for nocturnal feedings.
This is partly because the mother’s milk storage capacity is small, and when she tries to sleep train the little one, her milk production will drop along with the baby’s growth.
To find out what all this means and whether it applies to you and your baby, you’ll need to understand how the basics of milk production and feeding time work.
The concept of nighttime feeding
Babies’ urge to feed doesn’t cease to exist simply because it is nighttime. The baby’s tummy is still the same size at night, and breast milk is still easily digested at night as is in the day.
Feeding at night is very common and important in supporting breastfeeding. The body takes into account feeds at night when establishing milk supply because babies take a third of their milk supply in the night, and this can rise to 50% where co-sleeping culture is the norm.
All these feeding dynamics are made possible by a physical character known as the breast storage capacity, which is the amount of milk the mother’s breasts contain in the milk-making glands at their fullest capacity within the day.
Both large and small capacity storage mothers produce plenty of milk for their babies, but those babies feed differently day or night to get their daily volume of milk.
After the baby’s first month, a mother with a large storage capacity may notice great changes like weight gain on fewer feedings, while a mother with a small or average milk storage capacity may not.
Additionally, nighttime feeds are important from a hormonal perspective because prolactin levels are already higher. They go even higher when your baby feeds, making nighttime feedings a great opportunity to boost your milk supply.
The feeding concept with effects to nighttime feeding
If the baby of a small capacity milk storage mother sleeps for too long at night, her breast fills up so much that her milk production slows down.
On the other hand, a mother with a large milk storage capacity has plenty of room in her milk-making glands to comfortably store more milk before it puts forth the amount of internal pressure required to slow her milk production.
In short, for a mother with a small milk storage capacity, night feedings may need to continue a little bit longer for her milk supply to stabilize to enable her baby to thrive.
Again, it’s not important how much milk your baby receives at each feeding but how much she consumes in 24 hours, and also because the baby has access to less milk each time, night feedings may be crucial for her to get enough milk overall.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is it ok to feed newborns at night?
Most newborns need 8-12 feedings a day which is about one feeding every 2-3 hours, and because they lose weight in the first few days after birth, until they regain this lost weight, within 1-2 weeks after birth, it is important to feed them frequently.
This includes waking the baby up for a feed, but once they establish a pattern of weight gain and reach their birth weight milestone, it is ok to wait until she wakes up.
Do babies naturally drop night feeds?
Yes. It is very natural for babies to drop night feeds on their own.
This is because they can last for long periods without food, and you too can set up your baby to drop night weaning by gradually giving her less time on the breast progressively each night.
Feeding responsibly regardless of time or day is, therefore, a critical element in supporting a baby’s weight gain, promoting longer-term eating behavior in children, and establishing and maintaining milk supply.
More importantly, it is the standard and biological purpose for those little tots and a central element of responsive parental bonding however the baby feeds.
As a society, rather than normalizing routines and scheduled feeding times, we should be looking at how we can value and support our new families better, as breastfeeding responsibly can be very demanding.