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Breastfeeding at Night: 9 Coping Skills for Moms with Newborns

Nothing shocked me more as a new mom than nights.  I pictured sweetly breastfeeding at night maybe once and then laying my baby back down for a blissful sleep. That didn’t happen.  My son woke every two to three hours.  I pulled out my phone and searched: “When do breastfed babies sleep through the night?”.  Everyone’s opinions differed.  I wish I had some of these tips during my son’s first few months.

I am so excited to welcome my sister-in-law, Melissa, with her coping skills for breastfeeding at night.  Melissa is a first-time mom.  Her son (my nephew!) was born in October 2015.

"My newborn wants to nurse all night!" is all I could think as a new mom. These breastfeeding at night tips helped save my sanity at nighttime. If you have a baby, you need these!

Nothing prepared me for the nights as a new mom.

As we valiantly commit to providing the best nourishment for our little ones, moms nursing newborns also commit to 24-hour days and 10-12 hour “night shifts” that can leave us not only sleep deprived, but within millimeters of our sanity. By the third week of my son’s life, “bedtime” began to haunt me as I dreaded the impending and potentially dark, desperate, and lonely night ahead.

At my local breastfeeding support group, I asked the gathered twenty or so moms if anyone else had experienced night anxiety and how they coped. I discovered I was nowhere near alone – almost every mom had experienced this unique brand of night terror. Each one had unique ways to keep it at bay.

Here are the ways these amazing mamas not only survived the night, but took it back.  These transformed the ways I perceived nocturnal nursing sessions and helped me reclaim my sanity.

(If you need to know how to manage nursing when you go back to work, I have it for you here.)

Breastfeeding at Night Tip: Ask for help

Easier said than done, I know. As mamas, it is empowering to feel that we know best when it comes to our children. The reality is that we cannot do it all, and we cannot do it alone.

I spent the first 4 weeks of my son’s life trying desperately to get my husband a full night of sleep so that one of us could be sane and clear-headed during the day. In the end, I realized that no one was going to benefit from an insane and empty-headed mama.

When my husband started giving our son a bottle at one feeding per night, the resulting sleep transformed my experience of motherhood.

Of course, not every mama has a partner to help and not every baby can take a bottle. I have nursing friends whose mothers, sisters, and friends help for day-time naps.  I also know many moms whose partners bring the baby to their wife in bed at night so she can do side-lying nursing and be up for a much shorter stretch.

Looking for even more support in breastfeeding?  I recommend this course.

Seek support

When do breastfed babies sleep through the night?

What made the most difference for me at night beyond my husband’s help was the support of other women who shared my experience. I had met first-time nursing moms through my birthing class and breastfeeding support group and it didn’t take us long to realize that we were often up at the same times and could use the wonder of smart phones to keep in touch.

My friend Brooke and I began coming up with fun things to do over the course of night feedings; we watched the same movie in chunks and texted each other our running commentary or texted each other silly tidbits from our past at each feeding so each of us would wake up to something fun to read.

Some nights we would text back and forth despair and encouragement, each taking a turn to let it out or uplift.

The simple fact that other women were hard at work and feeling the same way made nights of cluster feeding far more bearable – even a team effort! Some women have no choice but to do nights alone, but no matter where you are, other women are doing what you are doing at night.

Some women have no choice but to do nights alone, but no matter where you are, other women are doing what you are doing at night.

Most hospitals offer a breastfeeding support group with no fees, and there are tons of Facebook groups designed specifically for nursing moms to help one another, both local and national.

Want to get rid of that stress you feel every time you need to nurse?  These next ways will make sure YOU are a priority as well.

Have a personal “bedtime routine”

The worst nights in the first month were the ones where my newborn was sleeping well, but I was so screwed up by the erratic sleep and high levels of anxiety that I stopped sleeping myself.

I realized that where my son needs a bath, his swaddle, a full belly and a story to tell his little body it was time for sleep, mine needed similar things – at least until I got used to the new rigamarole.

To cue myself for my own sleep, I started getting into my PJ’s and brewing a cup of decaf tea about an hour or two before bedtime, then stretching out on the couch and doing a little deep breathing as I drank it. I would watch a TV show I’d already seen before that didn’t require active engagement to enjoy and allow myself to “check out” and drift off before going up to bed.

Soon enough, the sound of the tea water boiling started to make me drowsy, just as the sound of bath water inspires droopy eyes in my son.


Nursing has a whole host of side-effects, two of which are ravenous hunger and insatiable thirst.

I always keep a baggie of animal crackers (a nice bland but filling snack) and three full bottles of water in the nursery and try to consume them over the course of the night.

It also helps that I don’t allow myself to eat those animal crackers during the day, so I almost look forward to my night-time indulgence when I go to bed!

Embrace the awake time

My mom is responsible for this one. She shared with me that when I was a baby, she would always make sure to tape her favorite show and save it to watch at night feedings. Half the time, she said, she’d put me back to bed and actually stay up to finish the show!

Embracing the time I have to spend awake has been key in perceiving nights as not only bearable, but as a special time for myself. I started leaving a good show on Netflix up on my laptop in the nursery and saved it for nights.

My favorites are shows like Dancing with the Stars or Project Runway – light-hearted shows you can check in and out of without feeling like you have to rewatch to follow. Now, when I encounter the night feeding that goes on and on because the baby won’t stop fussing to fall asleep, I just embrace a little extra TV time rather than getting progressively more frustrated.

Note: Some mamas fear that the bright light or noise of a television show will produce a wakeful baby, but in my experience, during the first four weeks (the hardest when it comes to night feeding), nothing made a difference to my sleepy newborn. Once I was up for fewer feeds, I did cut the TV to keep things dark and uninteresting.

Breastfeeding at Night Mantras

I’m an incredibly verbal person; words are power to me. So when I was preparing for my son’s birth, I came up with mantras: phrases to repeat to myself to get through contractions.

I have found that mantras are similarly helpful during trying times, and so I came up with a few for night nursing and actually printed out a list and posted it by my rocker so that it would be in sight at each feeding.

The ones that worked for me were “Things are always better in the morning,” “This too shall pass,” and “Babies cry!” These helped me remember that what I was experiencing would not last forever and that my son’s crying is not the end of the world.

I know moms who need to remind themselves that they are good mothers and their children are healthy and in good hands. Any of these reminders might be worth posting or repeating while nursing at night.

Make comfort a priority

When I first started experiencing night anxiety, I would rush to my son at his first cry, get him immediately to the breast, and perch on the edge of my rocker with my body hunched, trying desperately to consolidate the movement from the rocker to the crib lest I wake him and waste minutes or hours of precious sleep.

This was the wrong move for me.

I wound myself up, I wound him up, and more often than not one of us would end up too wired to go right back to sleep.

Now, I make a pointed effort to be comfortable at each night feeding. I act as if I’m going to be up for awhile. I go to the bathroom and make sure I am warm, I have water, and that my show is playing before I pick up the baby. I tell myself that the three minutes it takes to do these things does not make me a terrible mother because my son may be crying during that time. Instead, it assures I can attend to his needs calmly and fully, and thus is in his best interest as well.

I also am careful to sit back and relax in my rocker each time, and I make extra effort to relax if I am tense. One strategy is to play a lullaby that I love at each feeding (my favorite: the lullaby version of “Sweet Child of Mine” by Guns N Roses). Another is stroking my baby’s hair as he nurses – the slow, gentle motion slows me down too and puts me in a mood of love versus one of desperation.

Write it down

How do I get my baby to sleep through the night?

In the first weeks of my son’s life, I started realizing that I would learn things at night that often got lost to mommy brain and sleep deprivation – new soothing techniques my son responded to or coping skills that worked for me, so I started writing them down.

For awhile, I kept a list called “Melissa’s Night-time Tired Brain Reminder Extravaganza” on the table by the rocker that reminded me to do things like give the baby a little time to self-soothe before picking him up, or to try giving him another opportunity to nurse if he’s been up for awhile – things I would easily forget in my exhaustion and lack of baby experience.

Take Care of Yourself during the day

It also became clear that I needed a “morning routine” as well as a “bedtime routine” to properly frame nights in a positive way.

Instead of trying desperately each morning to get the baby to sleep one extra stretch, I relaxed into the wake-up time his body was clearly communicating.

I now get up with him, nurse him and dress him, and go downstairs. I brew another cup of tea to enjoy while he sits in his bouncer on the kitchen island. I pump and chat to him, then put him on his own playmat while I do a little morning yoga.

Once my husband is up, he is “on duty” and allows me some solo-time to shower and decompress if needed. We also have made a commitment to talk to each other in terms of how OUR nights were rather than talking about how our son slept.

After twelve hours of catering to the baby’s needs, it is acceptable to talk about our emotions and well-being rather than how much sleep the baby got!

Being on the night shift as a nursing mom can get rough, but the most important thing to remember is that we won’t be on duty forever. Kids eventually sleep through the night. We eventually wean our littles from breastfeeding and the nights that babies need to be fed every two or three hours are limited to the first couple months.

Since those months can feel like eons when we are first feeling the crushing exhaustion and don’t have the light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel of experience to hope for, a little careful planning and self-pampering during those times can go a long way.

Make sure to keep these tips with you during your night nursing sessions!  And for even more breastfeeding help, the Milkology course is here for you.


Melissa Crohn

Having many careers in her life, Melissa Crohn is now a high school English teacher and loves to write and journal in her spare time.  She’s enjoying life as a new mom to a baby boy.

JoAnn Crohn

CEO/Founder at No Guilt Mom
JoAnn Crohn, M. Ed is a parenting educator and life coach who helps moms feel confident in raising empowered, self-sufficient kid while pursuing their own goals & passions.

She’s an accomplished writer, author, podcast host of the No Guilt Mom podcast, and speaker who appears in national media. Work with her personally in Balance VIP
Breastfeeding at Night: 9 Tips to Survive and Thrive
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  1. Great article and spot on. I transitioned to Netflix on my phone with headphones after I felt the tv was too disruptive in the room. Having a guilty pleasure to watch definitely made getting up all night more bearable 🙂

  2. I am lucky enough to have a very supportive husband who was on board with my breastfeeding goals. I don’t know what I would have done without his comfort those first four weeks (my nipples were in hell, cracking on the sides, and I had to brace myself on the side of the bed when my DD went to latch!).
    The biggest thing that helped me was that he would get up to get the baby while I made myself ready in bed or in my chair to nurse. He gave me a reassuring pep-talk every single time reminding me he thought I was amazing and that in a month from then we’d look back and be so thankful to get through it. Although she’s not out first child, it was the first time I nursed full time.
    I can fully attest to having a special snack and glass of water waiting for you! I made sure I stocked up on my favorite (Nutty Bars!), and only had them when I was up at night nursing. And my mantra was “This, too, shall pass!”

    1. Hi Jennifer! Having a supportive hubby is so awesome 🙂 Mine was similar to yours during our second child. I only made it a month nursing my first, so the second time around we enrolled in a Bradley class for a little extra support. Just him knowing what to do and how to support me made all the difference. That first month is so hard!

    1. LOL Jamie!! Good strategy! Have to say, that was mine too 🙂 I co-slept with my second and it made all the difference 🙂

  3. I’ve been reading a ton of things since having baby #2. It’s been 4.5 years since I did the night time routine and even then it was short lived (only 5 weeks because of an illness and medicine I was put on.) This article is my favorite by far. There are nights, (like last night) that go on forever and I feel like giving up, but then there are nights like tonight, (she’s already asleep!) that give me hope that I can keep doing this. This article was a reminder that I’m not alone in this journey and provided NEW tips n tricks to help me in the the upcoming weeks n months. It’s so refreshing to hear ideas from others going through the same thing, that my otherwise sleep deprived mind would have never thought of. Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Janelle! You are very welcome! You can do this! It is so hard to cope with most struggles when you are sleep deprived. Even the littlest cry can drive you over the edge. But, you got this!

  4. My hubby was supportive in the first few months by rubbing my back every time i had to get out of bed. He never got up or even opened his eyes, but just the gentle brush of his hand across my back helped me know he was there for me. This is our third child, but the first time i have ever breast fed. We talked about it so much before she was born and still do to this day. He helped me figure out the pump and talked to me while i was practically crying in pain as she latched on for those first three weeks. She had to work on her latch and i had to build up a tolerance so i dreaded feeding her more than i dreaded waking up at night. Anyways, besides my husband i would say my sister in law and pinterest definitely helped. I was so busy that night time feedings were the only time i had a chance to browse pinterest or look at my snap chats. My sister in law had a baby about 4 weeks before i did so we would snap or text back and forth throughout the night. After my daughter started daycare she immediately started sleeping through the night. From 8pm until 6am every.single.day. It was AMAZING. I missed my snap chat and pinterest time, but the sleep was great. This lasted for about 2 months and now she is back to waking up 3-4 times a night. I think it started with a growth spurt and then she was teething for a bit and now she is just used to it. I’m not sure, but i’m sure she will start sleeping through the night again…. eventually.

    1. Way to stick through Aleea! Yes, the sleep will eventually come. The teething and growth spurt will end… sometime 🙂 You are awesome for having such a positive attitude through sleep deprivation. That is a hard thing to do 🙂

  5. THIS ARTICLE. So very good. Said everything I have experienced with my last 2 babies. And was very encouraging as I’m just in the second month with my third baby. Seriously, you’ve not experienced TRUE frustration till you have tried over and over to get your new born latched in the middle of the night and knowing the whole time when he does latch it’s gonna hurt like pure hell. Can you say desperation?! Because no matter what some might say, it HURTS!!! At least for some of us 🙂 And how is it that husbands can even dare (bless them) to mention how sleepy they are in the mornings after they basically got about 5 to six hrs of sleep in one setting…or more or at least in one night, after he knows you’ve been up 1, 2, or more times to attend to the baby, taking an hr or so each time?!! Can I get an amen?? But something I’ve learned after 3 children is that women are able to bear things that men aren’t equipped to handle and that though it gets seriously bone crushing tiring and frustrating…I decide to be understanding and smile to myself that I have a special strength given to me as a woman…and that this too shall pass and I’ll be all the stronger for it.
    Thank you for this article!

  6. I wish I had read this 4 weeks ago when I started this whole new journey! I love the idea of having someone to text back and forth about movies or something. You inspired me to reach out to the other new nursing mammas I know so we can support each other. I had thought maybe I was crazy and not emotionally human because I dread night time. My husband watches the baby and bottle feeds from 9om-12am so I can grab some sleep and then I have all night. Once 8:30 hits I get a depression simitar to the Sunday night blues. But I have implemented the whole Netflix and saving shows for that time. Thank heavens orange is the new black just came out. That kept me going for 2 nights 🙂

    1. Hi Rachel! You are definitely human! Oh my goodness, I used to dread the nighttime too. I remember exactly how that felt. Keep going! If you want to find some more support, come over to the Whimsicle Moms facebook group. It’s just getting started, but there are tons of awesome women in there! Including, my sister-in-law Melissa who wrote this article. Hope to see you there!

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