Tips from an LC: Should We Start Bottle Feeding Breast Milk to Get More Sleep?
Though it can be tempting to begin pumping right away - especially if it brings you a few extra hours of precious sleep! - what's most crucial during the first early weeks together is establishing breastfeeding and milk production.
Bottle Feeding Breast Milk to Get More Sleep?
During the first 4 weeks after birth, you and your baby are working together to learn and establish breastfeeding. If things are going well and your baby is growing, it is not necessary to pump or introduce another method of feeding at this point.
It’s advisable to wait at least 4 to 6 weeks before you start pumping and feeding your baby via another method, instead of breastfeeding. This is so that you can feel confident and comfortable with breastfeeding as well as establishing a perfectly matched milk supply for your baby. It takes your body this long to lay down the foundations of milk supply and for you and your baby to really get into the swing of things together.
You don’t need to start pumping in these first few weeks unless there is a medical reason to do so. These first few weeks is about you and your baby settling in, getting to know each other, falling in love with each other, and learning to breastfeed. Don’t try to include another extra thing to learn at this early stage! Your body and brain have enough to cope with right now!
Of course once you get to around six weeks or beyond, and you are feeling really confident with breastfeeding, and you have made the decision (or you need to share some feeding), then this is a better time to give it a try.
What About Asking Partners to Bottle Feed Breast Milk?
Often, our partners may suggest that we pump and they give an expressed milk bottle feed in the early days, so that we can get some more sleep overnight. You may be wondering “is this not helpful then?”.
This seems to make perfect sense, doesn’t it? Give mom some extra sleep and rest and then everyone wakes up happy. The problem is that, in the beginning, your breasts are really designed to be fed from frequently - and when I say frequently, I mean frequently! As you’re probably already experiencing!
If you replace a night-time breastfeed with a bottle of expressed milk then you would still need to pump during that time to keep stimulating the milk-making cells in the breast effectively. It therefore kind of defeats the point of trying to get more rest! It can also add more confusion of having to learn a new skill, how to pump, knowing how much milk to give, how many times you should pump, how many times you should now feed…So, this is another reason why it’s not always the perfect answer.
If you’re feeling tired (and let’s face it - realistically, who isn’t in these early days and weeks of being a new parent?) and you’re feeling that using a bottle feed at night is absolutely necessary, then I would (very gently) say perhaps you’re not letting yourself have enough sleep during the day. It’s really easy as a new parent for the day to fly past and you haven’t had more than a 20 minute relaxation on the sofa. But this is not sustainable. Remember, our bodies still behave as if we are cave women! We are designed to get as much rest as possible after birth and in between the frequent feeds, so that we can survive this early period!
Sleep is far and few between, that’s a given with a newborn, but it is really important to make time for more sleep during the day whenever possible. Most other things can wait for the first few days and weeks, but feeding your baby, enjoying loving cuddles together, feeding yourself, and getting enough sleep (and possibly the occasional shower might be good too!) is all you need to be focusing on right now. As time goes on, you will gradually start to be able to cope with more and more things in your day. But, right now, allow yourself to get all the rest you need so that you and your baby can get on with the job of learning about each other, and feeling calm and comfortable with breastfeeding.