What Mom Never Told You About Breastfeeding and Lack of Sleep

How many hours of sleep do you get in a day?

Breastfeeding and lack of sleepAs for me, I love sleeping for about 6-8 hours a day. When I was pregnant, I got so much sleep! My friends told me to just sleep when I felt tired, and I was often tired so that’s exactly what I did.

I would get up from time to time in the middle of the night to wee. I suppose that’s what pregnancy does in the last trimester – getting you ready for disturbed sleep. When my water broke, I actually just woke up from a nice nap.

Hello motherhood and good-bye to sleeping for 6-8 hours straight. Breastfeeding and lack of sleep apparently were twins. They were inseparable. Maybe mom didn’t go in such detail so I won’t get scared.

At first, I was just filled with happy hormones. I mean, how can I not be happy to see our darling daughter. We’ve wanted her for so long, and there she was!

I was taught how to breastfeed. But it really is a skill that you learn over time. Just like riding a bike – you will fall several times, hurt yourself, before you finally get it.

I had to breastfeed every 2-3 hours. I was happy to do it, but when I started getting sore, cracked, and bleeding nipples, I dreaded it.

So to breastfeed every 2-3 hours meant that I hardly had time to rest. I would feed for 30-40 minutes for each breast and burp my baby. Then I needed to put her to sleep. Imagine what little time I had left.

Honestly, it takes a toll on you…

Sleep deprivation is part of motherhood

There is a certain level of high if you are a first time mom. So initially, I was happy even if I felt so tired. I think what saved me in the hospital was that my husband was helping me, and there were always nurses around.

Sleeping momIt was a different story when we got home. Eventually, fatigue and sleep deprivation got to me. I felt like a zombie and that I would crash anytime.

I felt so tired beyond comprehension that there were times when I would just cry buckets. People kept saying that it gets better and I kept wondering when.

Sleep became like such a luxury to me. At the time, if I could wish for anything from a genie, it would have to be sleep. And that’s what I kept asking from my husband. Even a few minutes to rest and sleep.

My sister, who’s a nurse, suggested that I breastfeed my baby in bed so that I can also sleep. She taught me how, but I was too afraid to co-sleep seeing that she was so little. I was afraid of hurting my little baby.

So I continued to breastfeed my baby on a rocking, reclining nursing chair. Good thing I had that and a nursing pillow! Very, very helpful.

There were times when my baby was so unsettled and wouldn’t want to sleep in her bassinet no matter how hard I tried. So as much as I didn’t want to, I was forced to sleep with her in my arms. Of course, I couldn’t sleep well since I had to make sure she was okay. I was afraid of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).

A friend of mine told me to read up on The Wonder Weeks. It would prepare me for periods when she’d be so fussy and understand what she needed. I must say, it really helped!

Chores take a back seat

I like keeping our place neat and clean. I just cannot take it when it’s messy.

When we arrived home with the baby, I couldn’t cook anymore. I didn’t have time, and I was way too tired. I realised that frozen healthy meals were the way to go. And then, it is a major plus when you have a very supportive husband who will help you cook and clean.

But he also needs to work. So I needed to understand that he was also exhausted. Although when I was way too tired, there were times I forgot that he too had a long day.

So that means I had to live with the fact that our place cannot be spotless all the time. I had to be able to accept the mess. I had to contend with the fact that it will be spic and span when we managed to get some time.

If you can hire cleaners, that’s just perfect!

Accept any offer to help

help with choresYou can have your husband help with housework or you can opt to do that when you want a breather from taking care of your baby. He can also help with the baby. You can ask help in changing nappies or giving baby a bath.

Let friends and family help you as well. I was so happy when my mom and sister came to visit us. They helped us take care of her, as well as with our chores.

It’s also true that you sleep when your baby sleeps.

When she reached 5 months, we traveled to another country and we didn’t have her bassinet with us. We didn’t want to go beyond the baggage allowance.

I’ve already trained her to sleep well in her bassinet. So just when her sleeping habits were already in place, we were forced to have her co-sleep.

I think she enjoyed it as much we did. So when we got back home, it was difficult to re-train her because she just liked cuddling up to us and it was so easy to breastfeed her that way. I got more sleep!

I know co-sleeping is not encouraged, but in my experience, it really helps in giving you more time to sleep and helping you get a saner version of you.

What mom said is true, that things eventually get better in time. I managed to breastfeed and get more sleep. I also managed to eat well, take a bath, and have time for chores, while my baby slept through the night. Plus I also had my precious ‘me-time’.


How did it work out for you? How did you manage to breastfeed despite the sleepless nights? We can learn from each other’s experience, and help a sleep-deprived mom or dad. I would love to hear from you. Feel free to leave your comments below.

22 comments

  1. kathe says:

    Hi there, Raquel. I feel you! I breast fed for just two weeks. My milk supply suddenly stopped, so I don’t have any choice but to formula feed my son. I also suffered from sleep deprivation. There were times that my baby won’t sleep at wee hours. And I need to make him sleep, but it got more difficult each time. Good thing he sleeps through the night now. I just need to formula feed him every 4 hours or so.

    • Raquel says:

      Hi Kathe. I am sure that lack of sleep the part that parents know all too well. It can really be challenging, and it can take its toll on you. I do think that you know what’s best for your child. Good to hear that your son sleeps better now. If at any time in the near future, you decide to give breastfeeding a go, you may want to work with a lactation consultant and consider relactation. There are lactation food and drinks that may also help. All the best!

  2. jody miller says:

    This is a awesome site! I breastfeed my children and for sure, you do not sleep. I am sure some people do not realize the importance of breastfeeding their babies. You make a lot of good points and you also emphasized some of the things people may not yet know about breastfeeding. It can be a struggle and you put that out there. Good job.

  3. Bri says:

    Cluster feeding and dream-feeding really helped me with my newborn son. Like most infant boys, he wanted to eat non-stop and his voracious appetite really took it’s toll! I learned quickly to take tips from the pros so I could function well since I went back to work quickly. I learned to feed him A LOT from the 9PM-onwards timeframe so he would be super full and sleepy. This would reduce our wake times and gave me the much needed & ever-elusive sleep! I also learned that I should drink absolutely NO CAFFEINE after noon and no chocolates or sweets in the afternoon till evening! This apparently kept me up and probably gave him a small enough dose to result in fitful sleep. Hope this feedback is helpful to someone out there!

    • Raquel says:

      Thank you for sharing this Bri! I know that dream feeding/ cluster feeding has indeed helped many mothers and it is definitely worth a try. Just be careful not to wake them up. Having more sleep is so wonderful indeed. It helps you function more, especially that you had to return to work right away. I’m sure that this will help other moms. Let’s continue to provide them the information and support they need.

  4. Janis says:

    What a beautiful and true blog about breastfeeding and sleep! I too had gone through similar issues and it is so nice to have blogs out there where other new mom’s can see they are not alone. All the best to you and hoping you are finally getting some sleep!

    • Raquel says:

      Thank you Janis! Yes, I’m getting more sleep now – it does get much better in time. Its true, we wonder so much about whether we are doing things right or is it just you experiencing this… And it is always a huge relief to find out that you’re not alone and that other moms have experienced the same thing and are even willing to support you one way or another.

  5. Jezza says:

    Hi Raquel,

    This is so ME! I totally agree on you on sleep deprivation and fears while doing breastfeeding. What’s worse is that we live far away from our parents’ home so we just have friends with us who are also busy with their own lives. I also cried! You totally brought back the memories. Until I just let it all unfold before me. Truly, motherhood is a world of joy and pain 🙂

    Jezza

    • Raquel says:

      Hi Jezza. I apologise if I brought back any painful memories. Most, if not all moms, encounter sleep deprivation yet there’s not much information provided out there to prepare you for it. Yes, you can never be totally prepared, but awareness helps for what might happen. Motherhood can indeed be a roller coaster ride, but I’m certain that the joys will outweigh the pain. And once you see your baby smile or hear their laughter, that pain will surely fade away.

  6. Riaz Shah says:

    Hello again Raquel,
    I love these posts on motherhood you share. Although I’m a guy, I love reading them as it gives me insight on how to better take care of women.

    I always offer some help whenever I’m at home, I do the cooking, the cleaning, the laundry and even breakfast in bed as I know how exhausting it can be to take care of a baby. But just out of curiosity, does it drain you of energy when you breastfeed a baby? I’ve always been curious

    • Raquel says:

      Hello again, Riaz! Love it that you’re interested to know more about motherhood. It will really give you more information on a woman’s perpective. Really nice to know that you’ve been helping out at home. When the time comes, your partner will appreciate that for sure.

      On your question, yes, it can be draining! Especially at the start when you’re still trying to learn. Coupled with lack of sleep and dehydration (it makes you thirsty and hungry), you will feel tired. Let me know if you have other questions.

  7. John says:

    Lovely Post.

    I really hope you start getting a lot more sleep. Sleep deprivation is terrrible for the soul and It’s great that your providing new mothers with so many good tips. I think that having a supportive husband during this process is probably one of the most important aspects of survial for new moms.

    Keep up the good work.

    Thanks a lot for some great inspiration.

    • Raquel says:

      Thank you John. 🙂 Such are the realities of motherhood… 🙂 You just smile when you look at your little one. With regard to sleep, it thankfully gets better…

  8. Viljoen says:

    Hi Raquel. Breastfeeding and lack of sleep can be a bad combination. I had chronic insomnia for a long time and got over it with cognitive behavioral therapy.

    Lack of sleep can also make you emotionally unstable. Luckily, after babies are born, it won’t be that long before they move on to real food. So much respect goes out to moms who are able to manage this.

    • Raquel says:

      Thanks Viljoen. Yes, we all need sleep and its great to have a good support system to get you through.

      For moms, it really works to sleep when your baby is asleep. Of course, you can’t do that everytime. But find out what works best for you. I also have to give it to dads who give so much support. Its really a big help. 🙂

  9. jCamden says:

    My youngest son is just six months old and I nursed him until he was about three and a half months. After that I had to go back to work. Reading your blog brings back so many memories and I know all too well the feeling of wanting sleep so badly you’d give anything for it. I too was always worried about cosleeping with my baby because at the time I was so exhausted I knew the chances that I’d roll over onto him during the night was pretty high. It’s difficult at first but as your baby reaches the point where they sleep five hours a night, then six, then seven and more, every hour is like a victory! Your blog is something that all mothers can definitely relate to!

    • Raquel says:

      Thank goodness that it does get much, much better. 🙂 Babies eventually learn to sleep through the night (gradually). Its also great to look back at what you went through because it shows how tough and resilient moms can be. Thank you for sharing your experience. 🙂

  10. RuthM says:

    Oh my goodness, I so identify with this. I have two, my first WOULD not take a bottle, I had to breastfeed her for a year. And she was a terrible sleeper, I thought I was going mad. Every 2 -3 hrs as you say. you would only ever get 1 1/2 hrs sleep at a time. It’s enough to drive you crazy.

    But with my second I only managed it for 4 months and I have to say, that my first is NEVER ill. And my second is always sick. I put a lot of it down to breastfeeding. So what you are doing with encouragement here is fantastic. The sleeplessness does end. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    • Raquel says:

      It truly is part of motherhood. 🙂 Didn’t really understand the meaning of sleepless nights until I experienced it myself. Its great to hear your experience too, its these things that make moms feel that they are not alone. And that they too can get through this. Thanks for the great testament to the wonderful benefits of breastfeeding.

  11. Nicki says:

    Oh, my dear…
    You just brought back memories of sleepless nights and cranky babies. lol Yet, I smile and think about it fondly. My oldest is expecting her first in June (yay!) and plans to breastfeed, just as I did.
    I admit that also fell asleep while breastfeeding. It was just a sanity-saver, really. The sleep deprivation was the worst part of becoming a parent:)

    • Raquel says:

      Hi Nicki,

      Its really cool to know that you breastfed, and that your oldest will too! 🙂 Yeah, lack of sleep is such a toughie. But I thought of putting it out there coz we do experience it. And hopefully it won’t hinder moms from breastfeeding. It really does get better. 🙂 And like you mentioned, for sure, you’ll have a lot of fond memories with your baby. 🙂

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