The links below provide information on night time feeds.
Click here for NEW ISIS Infant Sleep Information Source website.
Click here to download UNICEF Health professionals guide to 'Caring for your baby at night' leaflet and here to download UNICEF 'Caring for your baby at night' leaflet.
Click here for research on bed sharing and breastfeeding from UNICEF.
Click here for NHS leaflet 'Reduce the risk of cot death'
Giving information to mothers about safe bed-sharing, night time feeds and how to manage them is a UNICEF BFI standard.
Night time breastfeeding should be discussed with mothers at the first and follow up contacts, firstly because of the importance of breastfeeding at night for a good milk supply and baby weight gain and also because this provides the opportunity to discuss the prevention of Sudden Infant Death.
What a mothers needs to know
While establishing breastfeeding, milk is produced by supply and demand and levels of prolactin (the milk-making hormone) are higher at night, so breastfeeding throughout the 24 hours ensures a good supply for their baby.
A baby has a small stomach and breastmilk is digested quickly, so the baby needs to be fed at intervals through the night to ensure good growth.
If the mothers breasts become too full overnight, she is at risk of blocked ducts and mastitis. Her milk supply will also reduce because of Feedback Inhibitor of Lactation (FIL). In short, if her breasts are not emptied, her body thinks she does not need so much breast milk and makes less.
It is important that breastfeeding mothers and families receive this information, as often well-meaning family members offer to bottle-feed overnight so that mum will get more rest, without understanding how this will affect breastfeeding. Many new mothers are often woken up by their full breasts anyway! Many find it difficult to sleep without their babies near to them. Many dads fall asleep with baby on a sofa or armchair.
Family can support the mother in other ways and she should rest at other times of the day if possible, for example, when the baby sleeps.
If parents have made an informed decision that they want to give their breastfed baby a bottle of formula at any time it is better for milk supply and for the mother, to give it in the evening rather than during the night.
Health professionals often advise mothers to never take their baby into bed with them because of the risks of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and accidental injury; however, to simply direct mothers in this way is not considered best practice in the prevention of SIDS and in the support of breastfeeding mothers. We know from good research, and professional experience, that at times mothers will take their babies into bed and fall asleep with them and instead we should be giving them information and support to make what they are doing as safe as possible. Many breastfeeding mothers who are told not to feed their baby in bed will then fall asleep feeding in a chair or sofa – which is a very dangerous thing to do.
The safest place for a baby to sleep is still in a crib/cot next to mothers bed for the first 6 months, but we also need to talk to breastfeeding mothers about safe positions for feeding lying down and safe bed sharing. Using the UNICEF Caring for your baby at night' leaflet is the most effective way of doing this.
All new parents should also have the NHS Reduce the risk of cot death leaflet (DH Publications orderline 292301) which advises:
- Place your baby on the back to sleep, in a cot in a room with you
- Do not smoke in pregnancy or let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby
- Do not share a bed with your baby if you have been drinking alcohol, if you take drugs or if you are a smoker
Never sleep with your baby on a sofa or armchair
- Do not let your baby get too hot – keep your baby’s head uncovered – place your baby in the “feet to foot” position