This may come as a surprise, but you need to think and plan for this while you’re pregnant. Yes, babies sleep a lot, but they also eat a lot. Babies typically breastfeed 8-12 times in 24-hours, but can sometimes feed more often than that. That means that you should follow your grandma’s advice and “sleep when the baby sleeps,” but it will be in short bursts between feedings. A major benefit of breastfeeding to this disjointed sleeping is that mothers who are breastfeeding get better quality sleep in those bursts over mothers who are not breastfeeding and are sleeping longer periods due to the hormones that are released when breastfeeding, specifically oxytocin. That’s helpful! But you still need to plan for this sleep.
Some babies are thought to be confused about day and night because they seem to sleep more during the day and are more awake at night. This may be the case, but more likely what is happening is that the baby is overstimulated by all of the activity in the daytime so they go into a deep sleep, and wake at night when their environment is calmer. A lot of babies want to breastfeed more at night to make up for lost time during the day when they were in this deep sleep. They all tend to do this exact behavior on their second night of life.
It’s so exciting when you have a baby and everyone and their cousins want to come to the hospital and see you (basically 2 minutes after the baby exits the womb). However, you should definitely consider asking them to wait until you get home or limit all visitors to one window during your hospital stay. Think about it: you’ll be functioning on little to no sleep (depending on how long you were in labor), recovering from birth (which is crazy no matter how the baby comes out), AND learning how to care for the brand new human who needs to eat every 2-3 hours. Most moms are not comfortable trying to breastfeed in front of visitors but also feel guilty about asking the visitors to leave. Therefore, my best advice is to give them one short window to all come at once, or better yet, wait until you get home.
Unfortunately, the visitors are only one part of the many interruptions to your rest while you’re in the hospital. In most hospitals, there is at least one interruption to the patient every hour around the clock. Most of this cannot be eliminated, but having visitors is something you can control. You can also plan to have a good support person who can manage many of those interruptions and help to optimize your rest and recovery.
One more thing to note, a lot of hospitals have moved away from the night nursery and parents are expected to keep baby with them at all times, so don’t count on this. If your hospital is one of these, plan to have someone stay with you to help at night. Also, take advantage of the lactation and nursing staff to ensure that breastfeeding is going well at all times during the day or night. You don’t want to get home and regret not asking for help when it was available.
- Babies breastfeed a lot: 8-12 times, at least, in 24-hours (Learn about feeding cues here.)
- Visitors are exhausting for both moms and babies, which can significantly disrupt feeding and sleeping
- There many interruptions in the hospital that can disrupt rest
- Plan to limit visitors
- Find out if your hospital offers night nursery and/or plan to have a support person with you at night