How to Make 3 a.m. Feedings Easierby Katlyn Joy | April 25, 2012 11:52 AM
Ask any bleary-eyed new parent what is the hardest adjustment of parenthood and among the top three answers will be a variation of "sleep deprivation."
However, there is little any one can do. Babies cannot sleep for long stretches in those eternal early months, no matter the urban legend about your cousin's best friend's niece who slept through the night from nine days of age.
There are methods for handling the madness that is the middle of the night feeding however. Ways exist which can ease the nightly terror of waking to a baby's cries and shrieks from hunger.
1. Keep nights dark and days bright. Your baby won't learn day from night for awhile, but training does start now. Do not go in to the nursery in the middle of the night and turn on a bright lamp. Nor should you draw every curtain and noon time nap. Let your baby adjust to the natural daily rhythms of light and dark.
2. Don't amuse, engage or play when it's bedtime. Do the business at hand, and go back to the business of sleeping. Don't get animated, talk in bright loud tones, or pull out some musical toys at 2 a.m. Nurse your baby, give your baby his bottle, change the diaper and slip out as if you were wanted in four counties.
3. Set up a well stocked night-time feeding nook. Have a space set aside to comfortably feed your baby. Have a rocker, a foot stool, burp cloths, a nightlight and anything else you might just need for the nightly buffet. Having everything close at hand will simplify your night time routine. Nothing is worse than trying to hunt for a pacifier or a clean nipple for baby's bottle at 2:39 a.m. when you can barely peel your eyelids from your eyes.
4. Prepare bottles at dinner time so everything is ready to go. When you are getting the last bottle ready before baby goes down for the night, go ahead and prep the middle of the night bottle. Have it measured, poured and ready to go. If you use powdered formula, have a pre measured amount of water in a second bottle. Mix and feed when it's time. Put the bottle and formula in your feeding nook.
5. Keep a flashlight handy, slippers on your side of the bed and your robe within reach. You don't want to wake the whole household while you trip and stumble down the hall in your sleep. By keeping the essentials in a regular spot you never have to waste moments looking.
6. Work out the feeding schedule before bed. If you and your partner take turns feeding baby during the middle of the night session, discuss before turning out your lights who has next. This will help save valuable time later.
7. Don't let baby cry too little or too much before going in to feed her. If you respond to every tiny whimper, you are training baby to expect you to always comfort him when in reality you do want your baby to learn some self-soothing skills. At the same time, you don't want your baby to wake fully into a complete rage or break down into complete teary despair either. Know your baby's cries by listening and paying attention to how he sounds when he's tired, hungry, pooped, or bored.
8. If baby has an internal alarm clock, go ahead and set yours. If your baby waked every night dutifully at 2: 15 a.m. then consider setting a gentle sounding alarm for 2:10 a.m. to give yourself a bit of a head start.
9. Have some diversions for Mom and Dad in the nursing nook. Magazines, movies that are quiet, even a crossword puzzle can keep your eyes open for twenty minutes or so to get you through the feeding.
10. Take time off once in a while. Let your partner take over for a whole night to give yourself a rest. Breastfeeding? Pump a few bottles and get a solid several hours of sleep in a row. The "in a row" part will make you feel twice as rested as normal. Get Grandma to step in one night. Just allow yourself a chance to relish a real night's sleep once in awhile.
While nothing will make middle of the night feedings truly easy, remember the truth that this stage will end. It only seems forever right now! Soon baby will go for hours without needing fed and you will have the chance to dream about something besides bottles and burping.
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