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For many mums – breastfeeding or not – lack of sleep can be the hardest thing to deal with.

Young babies need to feed round the clock as their tummies are very small and they need frequent 'filling up' to help them grow. You're probably craving a decent full night's sleep, but try to see night feeds as a quiet time to bond with your baby.

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Top tips for calm and peaceful night feeding

Tip #1: Keep the room fairly dark

Switching on the light wakes everyone up and isn't usually needed for feeding and comforting your baby.

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Tip #2: Keep your baby close

The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot by the side of your bed. You’ll hear their early feeding cues and respond before they get upset. You can also reach for your baby easily without having to get up.

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Tip #3: Keep your baby calm

Photo of a mum awake with her baby

Offer your breast as soon as they begin to wake, that way they won't get upset and become difficult to settle. Talk in a soft, quiet voice and avoid changing their nappy or clothing unless necessary. Skin-to-skin contact and gentle rocking can be very comforting for your baby if they can't seem to settle.

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Tip #4: Try dream feeding

If you’re desperate for a longer stretch of sleep at night, you could try ‘dream feeding’. So instead of waiting for your baby to wake you when they’re hungry, you feed them before you go to sleep. Even if they’re half asleep, you’ll find that they should wake enough to feed, and then settle back to sleep.

It’s best to wait until your baby has got into a more regular sleeping and feeding pattern before you start this, and to feed them when they’re in a semi-awake stage rather than sound asleep or more alert, so that the feed doesn’t wake them fully just as you’re ready to go to bed.

Dream feeding doesn’t work for everyone, and may not work for long, but if it gets you a few hours uninterrupted sleep it’s worth a try!

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Getting support

If you've had a particularly difficult night, try to take time out to rest during the day. Visitors can wait – or better yet can help by taking over housework or looking after other children while you and your baby catch up on sleep. For more tips on how to cope with night feeds, take a look at UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative's leaflet Caring for your baby at night: a guide for parents

It may help to talk to other mums in the same situation – you can find support groups in your area here. 

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Stopping breastfeeding at night

If breastfeeding during the night is making you over tired, you may wish to phase out night time feeds as your baby gets older. You could start by making sure they drink plenty of milk during the day, and then feeding them just before you go to sleep. If your baby is still waking up and needing to feed during the night, you could also try expressing milk and asking your partner to take over the night feeds. Our page on stopping breastfeeding has more tips. You can also find useful information on the NCT website.

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