Wouldn't parenting be a ton easier if babies didn't wake up to breastfeed in the middle of the night?
Well, there are a few reasons why these cute beings wake up when they do. And understanding why it happens can help bring some peace of mind—and make those nighttime wakings a little easier to take.
1. It helps you make more milk
Babies are smart! At night and particularly in the wee hours, the milk making hormone Prolactin spikes up and leads to more breastmilk. Babies quickly figure this out and realize that waking at this time benefits them. In addition, breastmilk is higher in fat during this time, which is great for your little one's developing brain.
2. They become a better sleeper
This one may be a tough one to believe, especially if you're nursing an older baby who you feel should be sleeping longer stretches by now. However, breastmilk produced at night actually promotes better long-term sleep! Who knew?
Since babies don't produce melatonin—the sleep inducing hormone—for most of their early life, falling and staying asleep doesn't come easy to them. But what does contain lots of melatonin? You got it—breastmilk.
The great thing is that melatonin in nighttime breastmilk can help regulate a baby's circadian cycle (the body's clock which regulates sleep-wake cycles) and allows them to eventually learn to sleep longer stretches at night.
3. Give me a T for Tryptophan
In addition to melatonin in nighttime breastmilk, tryptophan, a sleep-inducing amino acid, is also included in human milk. During infancy, ingesting tryptophan leads to more serotonin receptor sites in the brain. Plus we know that serotonin makes the brain work better, keeps one in a good mood, and helps with sleep-wake cycles.
4. Extends breastfeeding duration
Mothers who breastfeed at night are more likely to breastfeed for longer because production remains more steady. This goes back to the basic breastfeeding principle of supply and demand. The more number of times the breasts are emptied in 24 hours, the more milk a mother will produce, and the longer she can maintain her supply after it has been established.
5. It helps you get more sleep, mama
No typos here… you read correctly. Mothers who breastfeed get more sleep at night because oxytocin, known as the love hormone and the one that helps moms feel relaxed while nursing, contributes to better sleep. Any extra sleep not only helps mothers feel better but also decreases the chances of experiencing postpartum depression.
Keep these in mind the next time you're up during a late-night feeding session. You're doing something great for your baby and yourself.