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Thread: Allowing baby to STTN?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
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    Default Allowing baby to STTN?

    Is there a certain age where it's okay to allow baby to sleep as long as they want at night? When we met with the LC after my daughter was born, her recommendation was to allow only one 4-5 hour stretch per day and otherwise try for at least 8-12 feedings per day. I've just stuck with that recommendation, but my daughter is now 11.5 weeks old and I'm wondering if that recommendation is still best?

    I typically feed her when I want to go to bed (last night it was 10pm), then I set my alarm to wake her about 4.5-5 hours later (if she hasn't woken on her own), then again 2.5-3 hours later (again, unless she wakes up first) and then it's daytime and she's awake more.

    I ask because she used to wake up On her own to eat (usually quite close to when my alarm was set), but lately she is really hard to wake up overnight. I have no idea how long she would actually sleep because I have never let her sleep all night.

    Is it okay to just let her sleep as long as she wants now? Or should I maybe lengthen that first sleep to see if she's easier to wake? Right now I spend 15 minutes trying to rouse her enough to even open her mouth (she doesn't dreamfeed - she has to be awake at least in the beginning before she'll even open wide).

    And the past couple of nights I've actually turned off my alarm and accidentally gone back to sleep for 30 minutes. Just tired...


    She sleeps right next to me in a cosleeper

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
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    212

    Default Re: Allowing baby to STTN?

    Whoops - she sleeps in a cosleeper next to me and I wake at most any movements she makes, so I don't think I'm missing any feeding cues.

    Her weight gain has been good, aside from a couple of random weeks when it was low.

    I don't want to mess up my supply or slow her weight gain...

    Thanks for any advice!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2006
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    19,894

    Default Re: Allowing baby to STTN?

    After 6 weeks, it's fine to let baby sleep as long as she wants at night and set her own nursing frequency during the day, provided that she is growing and developing at a normal rate.

    Couple things to be aware of:
    - if baby starts going 6 or more hours without nursing, it's very likely that you'll experience a return of your fertility. So if baby starts sleeping for a really long stretch, get your birth control choices in order unless you are ready for a surprise sibling.
    - your baby's rate of weight gain is going to slow eventually. It usually peaks during early infancy and then slows down as baby gets to the middle of her first year.
    Coolest thing my big girl said recently: "How can you tell the world is moving when you are standing on it?"
    Coolest thing my little girl sang recently: "I love dat one-two pupples!"

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
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    Default Re: Allowing baby to STTN?

    Thanks so much! We're going to try it tonight. I'm a bit afraid of drowning her (because my breasts will be super full) if she sleeps all night, but I'll try expressing a bit at the beginning and see if that helps.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Allowing baby to STTN?

    I do not think there is any one particular age where it is generally ‘ok’ to let baby sleep as long as baby will. I think it depends on many variables, and also depends on your definition of ‘ok.’ Not only must baby be ‘ok’ as in, getting enough milk, (and exact amount needed varies from baby to baby) mom & her milk production must be ok as in, having milk removed from the breasts with the needed frequency. And this will vary from mom to mom!

    I am sorry to be such a killjoy about this, I know the rule of thumb mommal mentions is often fine-it may work 99% of the time for all I know. Of course I believe that generally, a healthy exclusively breastfed baby of over two weeks or so old will typically cue mom when baby needs to nurse. But I have seen so many instances where long sleep stretches lead to mastitis and plugs, poor milk production, nursing difficulties, and sometimes even infant weight gain issues, that, in my opinion, this general rule does not take into account the myriad ways babies today may be limited in how much they nurse the rest of the time (with early or rapid introduction of solids, soft scheduling, or just mom having a hard time fitting nursing baby with appropriate frequency into her family's busy lives.) In such cases, a baby may really need to continue a more proactive nighttime nursing scedule. Also, I have come to feel strongly that ‘cue feeding’ needs to take into account the cues sent from a mother’s body, as well as baby’s often very subtle cues. This means it is fine and normal for a mom to wake a baby to nurse because she feels full! We are so obsessed as a culture with how long babies sleep, with everyone asking you how long baby sleeps from the second baby is born, and admonitions to ‘never’ wake a sleeping baby etc, that many moms who really have no objection to nursing at night feel pushed into a pattern of what I call ‘soft’ scheduling and ‘soft’ sleep training. As far as I can tell, no healthy breastfed baby ever had any other ill effects because baby was awoken once or twice a night to nurse. On the other hand, weight loss issues or mom losing supply DOES happen sometimes when a baby falls into a pattern of very long sleep stretches.

    So how do you know when it is ok to just let baby sleep as long as baby wishes on a regular basis? This would be my criteria-

    1) Baby is gaining well with exclusive breastfeeding, (or bfding plus solids after introduction of solids) and nursing is going generally well for mom and baby.
    2) Mom feels usually pretty comfortable when baby wakes-full is ok, but not painfully full or engorged.
    3) Baby is not on any parent imposed feeding or sleep schedule that limits feeding length or frequency*
    4) *If mom is back to work, baby may have scheduled feedings from caregivers, but baby is still cue fed when with mom.
    5) Baby sleeps in close proximity to mom (In the same room. Monitors allow mom to hear or see baby, but not for baby to sense/smell/hear mom which is an important part of the sleep/wake equation)
    6) Baby is not being encouraged to sleep longer stretches by artificial means such as pacifier use or overuse, swaddling use or overuse, putting baby in a swing, being overstuffed with rice cerial at bedtime or "topped off" with bottles.
    7) Mom usually responds to nighttime cues by offering to nurse even if baby does not completely awaken and mom is open to nursing with more frequency even after baby has started long stretches as needed/cued by baby (due to growth spurts, etc.)
    8) A baby who is not eating lots of solids yet nurses around 8* times in 24 hours or more. *I base this on a baby over about 6 weeks and older in age, needing *about* 30 ounces total breastmilk a day-so 8 times a day would divide into an average of 3.75 ounces per nursing session.
    Last edited by @llli*lllmeg; September 9th, 2012 at 02:21 PM. Reason: added this: (or bfding plus solids after introduction of solids) to number 1 criteria

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Allowing baby to STTN?

    I think it's totally possible and realisitic to let a 12 week old sleep as long as they will and still be nursing 10-12 times in a 24hour period if you are feeding on demand. I wouldn't interrupt my 12 week olds sleep and he at that age was sleeping 1 4-5 hour stetch at night and one 3-4 hour nap and 2 smaller naps at that age. And I fed on demand and up and down from all those stretches and it was easily 10-12 times a day. Easily.

    Way too lazy for formula

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
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    212

    Default Re: Allowing baby to STTN?

    Thanks for everyone's input. I do think we fit those criteria that Meg mentioned. However, after thinking about it more in light of the past couple of rough feeding days, I think I'll stick with waking her up a couple times overnight to get the extra milk in her. Her awake feedings haven't been great yesterday and today, so I don't think we should (potentially) let go over overnight feedings right now...

  8. #8

    Default Re: Allowing baby to STTN?

    I should have mentioned in my looong post above I also think we have to consider what is meant by 'sleeping through the night.' I have seen this defined as 5 hours for babies, (although of course many babies do not sleep that long) and yes I think that, for example, a five hour stretch and then a four hour stretch, would often be fine even for a very young baby who is nursing very well overall. But for many people, when they say "sleeping though the night" mean either a normal for adults 8 hour stretch or a normal for an older childs 10-12 hour stretch(!) This is usually too long for a baby. And that kind of long sleep stretch is where I have seen difficulties even in babies older than 6 weeks.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
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    Default Re: Allowing baby to STTN?

    Personally, I have no problem waking my babies up for an early morning feed if they've slept for 5 hours or so and my breasts are full. (Of course, most babies will latch on, nurse, and go right back to sleep, so it's hardly waking them up.) If I was dealing with breastfeeding issues and trying to put a little extra weight on my baby, I would DEFINITELY wake them up. When I was worried about Maggie's weight, I never let her sleep more than four hours. Now that she is plump and healthy, she wakes me up more than that. Go figure. But honestly, I think some night nursing is good in that it keeps your supply up, etc. It also prevents the return of AF (for most women, not all), which is great as far as I'm concerned. So it may sound crazy, but while a few solid hours of sleep are nice, I don't actually want my baby to actually sleep through the night.


    You can call me JoMo!

    Mom to baby boy Joe, born 5/4/09 and breastfed for more than two and a half years, and baby girl Maggie, born 7/9/12.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
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    34

    Default Re: Allowing baby to STTN?

    I'm glad I found this post--my 12 week old just started going 6 hours at night. Last night I fed him around 9 or 9:30 and I didn't wake up until 5:15! I was alarmed, so I went to see if he was breathing...he was fast asleep. I did try to wake him up because I was so full and uncomfortable, and then felt selfish because I didn't think I should wake him up for my own discomfort. Good to know that's okay! I have an oversupply, so hopefully the longer stretches won't make me dry up.

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