The sun has risen. It’s morning. You’ve just got through yet another breastfeeding marathon with your baby.
You roll out of bed feeling exhausted. Bleary-eyed and barely able to speak, you wonder how you’re going to be able to face the day.
When will this all night breastfeeding buffet end?
How long am I going to be able to keep this up for?
Do other mothers experience this? Is it normal?
Sounds familiar? Rest assured, you are not alone.
Why does my baby want to breastfeed all night?
There are many healthy babies who show reliable signs of getting enough breastmilk who do this.
The good news is that it will end. But what makes babies do this?
A Wonder Week is the most likely explanation
All parents know that from time to time their baby goes through periods of time where they are clingier, crankier and cry more. During such periods breastfed babies may want to be attached to their mother’s breasts practically all night.
No one knows for sure why babies go through such periods. Probably the best explanation we currently have for them are known as ‘Wonder Weeks’. Simply put, a Wonder Week is a leap in your child’s mental development. You can read more about these here.
During such periods, babies seek comfort and protection, usually sourced from their primary caregiver. Breastfeeding is one of the most natural ways to provide a baby with these things. So at times where their brains are firing and making new connections at an increased rate, the closeness breastfeeding provides helps babies make sense of everything and feel secure.
There are many reasons why breastfeeding at night is important. Read here for more information.
How long do wonder weeks last?
Wonder Weeks tend to last from a few days to a few weeks.
As exhausting and challenging as all-night breastfeeding can be, it can be comforting to know it’s a normal and passing phase.
When do wonder weeks occur?
Wonder Weeks are said to occur at the following predictable times throughout a child’s development (although for some babies their Wonder Week may occur a little behind or ahead of the specified time). Each consecutive Wonder Week is said to be another ‘leap’, and each leap has various predictable occurrences.
- Leap 1: Week 5 – The World of Changing Sensations
- Leap 2: Week 8 – The World of Patterns
- Leap 3: Week 12 – The World of Smooth Transitions
- Leap 4: Week 19 – The World of Events
- Leap 5: Week 26 – The World of Relationships
- Leap 6: Week 37 – The World of Categories
- Leap 7: Week 46 – The World of Sequences
- Leap 8: Week 55 – The World of Programs
- Leap 9: Week 64 – The World of Principles
- Leap 10: Week 75 – The World of Systems
During each leap, your baby may not always want to breastfeed through the night. But if he does, at least you’ll know why.
For many mothers, the longer Wonder Weeks (leaps 4, 6 and 10) are often the most demanding. These leaps tend to coincide with major gross motor development (e.g. rolling, crawling and walking) which babies seem to practice in their sleep, and as a result, it disturbs them.
Are there other times your baby may want to breastfeed all night?
Yes, other times your baby may want to breastfed all night include:
#1: Your baby is distracted during the day
Some older babies (over the age of about 3 months) can become so distracted by their environment during the day, that night time may be the only time they feed well. Allowing your baby to breastfeed at times when he feeds well helps to ensure he continues to get the milk he needs.
#2: The weather is hot
Some babies are very fussy or refuse to feed during the day when the weather is hot.
If this happens, feeding in the coolest part of the house (e.g a bathroom), going to an air-conditioned shopping centre or placing a towel between you and your baby when feeding can help.
If these things don’t help, then your baby may want to feed a lot at night when it’s cooler, to make up for what he hasn’t had during the day.
What are some tips to help cope with breastfeeding all night?
Here are 4 tips to help you cope with your baby breastfeeding all night:
#1: Be prepared
Wonder Weeks are going to happen so it helps to be prepared. Accept that Wonder Weeks (and the possibility of accompanying all night breastfeeding) will be part of your life, on and off for quite a while, and then develop coping strategies. If you spend each week hoping there will be no Wonder Weeks they will be even harder to cope with when each one arrives. So, accept it, await it, and remember it won’t last forever.
#2: It’s not your fault
It can help to remember there’s nothing you’ve done or haven’t done that makes your baby want to breastfeed all night during Wonder Weeks. There are many other mothers going through what you are at this very moment.
#3: Enlist backup
After having been attached to your baby all night, it can help to have some time to yourself, even if during the day and even if just for a short period of time. Enlist the help of your partner, friend or family member so you can take a break to do whatever helps – taking a walk, a sleep, listening to music, having a bath etc.
#4: This too shall pass
For many mothers, those four words help get them through almost anything. Yes, Wonder Weeks and breastfeeding all night are hard. Yes, you feel helpless. Yes, at times you even feel a little bit on edge, but it will pass. Whenever you feel like it’s all getting to be too much, it can help to repeat “this too shall pass,” until you feel a little better.
Breastfeeding all night is something many mothers encounter at some point during their baby’s development. You are not alone! If you are concerned about your baby’s health for any reason, be sure to consult your doctor or child health nurse. Provided your baby is growing and development well, your baby’s all night breastfeeding buffet is likely to be a passing phase.