Some infants need to eat as often as every hour and a half, and feedings typically take 20 to 45 minutes. So for the first several months, it is around-the-clock care. To get more postpartum sleep, breastfeeding parents can pump during the day and ask a partner or family member to bottle-feed at night.
“I’m a big supporter of exclusive breastfeeding, but it doesn’t have to be that breast milk is always coming from the breast directly,” explains Dr. Osborne. “It can be in a pumped bottle. That’s hard in the very early first weeks when you don’t want to confuse the baby with a bottle nipple, but after about a month, it’s worth trying in order to get more rest and provide a way for your partner to participate in the feedings.” If pumping isn’t possible, it’s OK for parents who want their baby to have breastmilk to give one bottle of formula during the night to protect the mother’s sleep, Dr. Osborne says.
If a bottle is not possible, a partner or family member can still reduce the burden on the nursing parent by bringing the baby to the nursing parent in bed and then handling the tasks of burping, changing, and getting the baby back down—preferably in a room that’s out of earshot of the nursing parent. “That way, you can split the nighttime care, and you can try to get right back to sleep after nursing,” Dr. Osborne.