EAT – PLAY – SLEEP & The Importance of Full Feedings for Healthy Sleep
I talk a lot about establishing healthy sleep habits from birth. This will go a long way towards helping you fully enjoy the newborn stage while also setting your little one up for sleep success as they grow and develop. If you want to avoid any kind of formal “sleep training” when your baby is seven months, twelve months, twenty months, and beyond, then starting to employ healthy sleep habits in the newborn stage is imperative.
It is so important, in fact, that I offer TWO different packages for expectant parents and parents with newborns. Newborn Sleep 101 will help expectant parents prepare for what to anticipate from their newborn in terms of sleep once they are here. With the Prenatal/Newborn Package, we will also discuss what to expect when it comes to newborn sleep, but also work closely together to ensure that your little one is getting off to a great start.
One of the most important ways to get sleep off to a great start, is to practice “Eat – Play – Sleep”. You’ve probably heard this term tossed around but may not be totally sure what it actually means. Well, it’s pretty simple. This is the order you should ideally try to follow as you work to establish a general schedule once you’re home with your new little bundle. For example, when your newborn wakes up from her nap, change her, bring her out into the daylight, and give her a great feed. Burp her, play with her, and, keeping wake-schedules in mind, get her back down to sleep before she gets too tired. Do you see how we put some separation between feeding and sleeping? Not only does this help to minimize the associations between nursing and falling asleep (an association that is terribly hard to break as your little one gets older and begins needing you to feed throughout the night for comfort vs. for calories) but it also helps to ensure your baby is getting a full feed vs. just snacking all day.
Why are full feeds important?
If you are breastfeeding, full feeds ensure that your little one is getting both the foremilk – the liquid portion of your milk that quenches your baby’s thirst – and the hindmilk – the part of your milk that is richer in fat content and will satisfy your baby’s hunger. The perfect balance is vital for proper growth and development. Additionally, full feeds help maintain a nursing mom’s milk supply. We know that the only thing that truly helps to stimulate milk production is milk removal – basic supply and demand! Full feeds are also very important to ensure that your little one stays happy and satisfied between feedings. When your baby is getting full feeds, you will be better able to discern between cries and not assume that every cry is out of hunger. Full feeds also ensure that your child is getting adequate calories and is therefore able to get more consolidated sleep.
Please know, this routine is NOT about demanding that your baby follow a rigid, clock-based schedule and is not to say that you can’t feed your baby at other times when you believe she is hungry. I am also not saying cluster feedings are somehow bad or even non-ideal (in fact, cluster feeds can be normal, especially in the evening hours as your little one gears up for a longer stretch of nighttime sleep). However, it is vital to always set your little one up for success by helping them to achieve full feeds as often as possible.
If you’ve already got a little snacker on your hands and you are concerned about not achieving full feedings, try a few small tweaks to work towards this goal.
+ Wait 15-30 minutes before offering a feeding if your little one ate less than 60 minutes ago.
+ If your baby frequently falls asleep while feeding, help them to stay awake during feeds by tickling her toes, singing to her, and feeding in a brightly lit room during the day.
+ Minimize distractions during feedings
If you want to lay a foundation for healthy sleep habits, following the Eat – Play – Sleep recommendation is a great first step. Helping your little one get full feeds will make following this schedule much easier, minimize frequent snacking, help to consolidate and lengthen stretches of sleep, and give YOU (and your boobs) a much needed break!
If you need help distinguishing between hunger and sleep cues or would like some support getting your little one on an Eat – Play – Sleep schedule, we have packages for you!