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New mothers are often tired. A day full of tending to a baby, feeding, cleaning, changing leaves them exhausted and craving a night full of sleep. Babies being babies wake up and demand to be fed at night. While it is convenient to just give the bottle to a crying child while you yourself are drowsy, it can have a number of unfavourable consequences.
Disadvantages of Bottle / top feeding babies at night
- Tooth decay: Bottle who are bottle fed at night have an increased chance of getting tooth infection. A child who goes to sleep with the bottle in his mouth can have milk pooled in his mouth which leads to the growth of bacteria, plaque, and tooth decay. Decayed teeth in children cause severe pain and might even need to be extracted.
- Ear infections: Bottle feeding while sleeping increases a baby’s chances of suffering from ear infections. When a baby bottle feeds while lying down, the formula can flow in the ear’s Eustachian tubes (middle ear) causing ear infections. This, however, does not hold true for breastfeeding babies while lying down.
- Choking hazard: Sometimes we may fall asleep after giving the baby a bottle at night and the baby continues to bottle feed while drowsy and lying down. This is a choking hazard as the milk might flow into their lungs.
- Failure to self-soothe: Babies who bottle feed while sleeping begin to associate bottle feeding with sleeping and have trouble falling asleep independently. They will not learn to soothe themselves as soothing for them is linked to bottle feeding.
- Nipple confusion: Babies who bottle feed do not learn to suck efficiently as milk drips from the bottle due to gravity. This leads to nipple confusion as the baby who is bottle fed expects the milk to come from mother's breast without sucking. This prevents the baby from breastfeeding properly.
Why say YES to Nighttime breastfeeding?
It can sometimes seem like a herculean task to pick up a crying child while you yourself are asleep, bring him to bed with you, feed him and put him back in his crib to sleep. However, if you were to consider all the advantages, it is definitely worth it.
- An Important part of their total daily feed: Breast milk that babies feed at night is a major part of their total daily intake of breast milk. Research indicates that over 50% of new babies feed up to three times at night and get up to 20% of their daily milk intake at night itself.
- Sets the baby’s body clock: Babies are born with no established body clock (circadian rhythms) which can take several months to develop. They also do not make their own melatonin (a sleep-inducing hormone) for much of their early life. However, nighttime breastmilk is especially rich in melatonin. Researchers think that melatonin-rich nighttime breast milk helps babies develop their own circadian rhythms (body clocks).
- Nighttime milk is rich in brain developing hormones: Nighttime breast milk has a higher concentration of tryptophan, an amino acid which helps regulate a baby’s sleep. Tryptophan also improves brain development and is a precursor to serotonin which regulates mood. So nighttime feeding will help your baby sleep better, be smarter and happier.
- Protects against SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome): Nighttime breastfeeding is the most important in prevention of SIDS, which is sudden, unexplained death of infants. This is because breastfeeding babies are more likely to rouse at night, and demand milk. This nighttime rousing is important in preventing SIDs. Australia’s leading health organisation, the National Health and Medical Research Council, indicates that not breastfeeding increases the risk of SIDS by 56%.
- Increases the mother’s milk supply: Prolactin is the hormone responsible for breast milk production. Research has indicated that in breastfeeding women, prolactin levels are much higher at night and the wee morning hours. Nighttime nursing, therefore, increases the mother’s milk supply, which in turn establishes a healthy milk supply for a breastfeeding baby.
Once you weigh in all these major benefits, you will think twice before giving your baby the bottle at night. Breastfeeding will do both you and your baby a world of good and is also a wonderful bonding experience for the mother and baby.