Friend suggested formula at night?

My son is five weeks old. He is my second child, born via a second cesarean. I have had recurring episodes of bleeding after this birth and my midwife wants me to really take it easy for the next couple of weeks. She also wants me to try to get more sleep. She suggested expressing milk, which I do anyway, to let my husband feed my son at night. My son usually wakes at three hour intervals. Although my husband would be willing to do this, a friend of his suggested giving my son a bottle of formula to fill him so he would sleep longer allowing me to get a little more uninterrupted sleep. My first reaction was "no way"! I am worried about the effect this will have on my milk supply for one. And secondly, about how the formula may affect my son. Could you possibly give me your insight on this matter.


Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

It is important to take it easy if you are experiencing heavy bleeding following your baby's birth. Breastfeeding is really ideal, allowing you to get the rest you need. Nursing your little one reminds you to sit down, put your feet up and take regular breaks.

Allow yourself to get the rest you need during the day. Lie down at least twice, and bring your baby to bed with you. You didn't mention the age of your older child, but most likely, if you childproof your bedroom, he can either nap with you and baby, or play quietly while you rest.

I would not recommend feeding your baby formula at night to encourage him to sleep more deeply. Babies sleep differently than adults. Their short sleep cycles and more frequent periods of arousal very likely exist for a good reason. This type of sleep cycle may be crucial to their survival. Recent research at the University of California Irvine, published in the medical journal, Sleep, suggests that SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) may be prevented if mothers share their beds with their babies. Sharing sleep may prevent long episodes of deep sleep. Though the cause of SIDS is still not known, many experts believe that it involves the inability of the brain to wake the sleeping baby if breathing stops. Sharing sleep also encourages breastfeeding, which is thought to be protective against SIDS, and regulation of the baby's respiration and heart rate.

Another reason for avoiding the use of formula is because of the possibility of an allergic reaction. You may find out that your baby is allergic or sensitive to artificial baby milk. Cow's milk and soy top the list of allergy producing foods for babies. Allergic reactions can range from very mild rashes to anaphylactic shock.

You may find that if you express your milk and leave the nighttime feeds to your husband, you will still wake when your baby wakes and have full breasts (that will begin dripping in preparation for nursing.) This may make it quite difficult for you to get back to sleep.

You will probably find that you get the best rest if you bring your baby to bed with you at night. You can nurse without ever needing to get up. If your baby's diaper needs to be changed, your husband can help out in this way.

The hormones prolactin and cholecystokinin (CCK), which are released with breastfeeding will help you to get a good night's sleep. CCK brings on a wonderfully sleepy feeling that can make it a cinch to drift back off to sleep following those nighttime feeds (and sometimes feeds during the day.) The effect of CCK, combined with the relaxing effect of prolactin, is a nursing mother's ticket to a good night's sleep.

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