Reverse-cycle nursing: Ways to cope

Now that my five month old eats solid foods, he won't take bottles of breastmilk at all from his caregivers. Instead, he prefers to wait until I come home from work and then nurse every two hours all night long. I work three long days a week, but I do nurse him throughout the other days when I'm home. Is it okay for him to go 12 hours with only two ounces of breastmilk mixed in with cereal in addition to jars of veggies?

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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

Your baby is practicing reverse cycle nursing. This is quite commonly seen in babies of working moms. Basically he has just switched his schedule to coordinate with yours.

I can understand that you'd like to begin getting more sleep at night. But if your little guy is encouraged to begin sleeping through the night, he will be going for two long periods each work day without your milk. This can amount to more than 16 hours. That's too long, and I would be concerned if that were the case. Since your baby is refusing virtually all breastmilk during the day, it is very important that he be given access to nursing as needed when the two of you are together.

If you are basically sleep-deprived but otherwise happy with your nursing relationship, begin to think about some creative ways to deal with your lack of sleep. Do you share sleep with your little one? Many working moms find that this helps them to be more rested during the day, even when their baby is a frequent nighttime nurser. You also might want to take a nap when you return home from work. This can help you to feel more rested in the evening. You might also want to rearrange your schedule so you have time in the evening to "cocoon" with your baby and the rest of your family. Once you allow yourself this time, then you no longer need to feel guilty for getting comfy, putting up your feet and just relaxing on your work nights.

I wouldn't give up offering your baby your milk. While your baby is in daycare, you might want to ask your baby's caregiver to offer some of your expressed milk in a sippy cup. It may be the bottle that your baby dislikes. Start out with one ounce at a time, so you will not be wasting any of your milk if your baby continues to refuse.

Your baby will probably get thirsty while you're at work. In addition to other solid foods that have already been safely introduced to your baby, you can also offer juice, such as apple or pear, which is diluted (one part juice to 2 parts water.) My very best wishes!

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