The first three weeks after birth can be tough.
Many mothers struggle with creating a feeding and sleeping routine that works for them (and their baby).
If feed time is a struggle… If your baby won’t sleep unless they’re at the breast… Here comes the good news.
There’s a very easy tweak you can make right now that will create a huge difference for you.
In fact, you can have a calm, settled, happy baby… in just 72 hours!
And that means:
- No more sleeping at the breast
- No more feeding sessions that never end (and aren’t productive)
- Your baby will automatically fall asleep after they feed
- Your baby will sleep longer and deeper
- Your baby will be much happier and calmer (which makes everything so much easier!)
Sounds too good to be true?
Here’s a text message I got last week from a mother who just tried my system:
OMG Loretta! My baby is sleeping!!! Feeding is much better too. No more falling asleep at the breast and I even got some sleep last night!”
Why Your Baby Is Struggling
It is tiring being a new human out in this world.
Your baby is still very little. And as a result – he (or she) has very limited amount of energy when they are awake.
In fact, babies under 6 weeks can only stay awake for about one hour before they “tire out”!
It might not seem like hard work to you… But maintaining body temperature and developing all other bodily functions is a massive, tiring job for your baby!
And that leaves very little energy for feeding. And that’s where the problems start.
It’s not your fault!
You need to understand – this isn’t your fault. It’s just that your baby has very little energy right now. And if they get too tired before they have a good feed, then feeding time becomes a struggle.
And then your baby does the only thing they can do about it… they cry.
Which makes them even more tired. And the more tired they are, the harder it is for them to suck. Which makes them cry some more…
And more… and more… Until they fall asleep exhausted and frustrated!
From there a vicious cycle forms:
- They fall asleep exhausted and not full
- Because they’re not full, they will wake up sooner
- So they wake up and are still tired (because they didn’t get enough sleep)
So what happens next? It gets worse!
- Your baby is too tired, so once again, feeding doesn’t go well
- They get even crankier, and use all their precious energy to cry more!
- Now your baby has even less energy left – and still isn’t full!
- So the next feed will be an even bigger challenge…
Unless you break the loop!
What you want to do is create the exact opposite loop:
- You apply the one little change I’m about to show you
- This leads to a good and effective feeding session
- Your baby fills up more, and naturally falls asleep (you’ll be amazed how much easier this is when your baby is truly full)
- Then your baby will sleep better and longer
- And the good sleep leads to a a better breastfeed next time
- And a better feed leads to an even longer, and deeper sleep
- And the next feed becomes better… and the sleep after that becomes better…
- And from that moment on – you’re off to the races! 🙂
But enough with the theory. Here’s how you can create this positive loop in the next 3 days – step by step:
How To Get Started With The 72-Hour Plan
It doesn’t matter which feed you start this feeding plan on.
It can be the first feed in the morning – or can be at 3 am. The key thing is that you keep going for 72 hours because that’s when the magic happens.
Again, this is not instant because when you start, your baby may be tired. They may be used to having short sleeps and short feeds. And each short feed leads to a short sleep. Which leads to another short feed and the cycle keeps going! (see how to manage a feed from day 1 for more info about feed management)
As you follow this plan, and over the next 72 hours, your baby will drink more and more milk at each breastfeed. This will lead to longer and longer sleeps. Your baby will wake up after sleeping up to four hours, feed well, and fall asleep again. A beautiful, easy, calm cycle!
OK. So I said you choose the first feed to start the plan. So what will you do differently in this feeding session?
You now know that your baby can only stay awake for an hour – max. And with every minute that passes, they are getting more and more tired. Which means – less and less likely to feed well.
So here’s the “time management action plan” I recommend to all my clients:
#1: Straight To The Breast!
As soon as your baby wakes up (if possible, even before they get a chance to cry) – straight to the breast!
The reason is simple. The moment your baby wakes up is the moment they have the most energy. Since breastfeeding is an incredible effort for a young baby, it only makes sense from one “energy management” point of view to do this first.
If you first check and change their nappy, for example, there’s a good chance a lot of their energy will be wasted on crying. Therefore, it is much better (at least for the next three days) to breast-feed first.
If you haven’t done so yet, check out my guide for the easy way to get a good latch:
Okay, so the baby is feeding. Great job! But how long Should you let them stay at your breast?
#2: No Nibbling!
“How do I know when to switch sides?” is a common question I get from new mothers.
The scientific answer is, one side may last for between ten and twenty minutes. But don’t try to time yourself with a stopwatch. It will only add stress and anxiety to the process.
Instead, watch your baby. Pay attention to them. What is your baby doing?
- Is your baby’s sucking pattern deep and rhythmical?
- Is your baby’s jaw opening wide? (You’ll know it is when you see movement at their temple)
Those two points are the signs of a good, strong suck which has the ability to extract the milk out of the breast.
But if the sucking changes to little flutter sucks or nibbling, or if your baby actually falls asleep, it’s time for a break.
You see, sucking at the breast is so tiring that your baby can only do it for up to about 20 minutes at a time. (That’s why babies fall asleep at the breast so much – they’re completely exhausted!)
Once the action slows down, the sucking becomes ineffective and doesn’t have enough “drawing power” to extract milk from the breast.
When that happens, your baby may come off by themselves. Or you can cuddle them into you for a few minutes, and see if the nibbles turn back into bigger sucks. If not, you can take your baby off.
And now… it’s “daddy time”!
#3: Nappy and burp time
While your baby is having a break from sucking, you should take a break too! Get up, stretch, grab a drink or something to eat. Now is the perfect time.
Meanwhile, daddy can handle the burping and changing the nappy. (Or you both can just cuddle with your baby and marvel at your creation!)
Now, remember that I said that your baby can only suck at the breast for about 20 minutes before their jaw muscles tire out? So the fact that your baby stops sucking doesn’t mean they’re full.
It usually just means they need a break.
Most babies (especially under six weeks old) need several courses in one session before they are truly full.
They just need to rest in between them for a few minutes. And that rest is what nappy time provides them with! (In addition to a clean diaper 😉 )
And now that the nappy has been changed, start looking again for feeding cues:
- Sucking of the hand
- Poking the tongue out
Any one of those three at this stage is a sign it’s probably time for another course!
#4: Back To The Breast
Switch sides, and follow the steps above.
This side may last up to 15 minutes (but again, don’t watch the clock – watch your baby).
As a side note, many parents worry whether their baby is “getting enough” or not. My blog post Is My Baby Getting Enough? will help you answer that question!
#5: Getting Sleepy
After this your baby may fall asleep at the breast. This is ok. And in fact, it’s rather nice for both of you!
When the baby is getting sleepy, most parents naturally feel they should either cuddle for a while, or put the baby in their cot.
But wait! There’s one more thing to do first!
#6: One More Chance (The Key!)
By doing just one more thing, you can drastically increase the chances of your baby having a very good sleep.
Are you ready for it?
Here it is.
As you wrap your baby and pat them off to sleep (while still on your chest)…
Give them one more chance.
Look again for any feeding cues. Is there any chance your baby is still hungry?
If they start crying or are looking for more – try the breast again.
Remember, it’s hard to tell if your baby is full or just needs a short break from all the sucking. And just this act of paying attention now and offering more (if they show any signs of interest) can make a world of a difference.
Because this time… they will go to sleep full. And they’ll sleep better. And everything will start getting easier!
#7: Sweet Bliss
If your baby has a go, it will be very short. Possibly 5 minutes or less.
Then they will most likely fall asleep on the breast on their own. (If your baby does not want another go, that is fine. Then it’s time for bed.)
Nearly all babies will cry a little when you settle as you have moved them from their favourite spot (the breast!).
That’s OK. Just keep patting and your baby will go to sleep. You will notice the cries and protests will calm quickly, and you can then put your baby to bed.
The key to this plan working is getting everything done in about an hour.
Note that I wrote (and underlined) “about an hour”. Your baby may not fall exactly in this hour. This is ok! It’s normal!
The 60-minute figure is just a guide for you to start from. From there, you will much more easily find your own groove.
So if it only takes 45 minutes – that’s fine. And if it takes 85 minutes but the routine is working for you – that’s perfect too!
The important thing to remember from this post is this. Your baby’s ability to feed well varies by how tired they are. And their ability to sleep well varies by how well the ate. It is all part of one cycle.
So the key to this cycle is to manage your baby’s energy wisely:
- As soon as they wake up – straight to the breast!
- As soon as they tire and need a rest – nappy and burping time!
- Look for signs that your baby is ready for another course
- Then go back to the breast (and switch sides)
- As your baby becomes sleepy, give them a few moments and then offer them one more chance to feed again
- This last feed will only last about five minutes – but it’s the five minutes that make ALL the difference!
- Pat your baby to sleep, and celebrate. You did well, mom! ❤
- And guess what? Next session will be even easier!
What to do if your baby does not go to sleep?
If your baby does not go to sleep you may be entering what I call a “cluster feed”.
Once in a 24-hour period (sometimes twice) you will have a feeding session where your baby will be very unsettled. So unsettled, that getting all the seven steps I outlined above done in one hour will be impossible!
Unlike a regular feeding session (which we try to keep down to around an hour), a cluster feed generally lasts 2 to 4 hours.
But don’t worry – this is normal! And here’s what you have to do.
- You simply repeat the above seven steps over and over. One after the other. Until your baby falls asleep on their own.
- Settle into this. Your baby just wants to be held and fed.
- Keep repeating the feed, nappy, feed cycle
- Don’t forget to switch breasts often!
Remember, almost every baby goes through a cluster feed at least once every 24 hours. So when this happens, do not despair! Just keep following the seven steps and your baby will settle down.
These cluster feeds usually happen in the middle of the night for the first week or two, then settle into the late afternoon afterwards.
A FEW TIPS
- TIP 1: Keep an eye on your baby’s poo and wee – here’s what you’re looking out for
- TIP 2: DON’T try to make your baby sleep longer at night by keeping them up during the day. It doesn’t work!
- TIP 3: DO try and stick to the hour so you can become aware of your baby’s cluster feed times (more about cluster feeds here)
- TIP 4: For more tips, check out How To Manage Feed Time and Help!!! My Baby Is An Overtired Angry Monster!
- TIP 5: This is a GUIDE. As you get to know your baby, you might find you have a different structure that suits you better! And if you do, please leave a comment below and tell us about it! That way we can all learn from you!
Once you have mastered this plan, write down how you feel (check out my blogpost Mother’s Mindset to find out why. It will literally blow your MIND!). Also note how your baby is feeling, what the poo and wee is up to, and weigh your baby. For more on weight see my blog on Weight Gain And Weight Loss.
Something Isn’t Working? I’m Here For You!
This plan is a starting point. It’s the first step to getting your baby feeding and sleeping the best they can. For some babies – these seven steps are all you need. BUT if you are still having problems, then it’s best to delve a little further.
Give me a call or text me at 0414 403 208 and we can have a chat. Figure out what is happening – and what to do about it. More often than not it only takes a few little changes and tweaks to bring calmness, happiness and sanity back.
It’s just sometimes hard to figure out all on your own. Especially if this is your first child.
And there’s no reason to do it on your own. Text or call me now, and we’ll work it out together!