Aug ’18 Newsletter: Babies, boobs & Zzzz

By Elaine Chow (BMSG President)

Across the various counselling channels that we have here at BMSG interacting with many mothers over the past several months has led us to notice a trend of a new recurring topic – sleep training. Many mums write to us, call our helpline or post on our Facebook group, asking how they can manage or improve baby’s sleep. I thought it timely for BMSG to put our position on this matter publicly.


Worrying about baby’s sleep?

Sleep is such a hot button topic among parents! So many mums worry about how much sleep baby is getting; whether it is enough, how we can get baby to sleep more or longer and many other concerns. There are also so many different, and often conflicting, viewpoints out there. Who should you listen to? Which approach best supports breastfeeding? If you want to learn more about infant sleep, and want to get information that supports breastfeeding, then this article is for you.

Myths & Misconceptions About Baby Sleep

The root of most of these worries and questions is an incorrect understanding of how babies are supposed to sleep, particularly at night. The general misconception is that babies should begin life with x number of night wakings, slowly decreasing to x-1 number of night wakings, then x-2, and all the way down to zero. The reality, though, is that there is a great variance in the number of night wakings that babies have, and this tends to go up and down for the first two years of life or longer. This is much later than many parenting books or “sleep experts” would have us believe.

Another misconception is that babies need to be taught how to sleep, or how to become “independent sleepers”. The reality is that babies do not need to be taught to sleep, in the same way that they do not need to be taught to walk. Babies will sleep best when they are put in an environment that encourages sleep – when they feel full, warm, loved and comforted. Breastfeeding your baby to sleep naturally creates such an environment.


Why Night Waking is Completely Okay


It is completely normal that babies, and even toddlers and children, need help to fall asleep. At such a young age, they can hardly do anything for themselves! They need you to feed them, change them, carry them around. So naturally, they will also need help to fall asleep. There are many ways to help them fall asleep, and breastfeeding is a great way to get this done. The act of breastfeeding, that close contact with mother, is always a surefire way of helping baby calm and settle down. Furthermore, breastmilk that is made at night contains higher levels of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone.

One of the lesser-mentioned benefits of breastfeeding is that it reduces the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). The exact explanation for why breastfeeding reduces the incidence of SIDS is still unclear, in part because the reasons for SIDS are not clear. Night wakings protect babies from SIDS, and breastmilk, being easily digested and often consumed in smaller quantities at the breast than in the bottle, promotes night waking.

But with the strain of modern living, especially with mothers having to return to work so soon after giving birth, how can we ensure that we are also getting enough sleep ourselves?


Safe co-sleeping (or bed-sharing) is the main way in which breastfeeding experts recommend for mothers to get as much sleep as they can, while still tending to the needs of baby at night. For tens of thousands of years, bed-sharing between mother and infant has been the biological norm for humans. It is only in modern times, with the decline of breastfeeding, that authorities have begun to recommend infants sleeping separately from their mothers.

The basics of safe co-sleeping are for babies to be sleeping on the back, on a firm surface, in a smoke-free environment, with a light blanket. Babies should not have their head covered, and the bed should not have any stuffed toys or pillows around the baby. Parents should also be non-smokers, and not under the influence of sedating medication, other drugs, alcohol, or other substance that will impair their awareness of baby’s presence.


The dangers of sleep-training

What about the sleep training techniques which are mentioned so often in so many modern parenting books? Methods such as extinction, controlled crying, check and leave, pick-up-put-down, or any other time-based method of withholding feeding or comfort to your child have become part of the vocabulary of the modern mum. But science clearly shows that such methods have a detrimental impact on the child. Babies fare best when they have caregivers who are responsive to their needs.

From a breastfeeding perspective, limiting or scheduling feeds can affect milk supply and milk intake by baby, resulting in other health issues further on such as slow weight gain, early weaning or the need for formula supplementation.


Breastsleeping – yes, there’s such a thing!

All this knowledge and information about breastfeeding, night feeding and infant sleep, has come together in a new concept proposed by sleep researcher Dr James McKenna – BreastsleepingBreastsleeping occurs when a nursing mother is safely bed-sharing with her nursling. His research showed that:

“…breastsleeping dyads synchronize their breathing and sleep cycles so that baby latches on and mother adjusts coverings, kisses baby’s head, etc. without either waking up fully. Breastsleeping babies also maintain higher body temperatures and breastfeed double or triple the number of times during the night compared with solitary sleeping infants. Both increased nighttime arousals and breastfeeding protect against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).”


Understand What is Normal

Sleeping close to your baby at night, understanding and accepting his normal biological behaviour to wake at night, responding to his needs for comfort or feeding, all contribute to healthier and happier baby, and helps you maintain breastfeeding for longer. And of course, the longer you breastfeed, the greater the benefit to you and your baby. So don’t worry, your baby is normal, and they will all eventually learn how to sleep on their own when they are ready to do so.


References & Further reading:

Breastfeeding Your Newborn Baby

By BMSG Editorial Team

This is a mini-series that we have started to offer mums and their families a guide on how to initiate breastfeeding right from birth. This will be a preview of what our workshops will cover. More content will be released in the months to come! Watch this space 🙂

Are you pregnant and worried about the approaching  journey ahead? Are you still unsure if breastfeeding is the right choice for you and your baby? Welcome to BMSG’s Breastfeeding Your Newborn Baby blog series. Here, we will cover common topics that expecting parents have about kick-starting breastfeeding. In Part 1, we will talk about the following:

  1. Benefits of breastfeeding
  2. Colostrum, The Liquid Gold
  3. How to get started – Skin to Skin
  4. Effects of Poor Attachment


Benefits of Breastfeeding

So you have heard all the rave about breastfeeding. But how magical is breastmilk really?

Breastmilk offers many benefits for your baby AND you:

Your Baby


  • Breastfeeding reduces the risks of SIDS
  • Instant protection from infections
  • Increases intelligence (CNS)
  • Prevents heart diseases, obesity and cancers later on in life
  • Keeps airways open by reducing allergens – reduced asthma like syndromes
  • Helps organise the sleep/wake cycles
  • Improved suck/swallow/breathe coordinations

Breastmilk is protection for the baby. When a baby suckles, the germs  present on baby’s saliva triggers the production of antibodies in the mother’s milk which she receives right away to protect her.


Colostrum: The Liquid Gold

The mother’s first milk is called Colostrum. Often referred to as liquid gold, colostrum is technically your baby’s first vaccination. It is present is very small amounts and sometimes cannot be seen, but the first suckles of a baby on the mother’s breasts is crucial in helping baby get this very important compound.

The mature white milk that we are more familiar with kicks in only between day 3 to 7.

Credits: Australian Breastfeeding Association

Some mums also express out their colostrum into a syringe and feed to their babies if they are separated. Because it is present in such small amounts, hand expressing it works alot better than using a breast pump as it tends to stick to the sides of the bottles or pump parts.


Getting Started: Skin-to-Skin

Did you know breastfeeding starts right from the moment your baby is born?

Having your baby skin to skin with you has been proven to help baby regulate their body temperature better and makes them calmer. It is also amazing to know that skin-to-skin helps to stimulate the mother’s milk supply.

When you have had an unmedicated birth and baby is well, and placed on the mother’s abdomen,  many babies will attempt the breastcrawl. It is believed that the nipples and areolas of a mother who has just given birth emit a scent that baby recognises and is attracted to.

While it is not necessary for baby to do the breastcrawl and you can simply offer your breasts, the breastcrawl is a sight to behold and teaches us how babies are simply built to recognise their form of sustenance right from birth.


Getting the Right Latch

So your baby is at your breast. Now what?

We know that a newborn’s strongest sucking reflex is found within an hour of birth. This is why most hospitals avoid separating mother and child within the first hour of birth. We recommend that you take advantage of the strong reflex to teach your baby to latch. Note that breastfeeding is a learned skill and needs constant practice, both by you AND your baby.

Frequent  feedings and following baby’s cues are strong indicators of breastfeeding success.


Picture Credit: Australian Breastfeeding Association


Here are some pointers for a good latch:

  1. Get into a comfortable position with some pillows behind your head and up your back.
  2. Choose a position that you like (more on this in our next series!). Most mothers will choose the laid back position.  Let baby lie on your chest in close proximity to your breasts. Babies usually awaken at the scent of your breasts.
  3. Tickle the sides of baby’s mouth with the nipples and wait for baby’s mouth to open up wide before baby gets a good mouthful of breast tissue. You can tell this by making sure that most or a substantial amount of areola is within baby’s mouth.
  4. If baby’s latch is not optimal, unlatch (insert a finger into baby’s mouth and break the suction) and try again. Some mums also tug down on baby’s chin so that more of the breast can be taken in.
  5. When your are comfortable,  continue to breastfeed and wait for baby to unlatch on her own.


Signs of a Good Latch

How do you know that you are doing it right? Below is a checklist of what you can observe from your baby after she has latched.

  • Chin touching breast
  • Mouth wide open
  • Lower lip curled back
  • Cheeks full and rounded
  • More areola visible above top lip
  • Rhythmic suck/swallow with pauses
  • Feeding is pain-free


Effects of Poor Attachment

So what happens if you continue with a poor latch?



  • Pain while feeding (baby’s hard palate rubs
    on mother’s nipples and this causes pain)
  • Engorgement
  • Mastitis
  • Poor milk supply
  • Loss of confidence – fear of pain
  • Feeding very frequently
  • Poor weight gain
  • Frustration
  • Jaundiced
  • Dehydration

Thus, it is crucial to get a good latch right from the start to ensure that your breastfeeding journey is comfortable for you and your baby.

There are lots more to cover in breastfeeding your baby! This blog post serves as a preview of what you can do to get your breastfeeding journey on a good start. Sign up for our workshops here or if you have some burning questions, contact us via our counselling platforms (9am – 9pm daily) below: