Breastfeeding in sleeping position: How safe is it?

in Motherhood2 years ago

The Sanctity of Sleep

The significant role that sleep plays in proper functioning and the overall health of every living organism can never be overemphasized. Even without consulting or reading any scientific research, the benefits it plays are there for every sane human to see. If anyone is still in doubt, let them give up sleeping for more than 48 hours and see how it goes.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, a neonate between 0 and 3 months is recommended to sleep for 14 to 17 hours per day for optimal functioning while the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that an infant, toddler, preschool, school-age, and teen sleeps for 12 to 16, 11 to 14, 10 to 13, 9 to 12, and 8 to 10 hours of sleep out of 24 hours every day respectively. Ultimately, for adults of 18 years and above, a minimum of 7 hours of sleep comes highly recommended. Of course, these periods include naps and any restful horizontal position.

Many people, however, either sleep more than the recommended hours of sleep or lower than it. I remember a few years ago when I was working in the urban city of Lagos, I hardly get more than 5 hours of sleep on a good day. Even then, I always felt something was not right with my body but the hustling and bustling of urban life did a lot to dispel my thought. Money had to be made.


source: pixbay

Motherhood: The disruptor of sleep cycles

The joy that comes with a baby safely popping out of the stomach of a pregnant woman, irrespective of the mode of birth, has no bounds among the stakeholders - mother, father, families, even the medical personnel in charge of the delivery. The initial joy and excitement can, however, become a huge problem, especially to the new nursing mother, by the time the baby starts waking up like 1000 times (permit my hyperbole) in the middle of the night because of wet diapers, hunger, or touch cravings. Yes, no one craves human touch more than neonates.

The frequent crying and tantrum-throwing in the middle of the night become punctuations in the sleeping pattern of the mother. Someone that sleeps for straight 7 hours or even more at night now has to wake up every now and then just to attend to a little jobless bundle (sorry babies, you guys can get a job to mitigate the abuse). The challenges associated with raising babies have made some mothers totally outsource the raising of their babies. Many have also decided against breastfeeding their babies while a few women have resorted to never be a mother.

The Compromise

The medical benefits of breastmilk can not be overemphasized. Breastmilk helps to keep babies healthy in a way that no other substance, natural or synthetic, can replace. As babies grow, breastmilk change in composition and quality to meet the demand of babies, always at the right temperature for the baby, and constitute no waste to the environment.

For the mother, breastfeeding has been reported to have the capacity to limit the incidence of some cancers and, especially, type 2 diabetes. It facilitates the return of the mother to her original weight before pregnancy and also strengthens the bond between mother/baby.

Due to societal pressure and or the medical benefits that are inherent in breastfeeding babies for both the babies and the mother, many women reluctantly breastfeed their babies. Consequently, some of them try to reach a compromise, especially in the sleep disruption aspect, by just inserting the nipple into the baby's mouth whenever there is a need and continuing their sleep at night. In short, they breastfeed their babies in a sleeping position so as to limit the disruption to their own (the mother) sleep.

How Safe is it?

Whenever I see or think of a baby being breastfed in a sleeping position, the first thing I try to imagine is myself in a lying position drinking water. Really convenient, yea?

Besides the great inconvenience it might be for the baby, babies need to be burped after each feeding session in order to get rid of gases that might have been trapped in their feeding pathway. Otherwise, this gas might trouble their stomach or even cause reflux and blocking of airways in some extreme cases. A baby that got breastfed in a sleeping position while the mother is asleep will get nothing close to burping. This represents one of the dangers of breastfeeding a baby in a sleeping position.

There are also reports of the likelihood of breastmilk getting absorbed into the lungs of babies when they are breastfed in a sleeping position and this can lead to fatality in some cases. There are also genuine concerns that breastmilk can find its way into the inner ears of babies, causing infections that can be life-threatening in many cases.


Final Words

Away from the negatives and asides from sleep inconvenience, breastfeeding in the horizontal position might be the only option available to some mothers in cases when the new mother finds it medically impossible to sit upright in order to breastfeed. In this case, genuine efforts can be made to burp the baby immediately after each breastfeeding session.

Do you have experience breastfeeding in the lying position? Feel free to share your experience in the comment section.

Thank you all for reading.



My wife couldn't breastfeed in the sleeping position. We had to prop her back at an angle with pillows to at least rest while she did. She didn't have a good experience after the birth of our two sons, but she'd keep comments like that to herself. She only revealed this after she completed as much as she could of breastfeeding.

You could see it in her face, though. I couldn't drag it out of her at the time, and I didn't want to do so. I just supported her whenever she needed me.

Hmm. It is not easy to be a mother. Many times, men think of what is beneficial to the nourish child and think less of what is convenient and healthy for the mother. This your write up about breast feeding reminds me of my childhood friends with the same mother and with almost a year difference. It is a long story, may be I will write about it soon

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My wife did breastfeed the last three kids while she was sleeping, didn't have any problems with that.

The first one ... it's so long since that I cannot remember clearly, but I do remember she was pumping milk into a bottle and then I had to feed him when he woke up during the odd hours.

The last two was born at home, ref and