What is it with babies & night time?

If you ask most pregnant women when they feel their baby ‘partying’ hardest, it tends to be at night time.

4am is the most common time for babies to be born spontaneously, according to a University College London study published in 2018. (With the majority arriving between 1am and 7am).

And most breastfeeding moms find themselves bleary eyed with babies who want to cluster feed / feed most at night.

Why is this? What do babies know that we don’t?

Melatonin is the hormone responsible for our body clocks and its levels are highest at night, which is what typically makes us relax and sleep. Melatonin also increases our levels of oxytocin (the hormone needed for contractions and labour) and prolactin (the hormone which promotes milk production). So our tiny people are really on to something!

And it’s been suggested that the ‘partying’ we often feel from babies in the womb is actually their dream/REM sleep (read ‘Why we Sleep: The new science of sleep and dreams’ by Matthew Walker). It’s just that babies haven’t yet developed the process that temporarily paralyses their skeletal system to avoid injury whilst dreaming.

There are also proposed evolutionary reasons around our caveman ancestors coming together at night to rest, meaning that baby would be well protected.

So here are a couple of things to help your melatonin levels do what we need them to…

  • If you’ve starting having contractions (or if you’re trying to increase your supply), aid your body’s efforts by avoiding blue light (think mobile phones and TV screens) as they effectively tell your body clock that it’s morning, not night-time and so reduce your melatonin levels.
  • Switch your phone on to greyscale if you really must use it.
  • Keep the lights dimmed at home (or off completely) and consider an eye mask if it’s not practical to have the lights off.
  • Try and relax and accept that our tiny folk are not trying to torture us…as hard as lack of sleep is, there is science and logic behind what they’re doing. Here are some tips from the NCT on coping with night feeds.
  • And be kind to yourself generally, particularly if you have weight loss goals in mind. You can read more about it here, but lack of quality sleep has a significant negative impact on our hunger levels, satiety levels and digestive processes.

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