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Newborn Sleep: How Prolactin & Melatonin Play a Part

Updated: Feb 25, 2021

Parents often say the biggest shock they experience when their baby is born, aside from sleep deprivation, is the lack of control they feel.

biologically normal sleep behaviour in babies can feel exhausting and frustrating. By understanding what to expect and creating ways of night time parenting (safe co-sleeping or room sharing) that allows the family to have fewer disruptions during feeds, parents can feel much more rested and able to go with the flow a bit easier.

Babies are not meant to sleep through the night due to their small tummies and fast metabolism. Waking frequently to have their needs met also helps to prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

The breastfeeding parent produces a hormone called prolactin which makes milk but also helps to induce sleep in babies. Levels are higher at night to help babies get back to sleep sooner. So breastfeeding your baby to sleep is biologically helpful and healthy!

Babies then begin to produce their own melatonin by about 12 weeks of age. Melatonin is responsible for better quality of sleep, rather than inducing sleep. Daylight inhibits melatonin, as do electronic screens and other auditory stimulants.

You can help your baby understand when it is nap time or bed time by dimming lights, turning off the TV or other screens, and breastfeeding your baby. By doing this you'll help the natural process of hormones release and gently encourage your baby to gain positive sleep habits. Just remember, as with any new skill, it takes time for babies to learn them!

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