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Nursing at night

For nutritional reasons, your baby will have to be fed at night until they're at least six months old.

Like most mothers, you’re probably hoping your baby will be one of those who sleeps through the night. But there are very few babies who don’t need to feed at night, at least at the beginning. They need a night-time feed to get all the nutrition they need. They also like to be reassured that you’re there. They haven’t got used to the big wide world yet, and need plenty of physical closeness, touch and body contact. For small babies, this need is largely met through breastfeeding.

It’s tough being woken up over and over again. Your whole body hurts, but you've still got to get up and put your baby on the breast. For this reason, many mothers like to keep their babies near them at night.

Sharing a bed

Co-sleeping is a strongly debated issue, with the Ministry of Health and others advising against it because it’s known to increase the risk of cot death in some circumstances. Others argue that in many instances the risk of death is low and that the practice encourages bonding with baby and the initiation of breastfeeding.

What you decide to do is up to you, but the Ministry of Health recommends putting your baby to sleep on in their own space, preferably in a cot or bassinet beside your bed.

The risk of lying on your baby is minimal as long as you’re both healthy. However, never share your bed with a baby if one or both of you are severely overweight, ill or under the influence of medicine, drugs or alcohol. Also, never sleep with a baby on a water bed or a narrow sofa. Research has shown that the risk of cot death (SIDS) increases if one or both parents smoke.

Things to bear in mind if your baby sleeps with you:

• Your baby should always sleep on their back, whether in your bed or on their own.
• The mattress must be firm.
• The bed shouldn't get too warm.
• Make sure your baby’s head doesn’t accidently get covered by a blanket, a pillow or anything else.
• Make sure your baby can’t fall out of bed or get trapped or crushed.

When do babies stop feeding at night?
Most babies aren’t ready to give up their nighttime feed before the age of about six months. Even if your baby doesn’t voluntarily give it up, they might actually be eating enough during the day to make night-time feeds unnecessary from a nutritional perspective.

For more information and advice on reducing the risks of SIDS, go to www.sids.org.nz or phone the SID helpline 0800 164 455.

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