Reverse Cycling

Reverse Cycling in the Breastfed Baby

What is reverse cycling?

This is when a baby swaps his/her days for the nights, and starts to nurse more at night than during the day. Reverce cycling is normal and does not necessarily need to be changed, unless the mother feels that she can’t cope. It doesn’t matter when your baby is receiving milk, just as long as he/she is getting in enough. Don't know whether your baby is drinking enough? Read the signs here. 

What Causes Reverse Cycling

  • Disturbances during breastfeeding sessions, which are usually due to the baby becoming distracted, stressed out or if the mother returns to work.
  • The mother might be very busy during the day, especially if she has other children that she needs to see to. She might not get enough time to sit and breastfeed her baby enough during the day, and this can also contribute to the baby needing to feed more at night. A busy mother should consider using a breastfeeding sling.
  • Newborns, naturally sometimes confuse days with nights.

How to Handle a Distracted Baby

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The Working Breastfeeding Mom

A baby might want breastfeed more at night, because he/she has the need to be close to his/her mother and “reconnect"; since he/she hardly sees the mother during the day.

Reverse cycling for a working mother is often used and encouraged, as a way for the mother to continue breastfeeding. This means less pumping and bottles during the day.

The mother will however need to keep an eye on her baby’s weight and number of soiled nappies daily, to make sure that her baby is receiving enough milk. 

How to Cope with Reverse Cycling

  • Ensure that the baby has easy access to the breasts during the night. Co-sleeping can be done, not only by keeping the baby in the same bed as yourself, but by keeping the baby's bed next to your own bed, and having your baby just an arm's reach away. This also insures that the intimacy between you and your partner is not hampered. Read more about sex and the breastfeeding relationship here.
  • Allowing your baby to nurse more just before bed time, will ensure a longer stretch of sleep, before the next feeding is necessary. Read more about breastfeeding at night.
  • Use the tips above, on how to work with a distractible baby.
  • Make extra time during the day to nurse as often as possible, get somebody to help you with other chores, if possible. Breastfeed at least every 2 hours.
  • Relax while breastfeeding
  • Make sure you take naps during the day when baby sleeps.
  • Keep a bedtime routine; bath, bedtime story, breastfeed then bed.
  • Keep the lights off and things quiet during night feedings.
  • Using a breastfeeding sling during the day.

Other pages on "breastfeeding problems" in connection with reverse cycling

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