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. Reverse 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? 

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

  • This is a normal developmental stage that all babies go through and is usually worse during growth spurts
  • Mothers can swaddle younger babies, to keep them from becoming distracted and from moving their arms and legs all over the place.

The Working Breastfeeding Mom

baby nursing, reverse cycling

A baby might want to 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 the 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 ensures that the intimacy between you and your partner is not hampered. 
  • Allowing your baby to nurse more just before bedtime, will ensure a more extended stretch of sleep before the next feeding is necessary.
  • 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.
  • Learn to relax while breastfeeding
  • Make sure you take naps during the day when your 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.

Baby Only Breastfeeds in the Evening

by Raphael (Dormaa Ahenkro, Ghana)

"A mothers job demands that her baby only suckles in the evening when she returns from work, can that cause stomach ache and running stomach in the baby?"

Re: Baby Only breastfeeds in the Evening

by: Tracy

"Yes, especially if mom has an overproduction of milk. What happens is that the mom's breasts are overfull - the baby drinks but only receives the foremilk (because there is so much of it)

Foremilk is the watery milk in the front of the breast's milk-producing cells (alveoli), this milk is high in lactose which causes the runny tummy and colic symptoms.

Has she just started working again? It could be because her body has not yet regulated the amount of milk needed for the baby. Her milk supply should drop within a couple of days, which means that baby will stop having runny stools and tummy ache. It will take a while, and her body will start producing just the right amount of milk needed for the night feedings.

If the oversupply continues (which is very rare, if mom is only breastfeeding once or twice per day) she can use certain herbs to decrease supply.

There are more tips on how to handle oversupply and foremilk-hindmilk imbalance here...


Foremilk/hindmilk imbalance

Working and breastfeeding"

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