Keeping your Sanity when your Breastfeeding Reverse Cycling

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When I made the decision to breastfeed, I didn’t realize the enormous responsibility I would take on. Within 5 weeks of giving birth, I went back to work and quickly found out my son wouldn’t take a bottle. He would then only nurse at night when I was home, called reverse cycling. If you’ve found yourself on this nursing schedule, you’ll quickly find out how difficult it can be. Check out more information about breastfeeding reverse cycling in this post and try some of my tips on keeping your sanity when your breastfeeding reverse cycling!

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Keeping your Sanity When your Breastfeeding Reverse Cycling

I was always scared of breastfeeding, mostly because my mom didn’t breastfeed me and even though she was a nurse in the Philippines, she didn’t recommend I breastfeed either. Ultimately I decided to try breastfeeding and took two classes before I gave birth so I could try to prepare myself for it. Neither class told me anything about reverse cycling so when I found myself staying up all night feeding and working all day, I questioned whether I made the right decision.

What is Breastfeeding Reverse Cycling?

Reverse cycling is a nursing pattern used to describe a baby who only nurses in the late evening or night hours. It can happen at any stage of your newborn’s life and can be caused by some sort of disruption in regular day time feeding. In my case it was the fact that I returned back to work and my son wouldn’t take a bottle. It could be many reasons though including a long trip that allowed your baby to sleep extended periods of time if your baby is easily lulled to sleep in a car or your newborn is up all night and sleeps during the day.

Breastfeeding was already hard for me so when I returned back to work, I had planned on pumping milk. Little did I know, my son wouldn’t take a bottle; no matter what bottle we gave him. I must’ve bought every weird looking bottle on Amazon to no avail. My parents even tried to feed him by plastic syringe but my son would just spit it up. I was fortunate enough to work near my parents’ home so I could take my lunch and nurse him then. Within a few days, my son would only nurse when I was home in the late evenings and nights.

It wasn’t long after that I started to feel the effects of the full time day job and full time night job of nursing my son. I was extremely exhausted and completely stressed out! I was afraid I was going to have to quit my job! My son’s reverse cycling lasted for months, until he was about 6 months old. It ended when my son finally took a bottle (the cheapest kind at that!) and started eating some baby food. During those months, there were some things I had to do to keep my sanity! I hope they will work for you!

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First Things First 

Consult your pediatrician – Especially as a first time mom, there were a lot of questions in general that I had but sometimes I just needed that reassurance from an expert.  Fortunately I have mine on speed dial (just kidding that’s old school – on my favorites list is close enough)!  Set an appointment with your pediatrician and pick that expert brain of theirs and get some much needed reassurance that you will get through this!  Your newborn’s reverse cycling can be caused by many different things and you and your doctor can sit down and talk about a plan and maybe some solutions!

Try to determine the potential causes of the reverse cycling – Did you return back to work?  Take an extended trip?  These are things you can discuss during your pediatrician visit.  My second son slept all night since Day 1 so I always said it was to make up for those 5 months of sleepless nights with my first son.

Adjust to eliminate reverse cycling – What I needed to do was adjusting my work schedule to accommodate my baby’s feeding needs since that is the reason why he was reverse cycling. Working towards a regular feeding routine for your baby can go a long with to eliminating reverse cycling.  What also helped me the most was keeping a schedule of when my son was feeding and changing them to 30 minutes to 1 hour later to slowly move him out of feeding in the middle of the night.

Keeping Your Sanity 

If you’ve consulted your pediatrician and tried the tips above with no luck, then breathe, sit tight, and read on!  Try these tips below to help keep your sanity during this time.  You need to take care of yourself!  Keep in mind this time is temporary. It may not feel that way and I certainly felt it would last forever in those 5 or so months we were reverse cycling but it does end.

Self care – Think of things that can really help calm you down.  This can be anything, try some of the activities below that I love to do to get some self-care in!  I would enlist my husband or family members to help me get a little bit of self-care time!

  • Taking a bath
  • Going for a short walk
  • Reading a book
  • Having a cup of tea
  • A short run or jog
  • Take a short nap
  • Calling a friend
  • Drawing or coloring
  • Blogging / Bullet Journaling
  • Meditating outdoors
  • Light exercise / yoga
  • Take the dog for a walk
  • Going for a short drive

Enlist Help – My husband was a huge help during this time since he was taking time off work.  I was also able to enlist help from family and friends to minimize other tasks like cooking, cleaning, and caring for siblings.  Check out my 10+ Must-Have Resources For A New Mom post to learn about services like Meal Train which is a free service that allows you to organize meal giving for anyone.

Stay healthy – There’s a reason why we feel awful when we don’t sleep well or have enough sleep, WE NEED IT!  During this time it’s important to stay healthy by eating healthy food and staying hydrated so that even if you’re mentally drained, your body isn’t.  Don’t forget to continue using your prenatal vitamins!

Adjust Work Schedule – If you are working during this time, try talking to your employer about changing your schedule at work, especially if you have split days off.  Try Switching hours with a coworker if you’re working a closing shift and a morning shift back-to-back so you can get enough rest between shifts.

Introduce a Bottle – If you are comfortable trying to transition your baby to bottle feeding, check out rental bottles and return policies from some major retailers to try which bottle is best for you.  I went on Amazon and literally ordered every kind of breast-like bottle made to no avail!

  • If baby is taking a bottle, you can take turns with your spouse to feed at night.  
  • If baby isn’t taking a bottle, have your spouse bring the baby to you for feedings and taking the baby back to crib for you can help so much!

Invest in Comfort

  • mini fridge – This was so helpful once my son finally took a bottle because it saved us the time running downstairs to get milk since we had a mini fridge in our room.
  • glider – I was thankful to find a glider for cheap on craigslist and would nurse and rock my baby to sleep, sometimes even falling asleep there!
  • Breastfeeding Pillows – I won an awesome breastfeeding pillow from Back Buddy to put behind me that saved me life so many times!  Breastfeeding nursing pillows are so useful to make sure my son was positioned and comfortable too!

I know it may feel like forever, but it’s so important to know that this will pass!  Hang in there mama, you’re doing a great job!

Did you experience Breastfeeding Reverse Cycling?
What did you do during this time to keep yourself sane?
What advice to have for someone who is experience this right now?

Thank you for reading this article! I hope you liked it and found it useful!
Please let me know what you think by leaving us a comment!

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8 Replies to “Keeping your Sanity when your Breastfeeding Reverse Cycling”

  1. These sound like some good tips for a Mum who is having to go through this or well any Mum who is breast feeding at all!

    1. thank you! Thanks for visiting!

  2. steph parrell says: Reply

    These are some great tips. It can be very hard on mom and baby and very tiring, it is important to take care of yourself

    1. absolutely! Self care is so key as a mother!

  3. These are great tips. I have yet to be a mother so I will keep these in mind.

    1. Such useful tips for friends too! <3 thanks for stopping by <3

  4. Oyinkan Ogunleye says: Reply

    I’m sharing this with my friend who is currently pregnant so she can use some of your advice for breastfeeding

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