Back to Work: Reverse Cycling

If your breastfeeding baby seems to have his nights and days mixed up, then you may be experiencing reverse cycling. So, what do you do when your child isn't really interested in feeding during the day, but wants to breastfeed all night long? When does it typically happen and how long will it last? And what can you do in the meantime to get more of that much-needed rest?

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Episode Transcript

The Boob Group
Back to Work: Reverse Cycling


Please be advised, this transcription was performed from a company independent of New Mommy Media, LLC. As such, translation was required which may alter the accuracy of the transcription.

[Theme Music]

VICKIE WOLFRUM: Does your baby have nights mixed up with his days when it comes to breastfeeding? Does he eat more at night and less during the day? He just might be experiencing reverse cycling. I’m Vickie WOLFRUM, an IBCLC and owner of Whole Life Home Care in San Diego. Today we are talking about reverse cycling and how to cope with it, this is The Boob Group.

[Intro/Theme Music]

LEILANI WILDE: Welcome to The Boob Group, broadcasting from the Birth Education Center of San Diego. The Boob Group is your weekly, online, on the go support group for all things related to breastfeeding. I'm your host, Leilani Wilde, I'm also an IBCLC and owner of Leilani’s Lactation and Doula Services.

Thanks to all our members of The Boob Group Club, join today and get bonus content, transcripts and discounts. Don’t forget to visit our website at and subscribe to our newsletter for updates on new episodes. You stay connected by downloading our free apps available in the Android, iTunes and Windows market place. Now Sunny is going to tell us more about our virtual panelists program.

SUNNY GAULT: Hallo everyone, so for everyone out there who’s on social media we need you to follow The Boob Group on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, look for the #boobgroupvp because I am on our social media accounts right now and I usually post stuff the week leading up to our taping. And I’m going to be asking you guys the same questions that we are talking about here in the studio.

So for example, today we are talking about reverse cycling, so I’m posting questions about reverse cycling, we really want to hear what you have to say so you can be part of the conversation. Again look for the #boobgroupvp to be part of our conversation. Today we have Carissa joining us on the phone, Carissa can you introduce yourself.

CARISSA: Hi, I am Carissa and I am a 21-year old first time mom and I’m actually staying at home and raising my son and that’s something I’m really looking forward to doing. My son is six months old and his name is Lincoln and right now he’s the part and joy of our life.

SUNNY GAULT: And we have Vickie here today, Vickie WOLFRUM.

VICKIE WOLFRUM: I’m the mother of five children and nine grandchildren and breast fed them all for many years and I’ve had lots of experience with reverse cycling.


[Theme Music]

SUNNY GAULT: Okay, so before we kick off today’s show on reverse cycling, I wanted to talk about this crazy headline, at least I think it’s crazy. It’s been in the news recently, I have seen it all over social media. The headline here is ‘Breastfeeding Mom Wins Battle Over Tattoo’ so let me break this down for you.

A judge, this happened in Australia by the way, so an Australian mom, she’s 20 years old, she was originally banned by a judge from breastfeeding her 11-month old infant because she got a tattoo. And this was a tattoo that was on her foot, the judge said that it was an unacceptable risk of harm despite the mother, she was being tested, she tested negative for both Herpatitis and HIV but the judge just said there was no reason for you, that was silly and therefore you are not allowed to breastfeed your baby.

And there’s other people out there that are saying, what this judge did set a very dangerous precedent. I mean here we are trying to advocate for breastfeeding and you are telling this mother she can’t breastfeed her baby. So again, that was the original ruling, it has been overturned. So the new news is that this ruling is that this ruling has been overturned, the mother can now breastfeed her baby.

LEILANI WILDE: Crazy, I can’t even believe the original ruling.


LEILANI WILDE: I mean, what’s the point? Did he actually have a specific reason? I didn’t read the article but I did come across it.

SUNNY GAULT: Just that it was an unacceptable risk of harm.


SUNNY GAULT: Like she was endangering her baby.

LEILANI WILDE: That’s amazing.

SUNNY GAULT: I mean is there anything that you guys can even think of like infection. I don’t even know where, I mean it was on her foot, right?

LEILANI WILDE: Right, I mean…

VICKIE WOLFRUM: Right, that would be no risk to her baby that’s just misogyny right there, I think.

LEILANI WILDE: Yeah, personally I think that probably the judge has a personal disdain to tattoos and he was probably he just wanting to punish her and make a point.

SUNNY GAULT: Yeah, right.

VICKIE WOLFRUM: And really the part that I find interesting is how was he going to enforce this ruling? Was there going to be a Sheriff in her bedroom all night long while her baby was reverse cycling and breastfeeding? I mean how was he going to stop a mother from breastfeeding her baby, really.

LEILANI WILDE: That’s crazy.

SUNNY GAULT: He was going to come in at night…

VICKIE WOLFRUM: Yeah and sit there and, “Don’t you get on that breast child…”

LEILANI WILDE: And I’m curious like how did he, how did this case even get brought up, who was complaining?

SUNNY GAULT: Okay, so it says that the case came before the court because of concerns raised by the baby’s father as part of a bitter custody dispute.

VICKIE WOLFRUM: There you go.

SUNNY GAULT: So now we know the real reason right?


CARISSA: That’s really scary because that’s a slippery slope, angry dads in custody battles could be bringing up lots of things that breastfeeding mothers are doing and it’s horrifying because there’s no reason a tattoo should affect your breast milk. And if that gets taken to court, what else is going to get taken to court.

[Theme Music]

LEILANI WILDE: Today on The Boob Group, we are discussing reverse cycling and how to cope with this breastfeeding schedule our babies are asking from us. Vickie WOLFRUM is our expert, she’s a IBCLC, nurse, midwife and owner of Whole Life Home Care here in San Diego. Vickie, welcome to the Boob Group.

VICKIE WOLFRUM: Thank you, I’m so happy to be here.

SUNNY GAULT: So Vickie what is reverse cycling?

VICKIE WOLFRUM: Well, reverse cycling is just kind of a fancy name for a baby who wants to breastfeed all night long and is not that interested in breastfeeding during the daytime. Or a baby that doesn’t have the opportunity to breastfeed that much during the daytime because the mom is separated from the baby.

LEILANI WILDE: When they are separated is it usually just a temporary thing or is it because they went back to work or, what could be the reason.

VICKIE WOLFRUM: I t could be a temporary thing where let’s say the mom, I have seen situations where the mom had to go to the emergency room because she had a migraine. So she was gone during the day and the baby wasn’t really interested in taking a bottle. And so when the mom comes back, the baby just wants to breastfeed all the time and all night long even though the baby hasn’t done that recently.

But it’s more common, it’s very common when the baby is about in that four to five-month window, all of a sudden babies are aware that there’s a lot of interesting things going on in the world and they are very distracted and they pop off and on the breast, they just don’t want to spend those nice long, lovely minutes breastfeeding, they want to get down for seconds really and then just get a tiny bit of milk. And a lot of those babies in order to have enough calories and to really satisfy themselves, they need to breastfeed at night time. And so they will breastfeed as much as the mom allows them to during the night.

LEILANI WILDE: Carissa, have you experienced reverse cycling?

CARISSA: Yes, what you just described is exactly how my son was starting around five months.

LEILANI WILDE: And are you still going through this right now?

CARISSA: Yes, we have good days and bad days. It seems like the day we are out a lot, he’s too distracted to nurse and he really only wants to nurse if we are at home, on the couch, no TV on then he’s bored and that’s when he’ll actually allow me to nurse him. But if we are out anywhere, he will not be latched for more than 30 seconds at a night. But Leilani met him a couple of times and he’s just, he’s goofball he wants to be playing around and getting everyone’s attention.

LEILANI WILDE: Yeah, he’s very energetic.

CARISSA: So now he wants to nurse all night.

LEILANI WILDE: Vicky how long does this normally last?

VICKIE WOLFRUM: It depends on the reason. In a case of a baby who is doing this because the mom has gone back to work, most babies eventually come to terms with the bottle during the day and will start to settle down after a few weeks, that’s a tough few weeks for the mom who is trying to go back to work and then is exhausted the next day because her baby’s been nursing all night. But as the baby learns to do a better job with the bottle during the day and then they’ll be more satisfied. A few weeks it often settles down.

For the baby that’s just a high energy baby that loves to be on the go during the day and breastfeed at night, that’s a little bit trickier, that can go on for quite a few months. But it also is something that the baby is going to grow out of, they don’t do it forever.

LEILANI WILDE: Carissa, your baby, you don’t supplement with anything else right? It’s just strictly breastfeeding?



CARISSA: He has started on solids but I mean only a couple bites at a time.

LEILANI WILDE: Right, so she’s running around chasing her little man and he’s like, “I’m too busy to eat,” right? Is that about right?

CARISSA: Yeah, he’s wild. As soon as I act like I’m going to nurse him, he’s pushing off me and whining at me because he wants back on the floor so he can crawl around.

VICKIE WOLFRUM: And do you co-sleep with him at night?

CARISSA: Sometimes, I originally didn’t plan on it and then when he started wanting to nurse all night, we actually went and bought a king-sized bed and put it on the floor so we could safely co-sleep.


CARISSA: Because my bed before wasn’t big enough, so he is in our bed some nights but I also have his crib in our room and I do try to put him in the crib.

SUNNY GAULT: Can babies start off okay and seem like they are on track and then get off track? Can they not have reverse cycling issues and be older I guess and then develop it, or this is something we are really talking about in the first few month of life or?

LEILANI WILDE: Is there something that you are experiencing that you are trying to confirm?

SUNNY GAULT: No, it’s just a general question.

VICKIE WOLFRUM: It generally does happen when babies are older. I mean the first few weeks of a baby’s life, it’s quite possible because they haven’t developed a circadian rhythm. And they don’t really know the difference between day and night, light and dark. But as they start to be exposed to light and dark and the way life works and the quiet darkness in the night and the light in the daytime, most babies by about six weeks have developed a circadian rhythm that does allow them to start sleeping three or five hours at night. And those little babies you think, “Oh gosh, we finally got it,” and then sometimes when mom goes back to work or when babies get into this destructibility phase, it just changes back where all of a sudden they don’t eat that much during the day and they want to eat all night.

SUNNY GAULT: So at what point or it varies probably based on the child, but are we talking about like at a six-month point or are we talking like when, because you are saying the baby already established rhythm, knows night and day and then would fall into this reverse cycling pattern right?

VICKIE WOLFRUM: Right. Once the baby is older than six months, you can start to try to manipulate it a little bit inn terms of your feeding the baby, you are having maybe a more regular eat, play, sleep type of a program during the day and at night you can also if the bay has some good feedings during the day, you can start feeling a little bit more confident that just because the baby will breastfeed all night long, he doesn’t have to breastfeed all night long. So you can start trying to offer him other soothing techniques besides the breast every time he wakes up at the night.

LEILANI WILDE: When we come back, we will discuss some tips to handle reverse cycling and hopefully turn things around. We will be right back.

[Theme music]

LEILANI WILDE: Welcome back to the show, Vickie WOLFRUM is our expert today and we are exploring reverse cycling and ways to get things back on track. Vickie, what do you do if your newborn has his days and nights mixed up?

VICKIE WOLFRUM: Okay well, if you have a tiny newborn in the first few weeks of life it’s important to understand that babies at that stage are 24-hour breast feeders and they are going to wake frequently at night. But if they really seem to be eating a lot more at night during the day, you want to follow some simple tips.

The first one is babies are not yet aware and their little bodies have not yet developed a circadian rhythm so they need to have exposure to full light during the daytime, you want to make sure that your blinds are open and that there is normal noise and activity and just give them a chance to experience daylight, daytime. And then at night you want to keep things dark and calm and quiet and try to do the feedings with minimal entertainment value to them.

Most babies with this type of a pattern will be able to know the difference between day and night at about and their body will also respond by producing more melatonin as it gets dark in the evening and so they’ll sleep better in the evening and they’ll be able to start sleeping for three, four or five hours at a time in the second and third month.

LEILANI WILDE: And with the older baby do you recommend co-sleeping?

VICKIE WOLFRUM: Well, with the older baby it’s definitely much more of a challenge and I think a lot of it depends on the individual baby, how well he is gaining weight. Is he a baby that’s eating solid foods? If he’s eating solid foods and he’s gaining well, then you have to start to modify his night time eating to see if he will eat more in the day or can continue to gain well in the day.

Older baby, we are talking baby that’s five, six, seven months who started to have solids during the daytime. Many times that baby at night can go longer, he just has gotten into a habit or a pattern of, especially if the mom is co-sleeping of breastfeeding all night long. So you really kind of have to decide at that point is it something that you are comfortable with.

A lot of moms they are co-sleepers anyway, they are completely comfortable with it, they don’t wake up, they just kind of roll over and put the breast in the baby’s mouth and they are happy to do that. And if that works for you, there isn’t any real reason to change it. And it does allow the mom to get a lot more sleep when you have a baby whose reverse cycling.

But if it’s a mom who doesn’t sleep easily with her baby right next to her in the bed and finds that she’s not getting adequate sleep herself especially the mom that has to go back to work, then I think she has to work a little bit harder to do some gentle nudging in the direction of baby sleeping more at night and eating more in the daytime.

LEILANI WILDE: Maybe trying to make sure the bay gets plenty of food during the day right?


LEILANI WILDE: And what’s your experience been Carissa because I’m sure that you’ve tried to get your baby to eat more in the daytime since you are a mom that’s with your baby 24/7 but he just prefers the night time to breastfeed, is that correct?

CARISSA: Yes, best thing I can do is to feed him right before a nap and right after a nap, that’s when you’ve got his calmest and I can usually get into latch and have a good feeding and staying home, and making sure that I’m home every two or three hours so that I can feed him at home because I really just have no luck getting him to eat in public. And I noticed the more feeds I get in during the day, the better nights we have. Some nights if he didn’t eat a lot that day, he’ll wake up every hour just trying to re-latch and those nights I do end up co-sleeping just so I can get some sleep. But if I can’t get some sleep then I might be lucky and have a couple of four or five hours stretches that night. So I just do everything I can to get him to eat during the day.

LEILANI WILDE: So maybe limiting some of your activity because if you noticed that you have a really busy day, or you are out and about then that’s your rough nights right, you kind of pay attention to that.


LEILANI WILDE: Yeah, good.

VICKIE WOLFRUM: And I think you found out one of the best tips and that is to feed the baby when they are drowsy and lay down with the baby and kind of feed them almost in the way that you do at night often times kind of fix them out a little bit and they are much more willing to have a good feeding than if you are sitting in a room full of people talking.

CARISSA: I nurse him that’s worth for three naps a day. So if I’m home for those naps, I can get good nursing sessions.

LEILANI WILDE: Good and you get some rest too right?

CARISSA: Yeah, if I want to I can just lay down next to him and nap with him so that’s nice.

LEILANI WILDE: Yeah that’s right.


LEILANI WILDE: We’ve got to get it where we can. What about wearing our babies do you think that that would help Vickie?

VICKIE WOLFRUM: It may help for some babies especially if moms have mastered the trick of breastfeeding their baby while the baby is in the wrap or the sling. Some babies do that really well and it works great, other babies not so much. I think it really depends on the individual baby. Wearing your baby in general though is one of those things that I would highly advocate just because I think that babies who are worn, they do tend to get on the breast a lot more frequently, they don’t necessarily get on the breast for those long nice feedings that you have when you are lying down cozy with them. But they will be more frequent at the breast if it’s close by.

LEILANI WILDE: Carissa do you wear your little guy?

CARISSA: I wear him probably almost every day, not usually for long periods of time but I’ll wear him if I need to do some laundry or I do want to go for a walk or grocery shopping, I still wear him it’s way easier than putting him in the carter. So yeah I do wear him.

LEILANI WILDE: And does that help? Can you breastfeed in that position?

CARISSA: I have not mastered that.


CARISSA: I tried but I can’t keep him latched when he’s in the wrap, but I’ve tried and sums up to the moms who can’t do it.

LEILANI WILDE: Right, I remember when I had my little guys, I have four sons and I was able to successfully do that I don’t know, I think out of desperation, trying to keep up with breastfeeding and chase all the kids around. But I found that that was very helpful for me too because then if they fed well during the day, then we all slept much better at night.

VICKIE WOLFRUM: Yeah definitely.

LEILANI WILDE: Okay, thank you so much Vickie and Carissa for helping us better understand what reverse cycling is and how to learn, how to cope with it. And for our Boob Group Club members, our conversation will continue after the end of the show as Vickie will discuss why we would want to encourage reverse cycling. For more information about our Boob Group Club, please visit our website at .

[Theme Music]

SUNNY GAULT: Hey Boob Group it’s time for a fun segment we have on the show called ‘Boob Oops’ and it’s where we share our funny breastfeeding and pumping stories, funny stuff that’s happened to us usually in public that only other breastfeeding and pumping mothers would really appreciate. And this comment today comes from Annie, and Annie wrote this on our Facebook page,

She says, ‘I was in Target a week or two ago and my seven-month old needed to nurse. So I decided to browse the baby department and let him nurse in the ergo while my two-year-old finished her icy. I had already told her multiple times to keep the lid on and the straw in and I looked down and both are off and she had hands inside the icy cup, as I’m scolding her and tossing the icy in the trash, she starts screaming. I look over and there was a man staring at us with this mortified look on his face. I thought, “Surely, he has seen a toddler throw a fit.” So I looked down and at some point, the baby had unlatched and my boob is just hanging out.

Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness Annie, I bet your face just turned bright red when this happened. Thanks so much for sharing that, if you guys have a funny ‘Boob Oops’ that you want to share with our audience we would love to hear it. Please send us an email through our website at or we also love to hear your voices on the show and the best way to do that is to leave us a voicemail and you can call 619-866-4775 and leave a message. Thanks again Annie.

[Theme Music]

LEILANI WILDE: That wraps up our show for today. We appreciate you listening to The Boob Group.
Don’t forget to check out our sister shows:
• Preggie Pals for expecting parents
• Parent Savers for moms and dads with newborns, infants and toddlers
• Twin Talks, for our show with parents of multiples.

Thanks for listening to The Boob Group: “Your judgment-free breastfeeding resource.”

This has been a New Mommy Media production. Information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes only. Statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of New Mommy Media and should not be considered facts. Though information in which areas are related to be accurate, it is not intended to replace or substitute for professional, Medical or advisor care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating health care problem or disease or prescribing any medications. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health or the health of your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified health care provider.

SUNNY GAULT: New Mommy Media is expanding our line up of shows for new and expecting parents. If you have an idea for a new series or if you’re a business or organization interested in joining our network of shows through a co-branded podcast, visit .


[End of Audio]

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