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Breastfeeding Doesn’t Negatively Impact New Mom’s Sleep


Breastfed babies may wake up more often during the night than bottle-fed babies, but overall this does not negatively impact a new mother’s sleep. A small study from West Virginia University has found that women who breastfeed appear to sleep just as long and just as well as women who choose bottles.

No Differences in Sleep Quantity, Fatigue, or Daytime Sleepiness

Currently, about 70% of women in the United States breastfeed their babies initially, but just 33% of them continue for a full 6 months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A prevailing myth that may keep new mothers from breastfeeding is the suspicion that they would get even less sleep than usual if they breast-fed instead of opting for formula.

Read: 2010 CDC Breastfeeding Report Shows Improvements

Dr. Hawley Montgomery-Downs and colleagues asked 80 new mothers to record how often they woke up and how rested the felt during their first 12 weeks post-partum. 27 of the women breast-fed exclusively, 18 formula-fed and 35 used a combination of bottle and breast. For objectivity, the researchers had the women wear sensors that measured how long and efficiently the slept.

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Overall, the women slept about the same amount of time whether they were breast-feeding or bottle-feeding. In addition, there were no differences in fatigue and daytime sleepiness.

The babies who were breast-fed did wake up more often, because breast milk is more quickly digested than formula, but those nighttime feedings had less of an impact on sleep because women who bottle-fed have more tasks to accomplish for the feeding (ie: preparing the formula, warming the bottle). Also, women who breastfeed have higher levels of prolactin, a hormone that facilitates sleep.

Read: Not Breastfeeding Raises Type 2 Diabetes Risk

Dr. Montgomery-Downs hopes that the findings will encourage new mothers to choose to breastfeed their infants because of the number of health benefits for both mom and baby. She suggests to women to try techniques that will achieve a more consolidated sleep, such as expressing breast milk so that someone else can take a feeding or two during the night.

"Women sometimes use the rationale of wanting and needing more sleep as a reason not to breast-feed, but breast-feeding is so important for both the mom and the baby's health. The first couple of months are going to be tough, regardless of which feeding method you choose. Better sleep really is not a reason not to breastfeed," she concluded.

Source Reference: Pediatrics, online November 8, 2010.