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Breastfeeding and Mom’s Sleep

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Babies don’t sleep through the night.  They just don’t.  Parents never get any sleep.  And that is never going to change.

I’ve often heard people claim that breastfeeding moms get the least amount of sleep because they have to wake up to breastfeed.  But that just didn’t ring true with my experience.  If I had been bottle feeding, I would have had to get up anyway.  I would have had to get out of bed, make the formula, stumble back to the bedroom… all with a screaming child.  Yes, my husband could have done some feedings, but there was little chance I was going to sleep through that.

So I wasn’t surprised to see the results of a new study which found that moms who breastfeed are not losing any more sleep than moms who formula feed.  Here’s a link to the study in the journal Pediatrics. And from Reuters:

Contradicting the suspicion that breastfeeding moms get less sleep, the results represent “good information to be able to tell women, (that) ‘not breastfeeding is not going to help you get better sleep,’” study author Dr. Hawley Montgomery-Downs of West Virginia University told Reuters Health. “And the benefits (of breastfeeding) for both mom and baby are tremendous.”…

There has been an “urban myth” that women who breastfeed get less sleep, Montgomery-Downs noted, which may cause some to hesitate to do so. Caring for a newborn is challenging enough, without being sleep-deprived, and some research has even suggested poor sleep after childbirth may increase the risk of postpartum depression…

When Montgomery-Downs and her colleagues asked 80 new mothers to report how often they woke up and how rested they felt, and to wear sensors that measured how long and efficiently they slept, they found no significant differences between those who relied on breastfeeding, formula, or both. They report their findings in the journal Pediatrics…This suggests that “there may be some kind of compensation” for breastfeeding mothers, Montgomery-Downs said in an interview.

For instance, babies who breastfeed may wake up more (and wake up their parents more), but those nighttime feedings may have less of an impact than if they were drinking formula, she suggested. In order to prepare a bottle, women often have to get up, turn on the lights, and move around quite a bit, all of which may make it harder for them to go back to sleep.

Alternatively, when breastfeeding, women may be awake for shorter intervals, and be less active, which makes it easier for them to go back to sleep. Women who breastfeed also have higher levels of the hormone prolactin, which facilitates sleep, Montgomery-Downs noted. And if the babies are sleeping next to the mothers, they may feed while the mother is sleeping, she added.