By Becky Law
Truth: recent research shows that regardless of the type of feedings the baby is getting (either breastfeeding or formula) moms are getting the same amount of sleep.
Babies have a tummy the size of a marble when first born and it increases to the size of a ping pong ball by the time mother’s milk comes in and for that reason, regardless of how they are fed, babies need to eat frequently. We know that breast milk is used more efficiently therefore the baby tends to eat one to two more times in a 24 hour period than a formula fed infant. Mom is the only one that can breastfeed the baby therefore she is awake for every feeding. So how can the mom get the same amount sleep as a mom formula feeding or doing a combination of breast and formula?
Although the research didn't measure why mothers received the same amount of sleep there are several theories. Prolactin is a hormone produced when breastfeeding that stimulates milk production. It is often referred to as the “mothering hormone” as many breastfeeding mothers feel relaxed and rested after breastfeeding. This same hormone may cause babies to sleep better as well. Since breastfeeding requires little preparation mothers do not have to be fully awake and prepare bottles, and cleanup is a breeze. It is possible that remaining in the dark and not fully arousing helps breastfeeding mothers return to sleep more quickly. Sleep is something that is in short supply for new parents, so be creative as to when you get that sleep.
Now that you are parents it is okay to go to bed before 9pm, sleep when the baby sleeps, and put a limit on visitors the first few weeks (of course unless they are bringing dinner!).
As stated by the researcher, "Breast-feeding benefits the infant and mother, and better sleep can't really be used as a reason to wean your baby, because your sleep won't be benefited by stopping breast-feeding."
With the increased benefits of breastfeeding, the recommendation to breastfeed exclusively from the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the indifference in the amount of sleep related to feeding type, it looks like breastfeeding is the baby feeding method of choice.
Becky Law, RN, IBCLC, LCCE, is a childbirth educator/lactation consultant for Texas Health Resources.