You always hear as a new mother that feeding your baby formula will help the baby (and you) sleep longer at night. But new research just published in the December issue of Pediatrics says it’s not true.
“No matter whether moms breast-fed, formula-fed or did a combination of both, they got the same amount of sleep and considered themselves equally exhausted. Score one for the breast-feeding advocates, who hope this study gives women on the fence another reason to commit to breastfeeding, which conveys well-documented health benefits for baby — and mother. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies be exclusively breast-fed for six months and continue to receive breast milk for at least a year.”
The research was conducted by West Virginia University and the team asked new mothers to track when they fed and when they slept beginning the second week after their baby was born until the end of the 12th week. To help them do this, the mothers wore actigraphs, a watch-like device that recorded movement so researchers would know when they slept. They used a PDA to rank how well they slept the night before, how often they thought they woke, how long they stayed awake and also recorded during the day if they felt tired when they fed the baby.
“Miriam Labbok, director of the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill calls the results a ‘helpful finding for the field.’ ”
“The perception is that the breast-feeding mom is up day and night, always breast-feeding,” says Labbok. “But when you’re bottle-feeding, you’re up day and night always bottle-feeding, too….”
“Maybe breast-feeding moms wake only to latch their babies on, then return to dreamland. I can certainly vouch for that happening. Or maybe formula-feeding moms catapult themselves into a more alert state as they pad downstairs, flip on the light to prepare a bottle and move around more than a breast-feeding mom. ”
Overall the mothers got about 7.2 hours of sleep a night but it was broken sleep. It’s officially called sleep fragmentation. The adult’s sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes. The researchers advise that it’s better to go to bed early to try to get a longer chunk of sleep than to nap for a short time. (I don’t know that I agree with that – a 20-minute power nap still helps me feel better.)
One of the messages of the research is that breastfeeding moms shouldn’t give up thinking it will get them more sleep.
So what do you think: Did you formula feed or breastfeed? Did you feel like one way gave you better sleep than the other? What do you think on the napping versus going to bed earlier? If you are nursing now, will this research help you stick with it?