Does feeding a baby formula get mom more sleep?

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.

From Time magazine:

“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.

From Time:

“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?

57 comments Add your comment


November 19th, 2010
12:22 pm

@FCM – That sounds interestingly familiar. My husband did okay getting up in the middle of the night, but I usually had to ask ahead of going to bed for him to be on ‘baby patrol’ or kick him in the back to get him up and out of the bed. I’m sorry about the ex’s attitude around your work – that’s just ASININE :o)


November 19th, 2010
12:28 pm

gtmom and JATL–thanks! He isn’t fussy; he just drinks huge amounts of formula (the dr says it feels good as it is going down, but not when it comes up). He doesn’t spit up much. He’s been on Zantac for about a month or maybe more with no improvement. The dr. cautions more time, and they are switching him to an even gentler formula, I think, maybe soy or something. My daughter is going nuts because of the congestion, which is attributed to the problem.

He weighed over 9 lbs at birth, but now at 5 1/2 months, weighs 25 lbs!

He’s a good natured baby but something is wrong. My daughter has a lot of faith in the pediatritian (many on this blog use this group I think) but she is exhausted from dealing with his congestion et al.

Thank you for weighing in (hahaha) on this!


November 19th, 2010
1:22 pm

catlady – we did gentleease but I suggest that they move the baby back to regular formala asap.. the number one ingredient in the gentle formulas is corn syrup solids.. uck.. Soy is not suggested anymore due to the early puberty thing (it was when my 5 year old was a baby but now not)…the swallowing thing sounds so familar and causes the baby to overeat. We had the congestion and the flap noise with breathing too. Wearing my baby in a baby bjorn or sling seemed to be the most helpful..and tons of saline spray in the nose. Mine got so used to the saline spray that he smiled when he saw it..instead of figting it. Most grow out of it thank goodness. My baby did around 7 months.


November 19th, 2010
3:17 pm

I’ve read many of the comments and I totally understand the need to find the right solution that works for your lifestyle….. I remember absolutely dreading the idea of breastfeeding either of my kids. I tried for about 10 minutes with my first because I thought it was some kind of requirement. But I was so stressed and exhausted from a hard pregnancy that the first thing I wanted to do post delivery was sleep and sleep and sleep. I would think most women would look forward to sleep! So we premade all our bottles (there are some great Playtex bottles that come with liners) and we fed our first child every 3 hours around the clock. BUT, because we had bottles, we could both do it. The bonding thing? I don’t understand the argument against bottlefeeding. Are you saying that I don’t bond with my child and that my husband doesn’t bond with his child because we’re bottlefeeding? Baloney. We’re bonding because we’re there. And the health issues? Our kids were both 100% bottle fed, day-care raised. First was sick with ear infections etc all the time for the first 2 years. Second child is resistant to every virus known to man. Thank God for bottle feeding!! It allowed two sleep-deprived parents (from a hard pregnancy) to finally stop bickering at each other long enough to enjoy some of the those first couple of months of having babies. ANY choice made by a parent that endangers the marriage is a bad choice for the child!!!

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