As you have probably already guessed from my previous posts about breastfeeding, I am a big supporter of breastfeeding. I think I have heard everything when it comes to why I should stop breastfeeding and switch to formula. My child is too old, formula is more convenient and feeding formula will let you have more sleep. I stumbled across an interesting study published in the journal Pediatrics. The purpose of the study, "Infant Feeding Methods and Maternal Sleep and Daytime Functioning,"was to explore maternal actigraphically measured sleep, subjective sleep reports, and daytime functioning on the basis of current feeding method status during postpartum weeks 2 through 12."
The study "did not find differences between women who were exclusively breastfeeding, exclusively formula feeding, or using a combination of the 2 methods, with respect to the assessed parameters." "The contrast between our negative subjective maternal sleep findings and previous studies that showed that mothers reported that their breastfed infants awakened more often at night are intriguing. Without our and others’ evidence, it would stand to reason that, if the infants awakened more often, their mothers would too. It is possible that, despite their self-reports, breastfeeding mothers are awakening more often during the night to feed their infants but they return to sleep more quickly or sleep during feedings and consequently do not remember those awakenings." The authors "suggest that, if breastfeeding mothers are awakening more often at night, then breastfeeding itself may have a compensatory effect. In other words, breastfeeding mothers awakening more often at night may return to sleep more quickly and not remember these awakenings. Possible reasons for this may include the fact that they are not exposed to as much ambient light or physical activity, compared with preparing formula. It also is possible that breastfeeding mothers sleep during feedings." "4 nucleotides present in breast milk have strong maternal circadian rhythms and seem to facilitate a “hypnotic action” in infants. In addition, differences in circulating prolactin levels are suspected to have a primary role in sleep architecture differences among breastfeeding and formula-feeding mothers. Prolactin shows a nocturnal peak, which is vital for milk production, and usually is associated with facilitation of sleep onset and delta wave activity important for restorative sleep."
The authors concluded "to date, there is little evidence to support the notion that breastfeeding has a negative impact on maternal sleep. Women should be told that a choice to formula feed does not necessarily equate with improved sleep. The risks of not breastfeeding should be weighed against the cumulative lack of evidence showing any benefit of formula feeding on maternal sleep."
I find the discussion of the study findings very intriguing. Unfortunately, the study only had 24 participants in the first phase and 70 in second phase. This is not a large sample size and undoubtedly the formula supporters will point to that as an argument to invalidate the study. Despite the small sample size, I still find the notion that formula feeding will not necessarily allow a mother to get more sleep to be true. I'm a horrible insomniac and if I had to wake up to prepare a bottle and then feed a bottle, I would find it difficult to return to sleep. If I am breastfeeding, I can get the baby, nurse the baby and fall back asleep all without having to turn on the lights or going far from my bed. It is just one more thing I can present to those who have tried to discourage me from breastfeeding.