Study shows no sleep loss for nursing mothers

By Tom Nordlie • Published: February 21st, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Having a newborn baby in the house is a magical thing.

But part of the magic is, every two hours the baby turns into an alarm clock.

That’s because newborns spend a lot of time sleeping, and wake up frequently to eat.

It’s difficult for parents to sleep on that schedule.

Which has led to an interesting debate:

Do mothers get less sleep if they breastfeed?

The conventional wisdom says yes.

It’s commonly believed that breastfed babies sleep for shorter periods of time than bottle-fed babies.

But a study published in the journal Pediatrics showed that nursing mothers got just as much sleep as their counterparts who used formula, or a mix of breast- and bottle-feeding.

The study was carried out using two experiments.

Both tracked the sleeping habits of new mothers over several weeks.

One experiment involved first-time moms and women who’d given birth before.

The other experiment included only first-time moms.

To assess the quantity and quality of sleep the women got, researchers used a combination of mechanical sleep monitoring and self-reported data.

The results showed that all the mothers got about the same amount of sleep, regardless of feeding method.

And they all experienced similar levels of sleepiness and fatigue when going about their daily activities.

The researchers concluded that expectant mothers should be told that formula feeding doesn’t guarantee better sleep.

That’s good information to have, especially when you consider that breastfed babies tend to develop greater immunity to disease and higher intelligence.

So, new parents need to take sleep out of the equation when deciding how to feed their babies.

And besides, there’ll be plenty of time for sleeping… after the baby goes off to college.