No sleep troubles for breastfeeding moms

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Contradicting the suspicion that breastfeeding moms get less sleep, the results represent "good information to be able to tell women, that 'not breastfeeding is not going to help you get better sleep,'" said, study author Dr. Hawley Montgomery-Downs of West Virginia University. "And the benefits of breastfeeding for both mom and baby are tremendous."

Research has shown a protective effect of breastfeeding on a number of paediatric diseases, including eczema, middle-ear infections, lower respiratory tract infections like pneumonia, asthma, type 1 diabetes and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

There has been an "urban myth" that women who breastfeed get less sleep, Montgomery-Downs noted, which may cause some to hesitate to do so. Caring for a newborn is challenging enough, without being sleep-deprived, and some research has even suggested poor sleep after childbirth may increase the risk of postpartum depression.

Indeed, babies digest breast milk faster than formula, the researcher said, so breastfed babies may need to be fed more often in the middle of the night. Some research based on mothers' diaries has suggested babies who breastfeed sleepless and wake up more at night, but the findings have been inconsistent.

When Montgomery-Downs and her colleagues asked 80 new mothers to report how often they woke up and how rested they felt, and to wear sensors that measured how long and efficiently they slept, they found no significant differences between those who relied on breastfeeding, formula, or both. They report their findings in the journal Paediatrics.

This suggests that "there may be some kind of compensation" for breastfeeding mothers, said Montgomery-Downs.

For instance, babies who breastfeed may wake up more (and wake up their parents more), but those night time feedings may have less of an impact than if they were drinking formula, she suggested. In order to prepare a bottle, women often have to get up, turn on the lights, and move around quite a bit, all of which may make it harder for them to go back to sleep.

Alternatively, when breastfeeding, women may be awake for shorter intervals, and be less active, which makes it easier for them to go back to sleep. Women who breastfeed also have higher levels of the hormone prolactin, which facilitates sleep, Montgomery-Downs noted. And if the babies are sleeping next to the mothers, they may feed while the mother is sleeping, she added.

Did you have sleep problems when you were breastfeeding?
 
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