Breastfeeding moms don't lose sleep

December 1, 2010

A recent study offers reassurance to breastfeeding women that they won't be missing out on sleep.

A recent study offers reassurance to breastfeeding women that they won't be missing out on sleep. These same data also may be used to encourage women who haven't considered breastfeeding to consider it, given its health benefits for the infant, researchers say.

Some women forgo breastfeeding because of the perception that it interferes with sleep and daytime functioning and choose formula feeding instead. But researchers say that there is little evidence to support breastfeeding having a negative effect on maternal sleep.

Maternal sleep and daytime functioning were compared in 3 groups of women during the first 3 postpartum months: those who breastfed exclusively, those who used formula exclusively, and those who used a combination of the 2 methods.

Sleep measures were recorded using wrist actigraphy. Total sleep time, sleep efficiency (proportion of sleep time between initial sleep onset and final awakening), and sleep fragmentation (a measure of the ratio of immobile vs mobile sleep bouts) were not different among the 3 groups, except for postpartum week 10, when the mothers who used a combination of feeding methods had greater sleep efficiency compared to those using only formula.

Subjective measures of the number of nocturnal awakenings, total nocturnal wake time, and sleep quality, as assessed through sleep diaries, did not differ significantly at any time among the 3 groups. Maternal reports of fatigue and sleepiness during the day also were not significantly different among the groups at any postpartum week.

The researchers concluded that efforts to encourage women to breastfeed, as currently endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, should include information about sleep and that a choice to formula feed does not necessarily mean improved sleep.

Montgomery-Downs HE, Clawges HM, Santy EE. Infant feeding methods and maternal sleep and daytime functioning. Pediatrics. 2010:DOI: 10.1542/peds.2010-1269. Epub ahead of print.