For more sleep, breastfeed
Fatigue is a fact of life no matter how you feed your newborn. When sleep is at a premium, you may consider your alternatives. Will having someone else to take over some night feedings help you get more sleep? Would giving formula at night make baby sleep longer? According to research, neither of these strategies produced the desired results.
One U.S. study of 133 new mothers and fathers during the first three months postpartum found that mothers who exclusively breastfeed averaged 40 to 45 minutes more sleep at night than those whose babies also received infant formula. Why didn’t sharing night feedings help mothers sleep more? Because the mothers’ sleep was significantly disrupted while the baby’s father fed the baby.
The researchers wrote:
“…formula feeding not only failed to improve parent sleep, but actually resulted in parents getting less sleep, even when fathers helped during the night with…feedings” (Doan et al., 2007, p. 204).
Exclusive breastfeeding leads to more sleep, and it also leads to better sleep. Compared to non-breastfeeding mothers and formula-feeding mothers with babies the same age, Australian research found that breastfeeding mothers spent more time in deep sleep. The exclusively breastfeeding mothers had “a marked alteration in their sleep architecture,” giving them longer periods of slow-wave sleep (SWS), a type of deep sleep. The researchers concluded that “enhanced SWS may be another important factor to support breastfeeding in the postnatal period” (Blyton et al., 2002, p. 297).
Blyton, D. M., Sullivan, C. E., & Edwards, N. (2002). Lactation is associated with an increase in slow-wave sleep in women. Journal of Sleep Research, 11(4), 297-303.
Doan, T., Gardiner, A., Gay, C. L., & Lee, K. A. (2007). Breast-feeding increases sleep duration of new parents. J Perinat Neonatal Nurs, 21(3), 200-206.