Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Baby Behavior in the News! Feeding Method Doesn’t Affect Mom’s Sleep

Last week, a paper called “Infant Feeding Methods and Maternal Sleep and Daytime Functioning” by H.E. Montgomery-Downs and colleagues was published online by the medical journal Pediatrics (www.pediatrics.org). Its surprising findings showed up in newspapers, online news sites, on TV, and in blogs. The purpose of the study was to find out if there were differences in sleep patterns and experience among moms who were exclusively breastfeeding, mixed feeding with both breast milk and formula or only formula feeding. Even though many moms believe that breastfeeding leads to less sleep, the researchers found no difference in sleep experience among the groups, no matter how they measured it.

The study included results from 80 moms who had been studied when their babies were between 2- and 16-weeks old. The mothers were asked about how tired they felt, how long they slept, and how many times they thought they woke up. The researchers also asked the moms to wear a watch-like “actigraph” on their wrists that measured movements so that they would have a more objective measure of how many times moms were waking at night. Using all of these different ways to measure moms’ sleep, the researchers did not find any differences even though many people believe that giving formula makes babies sleep more. This is not the first study showing little or no difference in infant sleep despite how babies are fed.

All of the moms were tired during those first few weeks and things got better as their babies got older. That’s probably no surprise to Secrets readers. What’s important about this study is that it challenges a common myth; a formula-fed baby does not necessarily sleep more and wake less than a breastfed baby. Differences in babies’ sleep (we know that some babies sleep more and others sleep a lot less) are more likely to be related to differences in babies and rather than to differences in how they are fed.

What does all this mean to you? It means that 1) babies’ waking is part of new parents’ lives, that’s why parents need help and 2) switching to formula won’t necessarily help parents of newborns sleep longer. We know that Secrets readers have many reasons for their feeding and childcare decisions. We hope that our blog can help you keep up to date with latest baby behavior research.

Next time: A preview of a new (and very special) series

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the summary! I am due in 2 weeks and planning to breastfeed. I am not looking forward to the sleepless nights, but it helps a lot to know that I shouldn't be tempted to change my feeding decision just to get a little more sleep and that the sleepless nights won't last forever. It isn't nice to be relieved that all new parents are having sleepless nights, but that helps a little too!