When my oldest was born, I tried very briefly to breastfeed. I probably would have succeeded had I stuck with it, but I was so exhausted and she was so hungry that I gave up within a few weeks.
Bear in mind that this was in 1982 and I was an overwhelmed 17-year-old. Breastfeeding didn’t enjoy the high profile that it does today and my desire to do it had nothing to do with the health benefits. I wanted to breastfeed because it was free.
But my need for sleep quickly overcame my financial concerns and I gave up. She got a bottle and I got more sleep. Or did I?
According to new research out of West Virginia University, the idea that bottle feeding moms get more sleep than breastfeeding moms is nothing more than a myth. In fact, not only are both getting the same amount of sleep, they are getting plenty of it.
The researchers collected data on 80 new moms from the beginning of the second week after their baby was born to the end of the twelfth week. They were divided into three groups: breastfeeders, formula-feeders and those who alternated back and forth. The moms were fitted with a watch-like instrument to record their movements and used a PDA device to rank their sleep quality, record how many times they thought they woke up during the night and how long they thought they stayed awake.
Surprisingly, the data revealed that all three groups got the same amount of sleep – about 7.2 hours each night.
How can this be? If it takes longer for formula-fed babies to digest their food and therefore they eat less often and sleep for longer periods, how are their moms not getting more sleep? Perhaps it’s because breastfeeding moms are napping while nursing? Or because formula-feeding moms have to wake more fully to prepare a bottle? Or a combination of the two?
Whatever the reason, this study is obviously good news for breastfeeding advocates. But I wonder: How many other moms gave up breastfeeding – or didn’t even try – because they believed they would get more sleep with the bottle?
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