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Breast or Bottle, Moms are Equally Sleep Deprived

The looming lack of sleep is a major source of anxiety towards the end of pregnancy.  But if you’re letting that thought guide your plans about feeding your baby, give it a rest:  A new study says that feeding method has no bearing on a new mother’s sleep deprivation situation.

Breastfeeding is often thought to make babies wake more frequently (and make moms wake more frequently as a result).  And bottlefeeding has a reputation of making babies babies sleep through the night. But recent studies have shown that breastfeeding does not equal disaster for moms’ sleep. And a new study says that the sleep discrepancies between the two feeding methods may be more myth than reality.

The study, to be published in the December issue of Pediatrics, looked at the sleep patterns of 80 moms and measured not only actual hours of sleep, but the way the moms thought they’d slept. When it comes to sleep deprivation, perception matters—a lot.

Here’s what they learned:Whether moms fed by breast or by bottle, they got equivalent measureable hours of sleep. They also had equal perceptions of how much sleep they got. The study looked at mothers of babies in the first three months of life.

They also asked moms about their level of fatigue during the day and found no difference between the two groups. There were small variations, throughout- breastfeeding mothers did indeed wake more frequently, but they also went back to sleep more quickly. Breastfeeding hormones are probably responsible for the ease in returning to sleep. Breastfeeding mothers also tend to stay in a sleepier state while breastfeeding, while bottlefeeding requires a higher state of arousal: going into the kitchen, heating water, preparing the bottle. So bottlefeeders are often more fully awake and may have a harder time getting back to sleep than breastfeeders.

The study’s authors are hoping that these results will help women make more informed decisions about infant feeding. Mothers who make the choice to bottle feed in hopes of getting more sleep could be disappointed. And doctors don’t want babies to miss out on the value of breastfeeding for a perceived benefit that doesn’t actually exist.

“Women should be told that a choice to formula feed does not necessarily equate with improved sleep,” Said the study’s co-authors, “The risks of not breastfeeding should be weighed against the cumulative lack of evidence showing any benefit of formula feeding on maternal sleep.”

The bottom line is that little babies wake up a lot, period. How you feed your baby is your choice. But ideally, it will be one based on facts, not myths!

Read more about the study here.

photo: Karin Dalziel/flickr

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